“Seventh Sense” brings to New York a state of anarchy

(By Tzjiun Liou)

Throughout Taiwan’s history, there has always been the question of identification since the island had been ruled by Dutch and Spain, followed by the Qing rule (Han cultural) in the 17th century and the Japanese rule in the 19th century, and a very tight relationship with the United States after World War II. This mixture of history brings Taiwan an enormous diversity in culture, and as a result, some border-crossing metaphors in everyday life (such as the adaptation of foreign words in Mandarin, the gene combination, and exchange in cultural habits, from generation to generation).
In the dance field, some areas have already established strong regional characteristics or national identities. In Mainland China , the so-called classical Chinese dance carries quite a “Chinese” flavor; in France, ballet is seen as legitimate dance tradition after Louis XIV; the canon of “Modern dance” in the States is established by Duncan, Graham, et. al. The long established dance traditions in China and in France and the new invented traditions in the States, both developed their systematic method in body training. However, in Taiwan, it is hard to find a settled dancing language. We tend to look outward for inspirations such as modern dance from the States, ballet from France or folk dance in China.
Hsieh, Chieh-hua, who is often called Jeff (yes, in Taiwan, English naming is a popular trend since the American aid since the 60’). He did not follow the very typical way of becoming a choreographer. He did some body training in his elementary school for drama club, some in his senior high school for recreation and leader training club and color guard. Joining the modern dance club in the university at the age of 20, as a student he majored in architecture. After finishing his study in architecture, he entered the graduate school of Taipei National University of Art (TNUA) and started his dance creation formation.
Regarding the question of how a choreographer is trained in TNUA, Jeff says the training starts from preparing a solo piece in the first semester, a duo at the second one, a trio or corps du ballet at the third, and finally a representation which combines all for a graduation diploma. In this rather mechanical training procedure, Jeff started being attracted to video dance. Through the montage of images, the creator possesses a power to reform or even refine the esthetics of body movements. These manipulations of images in video dance inspires Jeff the most – which denotes a bodily oppression from society, the power relation between each individual. In this sense, the long lasting tension, if not relieved, would finally lead us to the state of Anarchy.
It is often said that dance exists in Time and Space. In addition to this, from Jeff’s work, it is observed that dance also re-creates Time and Space. Using his study in architecture, Jeff makes his pieces remarkable in the usage of Space. Very often, he discards the three-wall theatrical ways of using the space. He not only sees different dimension in space, but he also makes people aware of it. As a result, the audience is led to discover a new space through watching his special way of choreography– the dancers may be moving at the front edge of the stage, in between the aisles, or on the balcony of the theatre. The sense of space has been altered, and as a consequence, this is followed by a change in the sense of time.
In 2011, the creation “Seventh Sense ” was a big hit in Taiwan’s dance field. This is a project in collaboration with visual artists who made their own programs and who operate on the spot. Yet, the human being remains the subject of this piece. The seventh sense, here contains the five senses sensory, and also includes the sixth sense, the “Yi” (“consciousness”, “intent” in language and Chinese philosophy), which allows us to be aware of our life, that takes place in space, a miniature representation of our city at this precise moment.
The Anarchy Dance Theatre constructed a white box, where a limited number of audience members were invited to participate in the performance. “Choices” of all actions by participants become the keys to recreate a final result of each performance of each night. The experience of each individual amplifies the output of stage images and vice versa. After touring this piece in China, the Netherlands and Spain this year, the Anarchy Dance Theatre aimed on going further on this human perception experiment and came out with a new piece named “Sensory Incidence”, where the relationship between the image and the dancers is more active than it is in “Seventh Sense”.
Two years have passed since the start of the Anarchy Dance Theatre in 2010. Jeff now looks back and has a conclusion in his way of choreographing—all these elements of movements will be based on images, then the management of body structure profoundly set by physical contacts of individuals. He is now working on a piece where all these movement elements will be refined in a new structure, in a new way of spacing. A body training method of the Anarchy Dance Theater has already been announced to begin after his stay in Paris in 2013.
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