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Dance en Scene, from Asia to the World

Dance en Scene, from Asia to the World

Text by CHOU Shou-yi

Twelve short dance films have been produced here throughout the three years of the pandemic. Through international collaboration, we have carried on the dynamic of performance through the form of dance films and showcased our work from Asia to the world. 


In early 2020, lifestyles and lives across the world were impacted by the pandemic, obstructing politics, the economy, education, art, and culture. At the peak of the pandemic, performing arts venues were closed down multiple times, and performances were canceled, leading to the emergence of different forms of online performances and presentations, among which was creative dance films. Then, in early 2021, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (Singapore), Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts (Hong Kong), National Taichung Theater, and National Kaohsiung Center for Arts (Weiwuying) worked together to initiate the Dance en Scene: An Initiative of Commissioning New Dance Films in Asia, exploring body narratives with exclusive Asian characteristics through commissioning image and dance projects. Works included documentaries and drama films, as well as various experimental films that were difficult to categorize. Countless possibilities emerged when film collided with dance; it's hard to imagine how dance managed to survive when film officially entered the market. 


Why would someone prefer dance films over physical dance performances? Of course, this art form was not born during the pandemic; all human behavior has been documented ever since images appeared. However, since images involve countless expressions and are similar to dance, it is a way of expressing the self, when one encountered the other, it led to a new art language. As a result, more and more creatives started creating these types of works, which in turn led to countless dance film festivals across the world and a myriad of works, either feature films or short films, dramas, or non-narrative experimental films. Perhaps the pandemic has allowed us to share the power of dance with the public through this art form on the stage of images and film.


The original music within the films is also of significance. Music creatives WANG Yu-jun, HSU Yen-ting, ABAO, Wenna, Ellison Bryan KEONG, WAN Xing, Vick LOW, Ferry, and CHONG Li- Chuan are responsible for the music for the dance films and harnessed the powers of sound as languages for the body in the context of films. Some began from theatre and crossed into the realm of images, while others experimented with composing and soundtracks. Musical professionals also expanded the possibilities of dance music. 


Notes on the 2021-2023 Dance Film 


National Taichung Theater's project begins with CHEN Wu-kang and YU Yen-fang's Transmission: Beginning Step into Walk/Dance Projects. The conversations and bodily 

movements of the artists, as well as their transitions and inspirations on dance, are truthfully documented by Hong Kong director Maurice LAI, who accompanied them into the mountains. To whom it may concern, a collaboration between Les Petites Choses Production and Peculiar Man (Germany), is directed by interdisciplinary film director WU Hsiao-Lu, creating unique expressions portraying the absurdity and solitude of life. The work was originally planned for the theatre stage but underwent revisions due to the pandemic. Bulareyaung Dance Company’s tiaen tiamen is one of the troupe's few recent image works. It rearranges and recreates symbols from indigenous culture; the collision between contemporary dance and electronic music leads to alternative body aesthetics, while new possibilities are created by the director Mon Cher HO under the troupe's distinctive style. What all three works convey is the creative breakthrough when it comes to the subject matter of identity. 


Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay's first dance film is Rooms, which documents dancer Albert TIONG's life philosophy and experiences in his room. Directors Elysa WENDI and LIAO Jie-kai portray the connection between his bodily qualities, dance, and life, as well as the realities of the pandemic. The second work Half is the first collaboration between independent dancer ZHUO Zihao and director Royston TAN. By merging their seasoned experiences, the two creatives create a dialogue between the shadow and their own lives. Am I Here? is a collaboration between director Eva TANG and choreographers CHIEW Peishan and LIM Chin Huat. The scene is the home, while the relational dynamic is the family, with bodily memories rooted in the space of the home. The complex and intertwined sentiments are expressed in the dance amid the images. The three-stage commissioned works showcase the power of sentiments. 


Tai Kwun's Terry-fying explores the existence of fear and the rituality of religious spirituality. Created by choreographer Terry TSANG in collaboration with WONG Yiu Kuen and with Vincent IP in charge of cinematography, the scene creates an unknown life form through natural sceneries and surreal visuals. A Long Walk is interpreted by Unlock Dancing Plaza's artistic director ONG Yong Lock and directed by Elysa WENDI and LEE Wai-shing. As the body seems immersed in the infinite cycle of life, the work searches for outlet and light amid imbalance and balance. Present is created by WAN Xing and interprets reflections of the past, present, and future through the life experiences of tap dancer Eric HUYNH and modern dancer Natalie MAK. The three works depict the revelations that the dancers receive from life while contemplating their way forward.  


The three works presented by the National Kaohsiung Center for Arts (Weiwuying) are all related to the lives of individuals and their surroundings. With After sea-level rise, I…, which dives into the issue of global warming, as the opening, choreographer CHOU Shu-yi and director William Lϋ filmed the works on the roof of Weiwuying, exploring the predicaments of human survival while imagining the future of the city. The Body of Forking Paths is directed by Maurice LAI and features the homecoming of indigenous identity. The work begins with the conflicting sentiments of life along the journey from Tainan to Meihua, Jianshi Township, Hsinchu County, and is created by CHOU Shu-yi, the then-resident choreographer of Scarecrow Contemporary Dance Company. Swash is independent image worker LUO Sih-wei's contemplation on the elements that promote change and the lack thereof, with Shimmering Production's WANG Yeu-kwn as the choreographer and performed by TIEN Hsiao-Tzu and LEE Yin-ying. The three commissioned works plunge into rare contemplations on the environment of Taiwan and present alternative perspectives for dance images while allowing a deeper understanding of the sceneries of Taiwan. 


If dance is the wind, then images are light and shadow, and music is temperature. The three seem to lack connection but are in fact intertwined amid our senses. Imagine standing in the wind, gazing afar into the sunset, the body changing with the temperatures of the wind and light. What is changing is the rhythm of our breathing and our emotions, and the sensations become the answer to the coexistence of the two. 


Dance en Scene: An Initiative of Commissioning New Dance Films in Asia has accumulated substantial creative energy throughout the past three years. We hope this force can go on and progress from Asia to the world. 




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