Uncharted adventures in dance

Uncharted adventures in dance

In a setting where the colors of dawn alternate with those of a cloudy night sky, the body of a woman moves slowly and with precision. For Taiwanese dancer-choreographer Su Wen-Chi, this “space for contemplation” forms the backbone of “Off the Map,” which will go on stage at the Kalamata Dance Hall on Friday, July 17. The show is the curtain raiser for the 21st edition of the Kalamata International Dance Festival, which is taking place at the Peloponnese port city through July 24.

Su belongs to a young generation of Taiwanese – and East Asian artists in general – who grew up in a society which found itself divided between the strong influence of tradition, on the one hand, and a major opening toward the world of technology – and as a result to the Western world – on the other. In a deeply personal and poetic manner, the artist’s work brings these two opposing worlds together on stage.

“The question I ask myself as a choreographer and as an artist has to do with consciousness, how to observe the body as a starting point from which we understand all that is going on around us,” noted Su in an interview with Kathimerini. Through her dance explorations, she says, she would like to “go back to the original sensation of the perception of nature, the body and the tools developed by man in order to survive and develop.” Her idea is to “strike a balance between the needs of the flesh and the kind of imagination generated by technology.”

Su studied art and new media in Taipei before earning a PhD in theater and performance art at the University of Roehampton in London. In 2001, she began staging her dance projects at theaters around the globe, gradually earning access to leading international dance festivals. In 2005, she founded YiLab, a troupe exploring performance art and new media. She then went to work on “Insphere,” a project of finding interconnections in the illusion of fullness by exploring dance in relation to physics, mythology and contemporary music.

“The discovery that the Earth is round completely changed the perception people had of the universe while the discovery of electricity changed our perception of day and night. In this way, the invention of the mobile phone changed the way we communicate and reduced our sense of distance and presence, while the Internet changed the way we read, write and develop our identity,” said the artist.

“I don’t see myself only as a dancer and a choreographer. I’m in search of an artistic voice – I explore what is going on both inside and outside my body,” said Su. “Being a ‘body laborer’ means standing firmly on the ground, accepting and feeling my body, while my mind races toward new technological boundaries.”

Like most of the artist’s works, “Off the Map” features state-of-the-art lighting and sound design as well as video art. “I believe that everything is intertwined and that each medium has its own physical presence on stage. A dancer’s presence carries equal weight to that of light or sound,” she noted. Nevertheless, through “Off the Map,” the artist wished to return to the theater, to a place where “the body creates time, space and action, while at the same time technology simply enlarges what we don’t see inside our own body, for example, the movement of thought, the multiple inner roles, the fragility we feel when facing death.”

The Kalamata festival is organized under the guidance of its artistic director, Vicky Marangopoulou. Following “Off the Map,” South African choreographer Dada Masilo performs her take on “Carmen” on July 18-19, the same days that Igor Urzelai and Moreno Salinas’s present their joint project “Idiot-Syncrasy.” Medie Megas is up next with solo performance “Transforming Me” on July 21, while Evripidis Laskaridis presents “Relic” on July 23. The festival ends with Rootlessroot in “W Memorabilia (Phaedra’s Laboratory)” on July 24.

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