Meet the Artists: Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan, Together Alone

Together Alone

Beautiful and intimate, Together Alone will look at how we live together, and the relationships we form in society.

We talked to Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya who will perform in the show from 4 – 27 Aug, as part of the Taiwanese Season, at Dance Base.

1. What was it that inspired your show / performance?
Chen-Wei Lee:
Zoltán [Vakulya] and I admire each other’s artistic point of view but had never worked together before. His training is very different to mine, so I thought this could be a very interesting clash between us.

We don’t want to tell people too much about Together Alone because that kills their imagination. It’s important that they find their own explanation.

2. Can you describe your devising process, and how did you find inspiration for creating your work?
This is the first dance we have made together, and for it we gave ourselves a task: to never let go of each other from the start to the end. We are dancers and like to move freely, so that immediately created huge limitations and narrowed things down. We discovered a lot about how we can keep on moving and create a different way of dancing, and how to communicate.

3. What was it that inspired you in becoming a performance, or setting up your company?
Zoltán Vakulya:
It's about the people I work with. If I have the right team, I feel it's going to go well. 

Chen-Wei: I started as a dancer, whose role is to interpret the ideas of others but at the same time produce a different way to interpret through my body and my understanding. I gained a lot of experiences from working with different people, whom I admire and respect, as well as people about whom I have doubts. That triggered my curiosity about myself – if it were to be me doing this, how would I do it?

4. What has been the biggest challenge in creating your show?
Chen-Wei: Our nudity in the duet came about through the creative process. We talked about what we should wear and tried various things. We have this floor-based part we call “Rock.” It’s very slow and difficult, like we’re tangling, wrapped together as tight as possible. You see a lot of muscle tension, how we’re using force to carry each other, but we found that even if we covered ourselves with just thin fabric the dance lost that strength. You just didn’t see it.

When we tried it nude, everyone said it was so beautiful to reveal yourself in that way. People really appreciated that we were so honest, so open with ourselves. You see what we have, and that’s what we have. Of course if you want to see it as provocative I cannot affect your mind. But now we couldn’t imagine it any other way. It’s absolutely not sexual.

5. What was your favourite part of the rehearsal or devising process in creating your performance?
Zoltan: I very much liked the beginning of the making of Together Alone. It was like walking into dark woods - not a scary wood, but rather a challenging and deep one. We were very far in the understanding of, or agreement about,  how will we proceed and with what. So I loved it.

Chen-Wei: Maybe only after the whole process is over and until the work is done, I could say my favourite part is the hard time I had while creating it. This piece is a collaboration with Zoltán. It took us some time to find our starting point, to understand each other’s language and way of working, to gain trust and to be open to testing. It wasn’t easy and smooth; it was challenging, and a lot of communication was needed. But all of it made me grow so much.

6. Do you have a routine or pre-show ritual that you have to do before you perform?
No. Except that there’s a moment when I try to meditate in a short time while dancing, or moving. It’s more like a scanning, to see how I am feeling right now, and how connected I am with the space around me, with my feelings, my flesh and my partner. Maybe, actually, this is my routine which I never realised before is a routine!

Chen-Wei: Different shows have different preparations. This piece is a nude duet, and an exposed body with no fabric to cover or to hide. I often get on the stage nude and run. Running helps me to get away from worries, and to put my body in a pure state before I start to dance. It’s for my physicality and mind-set, so I can feel comfortable and open with my appearance.

7.    What is your favourite dance performance you’ve seen, and why?
Chen-Wei: I always choose one favourite show per year. So far for this year I will say ‘nicht schlafen’ by Alain Platel. Why? Because I love his work very much – his aesthetics and humour, his artistic choices, and his trust towards the people he is working with. You could see it in the performers. He is passionate, and you see that in his work. 

Zoltan: Maybe I should say, the last show that caught my attention was by Meg Stuart and called Built to Last. It’s a show that has many layers, and as it’s being very strong it is also very fragile. 

8. If you could describe your show in 3 words, what would they be?
Icelandic meditation retreat.

Chen-Wei: Connection. Purity.  Aesthetics.

9. What are you most looking forward to in bringing your show to the festival?
Chen-Wei: Everything! The work itself. Us as choreographers and performers.

Zoltan: Well, surely the sense of change in the work through us performing it many times. But also the reactions to it. 

10.  If you’ve visited the festival before, what’s your favourite Edinburgh haunt:
Well, two years ago I listened to an amazing concert in a very random bar that was made out of a garage.
I also love to jog around the golf courses, dotted across the city.

Chen-Wei: Edinburgh Castle! I have a wonderful memory of it.

You can find out more about Together Alone, and book tickets here.
Tickets can also be booked via the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Box Office on 0131 226 0000.

Creative Scotland
Supported by Edinburgh
Supported by the City of Edinburgh Council
Living Wage