Taiwan Season: Duo

It is comparatively easy to portray conflict; showing the different forms of domestic love is much more difficult. The particular success of this entrancing production is to beautifully communicate the quiet moments of domestic love. Duo transforms acrobatics into touching, emotional dance theatre.

It makes the heart race, and it makes the heart break

The set appears simple – a light above a table and two chairs. The acrobat-dancers – a boy and a girl – echo scenes of domestic life: washing and sorting clothes, playing cards, ballroom dancing. There’s love and companionship in these small, everyday things, but there is everyday conflict too. They bicker over trivial matters with comedy and charm. They are often childlike – but isn’t there a core of inner child in all relationships? The conflicts are balanced with reconciliations and love duets that are so touching that when a new argument occurs the thought of the couple not making up is heart-wrenching. As the show progresses and the arguments become more intense and seem to touch deeper feelings and incompatibilities the possibility that the show might end with a final break-up is unbearable. The love scenes cover different shades of intimacy - companionship, jokes, working in harmony. It is small scale - there is a recurring motif of fingers walking along arms, and hooking little fingers together. It's an everyday love, and all the more moving because of that.

The appearance of simplicity in the design is deceptive - the performer/creators Sun Cheng-Hsueh and Hsia Ling use the potential of the set fully: they dance on and under the table and the chairs, they fight over clothes hangers; they use a jacket and dress as puppets to represent themselves as flying Chagall lovers, or to represent memories of each other, or to show inner emotional states.

This reviewer tends to think of the show as dance theatre - but it would be a disservice not to mention the dazzling strength, agility and bravery of the performers. There were plenty of acrobatic thrills that drew gasps from the audience and made the heart race with the daring and danger. The awareness of the performance space was incredible, as some routines required using the space to within millimetres of tolerance.

There are some brief moments where the acrobatics dominate the dance storytelling – but in those moments the acrobatics are so spectacular that they add an extra dimension, rather than detract from the emotion.

For me, the repeating cycle of bickering to reunion, break-up to make-up has the potential to become monotonous; however, this is mitigated by the timely introduction of new facets of dancing or acrobatics during each cycle.

Ultimately, this show's love story manages to bind seemingly disparate elements together in an elegant whole. It is about small-scale domesticity shown through wild, daring circus moves. It is an acrobatic show – but it is an emotional dance. It makes the heart race, and it makes the heart break.

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Reviews by Mark Harding

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The Blurb

This dance-infused acrobatic circus performance is an eloquent, subtly layered feat of artful invention. In the spotlight are two agile performers who know how to imbue their extreme technical prowess with considerable feeling. The ever-changing shifts, twists and turns of a fluctuating relationship are expressed with a seamless physical grace and strength, but also loaded at times with a tender emotional vulnerability. Whether lifting each other up or bringing each other down, ultimately everything this onstage couple have to 'say' is in their bodies. This show has been programmed by Dance Base in collaboration with Assembly.

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