Taiwan Season: ai~sa~sa

Ai~sa~sa meaning ‘Get over yourself’ is brilliant. Choreographed by Baru Madiljin of the Tjimur Dance company, it is sizzling with energy, wit and originality, both hilarious and poignant. This is a must-see show filmed in village settings, on stage dance and studio comic inserts.

Sizzling with energy, wit and originality, both hilarious and poignant...a must-see show.

Edinburgh festival-goers will remember the Tjimur Dance’s 5 starred Varhung-Heart to Heart in 2018. The company from south Taiwan is dedicated to reflecting Paiwan indigenous culture and in this performance how not only contemporary urban culture, phrases like ai~sa sa, are entering mountainous tribal communities but also how traditional gender roles and mores are changing, in this case a tomboy girl, and a gay man.

A poem about red sweet apples and sour green ones and how life is full of laughter and tears, and how you must just shake it off kick-starts the show and then the dancers explode into exuberant jumps, leaps and spins danced to jolly French music by Hervé Rigaud from a CD amazingly found abandoned by Madiljin in a Paris street. Our tomboy, hair in plaits, performed by Meng Tzu-en is also a talented actor with humorous facial expressions. At first one of the lads, she is teased, courted then bullied by the three males with a lot of slaps on her bum and finger-pointing but she gets her own back and floors them all. Watch out for the old man in the village who mimics the exaggerated pursed lips of the courting couple. He appears later in a sadder episode when he just listens to a song of grief sung beautifully by Yang Ching-Hao. It is little touches like the old man that makes this such an exquisitely skilled show.

All three male dancers are excellent but especially Ljaucu Tapurakac as the gay man in a polka-dot skirt who cannot make up his mind whom he loves: Chiang Sheng-hsiang (in lime green shirt) or Yang Ching-Hao (in mauve shirt) in two moving love duets. The music changes to wistful guitar and flute as we see Ljaucu alone, his stomach covered in blood, in what appears to be a cell with one swinging light bulb whilst he makes heart shapes with his fingers. The other three also make shadows on the wall, the snake-shaped hands of the bullying scenes now waving hands of sorrow. Edith Piaf’s famous love songs Mon Amour and La Vie en Rose bring the performance to a heart-stopping finale but we are not allowed to wallow in sorrow. A dancer weeps but he is cutting an onion. The show ends on a high note as silliness and jolly Gallic music returns to much apple munching and spitting of pips. ‘Formidable’ as it says in the poem!

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Reviews by Stephanie Green

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Performances

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The Blurb

Taiwan Season: Tjimur Dance Theatre. This new show ai~ sa sa by Tjimur Dance Theatre, is the first contemporary dance company dedicated to Paiwan culture in Taiwan. It brims with love and laughter, is essentially light-hearted and domestic, and is also a fresh contemporary spin on tribal customs.

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