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Robert Abrams
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The Joyce Theater
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Tai-Gu Tales - The Life of Mandala

by Robert Abrams
February 5, 2003
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011

Tai-Gu Tales - The Life of Mandala

presented at the Joyce Theatre

by the Taipei Cultural Center

Choreographer and Artistic Director: Hsiu-Wei Lin
Principal Dancers: Hsiu-Wei Lin, Hsing-Kuo Wu, Chun-Kang Peng
The Company: Li-Fang Tai, Shueh-Wen Ma, Kwan-Lin Chen, I-Min Chang, Hsiao-Lung Chung, Tsai-Lin Wu, Meng-Chen Chang, Li-Wu Tai, Juo-Mei Wang
Composer: Chieh-Yun Shih
Set Designer: Ho-Chin Chang
Costume Designer: Tim-Kam Yip
Lighting Designer: Keh-Hua Lin
Stage Manager: Lin-Ping Huang

Review and photos by Robert Abrams
February 5, 2003

Tai-Gu Tales fused modern dance with the traditions of the Peking Opera to good effect. The choreography was interesting and the dancers, both the leads and the supporting cast, gave accomplished performances.

The dancers were a blank slate; a canvas lit by a candle, by seeming banners of light. They carried a choreography infused with both the elementals of nature and of human emotion. Even when the dancers' faces were covered by veils.

They jumped and spun like volcanic ejecta. They danced with fire (literally). They even formed a human candelabra. They leaped like carousel horses. They fluttered like hummingbirds. They formed imagined creatures by combining dancers and then moving together.

The work was characterized by disciplined stillness followed by explosions of invention.

This work, while unique in many ways, also showed many connections. There was a passage of slow walking and running which was similar to passages from Grupo Corpo. In one passage, dancers combined to form creatures reminiscent of Momix's Opus Cactus. A one point, a dancer danced her hair much like Erica Dankmeyer in Satyric Song Festival. There were passages with an Indian influence, and even a Waltz.

The work, inspired by the death of a friend of the choreographer, seemed to be an emptying of the soul, which is necessary for eventually relighting the flame. In the last section of the four part work, the dancers rise and affirm life through dance, triumphal and flowing and slightly sparkling, but with an acknowledgement of the permanence of loss.

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