Titled after the area code for Haulien on Taiwan’s East coast, home of the indigenous Pangcah people, Kuo-Shin Chuang Pangcah Dance Theatre presents 038.
Contemporary but underpinned by traditional spirit, 038 reflects the anxieties and uncertainties of coming home in search of ourselves and our roots.
Artistic Director of the company, Kuo-Shin Chuang, gives us an insight into the performance that will take place 4 – 27 Aug as part of Dance Base Festival 17.
1. What was it that inspired your show / performance?
The inspiration was home – what is it, and where is it? Home is a place in everyone’s heart, but what does it look like in your mind, and how do you feel about going there?
Is it the mountains and ocean on a projector screen, the tribal songs played on the iPod or stereo, or the endless procession of modernity?
2. Can you describe your devising process, and how did you find inspiration for creating your work?
038 is what we always dial first when we call Hualien, which is the city and area in Taiwan that we come from. They’re a symbol of our homeland, but when we dial those numbers there is a sort of sadness. For me homeland is not always sweet. Sometimes feelings are about hate, and sometimes regret but the body remains engaged in daily modern life, and through the body we find ourselves.
3. What was it that inspired you in becoming a performance, or setting up your company?
Established in 2005, we are the first indigenous contemporary dance company from eastern Taiwan. This grew out of my leadership of a dance troupe at Beipu Elementary School, just north of Hualien City. Some of those in the troupe, many of whom were indigenous people, wanted to continue with dance after graduating.
The people had a traditional music and dance background but, over time, found that they wanted to discover a modern point of view to express our heritage.
Together we worked to find a dynamic that, while rooted in traditional indigenous music and dance, rebuilds and reconstructs those values, fuses them with contemporary dance and theatre, and presents a new view of them that truly belongs to us today.
4. What has been the biggest challenge in creating your show?
One challenge was the score that accompanies 038. Composed by Jing-hui Zheng, it draws upon the rhythms of the train, the human voice and the traditional sounds of Amis.
The music was completed after the choreography, created section by section by Jing-hui and me through discussions and trying things out.
Reminders of arriving at Hualien railway station run through the entire work, announcements in the Amis language informing us that we’re about to enter a new country and that we’re almost home. These reminders set off the need for a homeland, and to be home, that lies deep in our bodies.
5. What was your favourite part of the rehearsal or devising process in creating your performance?
The ten performers of 038 followed me, learning traditional aboriginal dance since they were under age ten. After more than a decade of practice most of them had emigrated to big cities, but they still come back to our hometown regularly to join the rehearsals every month. I have transformed these young performers’ life experience into this dance performance.
My favourite part of 038 is the last scene. Accompanied by the background music, and mixed with the soothing sounds of ocean waves and the traditional chanting performed by the female elders from our tribe, all the dancers embrace each other onstage and pace around a circle. I am always deeply touched by this beautiful moment.
6. Do you have a routine or pre-show ritual that you have to do before you perform?
There are Christians and Catholics in our group. We usually pray in a circle before the show starts. Sometimes we pray in Amis/Pangcah, our native language. We appreciate the Heavenly Father and also all of our ancestors.
7. What is your favourite dance performance you’ve seen, and why?
My favourite dance performance is Pina Bausch’s Kontakthof. I saw it in 2002 at the National Theatre in Taiwan when Tanztheater Wuppertal had an Asian tour.
My career as a choreographer was enlightened by this show. Pina Bausch created the dance movement from the performers’ personal life experience. Within a strong atmosphere of life and sincerity, her works told vivid stories. That inspired my own creative intentions.
8. If you could describe your show in 3 words, what would they be?
Searching for self-identification.
9. What are you most looking forward to in bringing your show to the festival?
In 038 we’re talking about our homeland, projecting feelings that are deep inside us, and voices from inside our hearts – our emotional reaction to our city.
We would like our work to make audience members think about what their own homeland means to them.
10. If you’ve visited the festival before, what’s your favourite Edinburgh haunt?
It’s our first time joining the Edinburgh Fringe. We would like to share our production with an international audience, and meet other artists who are also taking part in the Fringe.
I hope more people will understand my culture through my work, and I also hope we can create new collaborations with other groups performing at the Fringe.
You can find out more about 038, and book tickets here.
Tickets can also be booked via the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Box Office on 0131 226 0000.