Saturday, 24 June 2017

Dramaturgy 038: Kuo-Shin Chuang Pangcah @ Edfringe 2017

038 by Kuo-Shin Chuang Pangcah Dance Theatre
Venue 22: Dance Base / Time: 15.15 (40 mins)
August 4-6: £10 (£8) / August 8-13, 15-20, 22-27: £12 (£10)
Box office: 0131 225 5525

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The inspiration was home – what is it, and where is it? Home is a place in everyone’s heart. But what does it look like in your mind, and how do you feel about going there? 

Is it the mountains and ocean on a projector screen, the tribal songs played on the iPod or stereo (and the immediately loosened bodies upon hearing those songs), or is it the endless procession of modernity? We have extracted the core ideology of Taiwanese aboriginal people’s awe of nature, and used this reference to respond to over-commercialisation in our hometown. Through this contemporary dance production, we would like to foster empathy for our land.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
Yes. Having flown all the way from the other side of the world to Edinburgh, we would like to share our production with an international audience and meet other artists also taking part in the fringe. We also hope more people will understand our culture through our work. The theme of 038 is the search for identity. 

The idea came from the performers' own stories, but this is now a world-wide issue, and we believe that it is relevant to people all over the world now. Anyone can see a reflection of themselves in the dance if they have ever had the experience of yearning for home. 

We recommend our show to people who would like to know more about aboriginal culture; people who are interested in world music, contemporary dance, physical theatre, or aboriginal culture; people who would like to explore the issue of civilisation or urbanization; and anyone who has ever felt disenfranchised.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Established in 2005, we are the first indigenous contemporary dance company from eastern Taiwan. This grew out of Kuo-Shin Chuang’s leadership of a dance troupe at Beipu Elementary School, just north of Hualien City. Some of those in the troupe, many of whom were indigenous people, wanted to continue with dance after graduating. 

They had a traditional music and dance background but, over time, he found that they wanted to discover a modern point of view to express our heritage. Together we worked to find a dynamic that, while rooted in traditional indigenous music and dance, rebuilds and reconstructs those values, fuses them with contemporary dance and theatre, and presents a new view of them that truly belongs to us today.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
038 are what we always dial first when we call Hualien, which is the city and area in Taiwan that we come from. They’re a symbol of our homeland, but when we dial those numbers there is a sort of sadness. For us homeland is not always sweet. Sometimes feelings are about hate, and sometimes regret. But the body remains engaged in daily modern life, and through the body we find ourselves.
Does the show fit with your usual productions?
The director, Kuo-Shin Chuang, is a well-known academic and a practitioner whose main focus has been Taiwanese traditional aboriginal dance. Our movements are developed from this, unlike Thai, Philippine, Vietnamese or other oriental dances. 

We have been carrying out aboriginal dance and music experiments for the last twelve years, trying to find new possibilities of traditional dance in modern times. As a result, in our work you will see a new Asian body language.
More particularly, 038 is the consequence of Kuo-Shin Chuang’s life-long field research related to the group dance and music of the Amis people’s annual Harvest Festival. The ten performers of 038 followed Chuang, learning traditional aboriginal dance since before they were ten years old. 

After a practice of more than ten years, most of the performers have emigrated to big cities but still come back to their hometown for rehearsals every month. Chuang transformed these young performers’ life experiences into this 45-minute dance performance. 038 is the company’s fourth production since 2005.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
In 038 we’re talking about our homeland, projecting feelings that are deep inside us, and voices from inside our hearts – our emotional reaction to our city. But we would like our work to make audience members think about what their own homeland means to them.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
One of our strategies was the score that accompanies 038. Composed by Jing-hui Zheng, it draws upon the rhythms of the train, the human voice and the traditional sounds of Amis. The music was completed after the choreography, created section by section by Jing-hui and me through discussions and trying things out. 

Reminders of arriving at Hualien railway station run through the entire work, announcements in the Amis language informing us that we’re about to enter a new country and that we’re almost home. These reminders set off the need for a homeland, and to be home, that lies deep in our bodies.


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