Taiwan Season: The Back of Beyond

Tai Gu Tales was created by Hsiu Wei Lin, formerly a principal dancer with the iconic Taiwanese Cloud Gate company. Back of Beyond is a dream-ritual, where Chinese philosophy meets western dance technique. Choreographed by Hsiu Wei Lin, it is an immersive experience, or it would be if it was live. But the lighting and photography crew have nonetheless created a beautiful and mesmeric film of light and dark. Dancers appear in a mutating collage of images, sometimes spot lit or completely swallowed in the dark. A meditation on the cycle of death, life and rebirth, it uses the principles of yin and yang, stasis and movement, silence and sound to create a spiritual journey to a hypnotic soundtrack.

A dream-ritual, where Chinese philosophy meets western dance technique.

The ritual begins unusually with Death as shrouded figures unwind to reveal male dancers with magnificent torsos (trained in Peking opera kung fu) and females in close-fitting costumes skin-coloured as if they are nude. The choreography is at times slow-moving and at other times frenetic. A female lying in foetal position unfolds as she observes her wriggling fingers and toes, suggesting a baby’s first explorations. Gyrating males, their faces stretched in grimaces suggest pain and struggle. Swaying females, arms seem to float as if they are underwater, deep-sea creatures. A beautiful sequence with candles, carried on the heads of slow-walking dancers, or placed around the stage are a symbol of life. Other imagery, abstract groupings, or solos, are more opaque and it is left to the audience to discover their own meanings in the hallucinatory and trance-like mood created by a sinister soundtrack of electronic music, occasionally the sound of metal bars being beaten or the surges of the sea.

This show will divide the audience.Those who prefer more of a linear narrative or dramatic structure will be disappointed.Others who are willing to enter a trance-like state might experience at the end the peace that results from meditation - maybe not possible through a film. I hope when normal times return, this show can be experienced live again soon.

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Reviews by Stephanie Green

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The Blurb

Founded in 1987 by choreographer Hsiu-wei Lin, Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre leads five extraordinary dancers on an arresting physical and spiritual journey. The company's rich, rigorous aesthetic merges Eastern cultural traditions and contemporary Western practices. The production is shaped by a concern for how human beings co-exist with each other and their environment. Rooted in the elemental forces of light/dark and love/hate, this is dance as a charged theatrical dream-ritual charting the cycle of life from birth to death and rebirth.

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