The Georgia Straight - - Contents - > JANET SMITH


A Leg­end Lin Dance The­atre pro­duc­tion. Pre­sented by the Push In­ter­na­tional Per­form­ing Arts Fes­ti­val, with TAIWANFEST. At the Queen El­iz­a­beth The­atre on Satur­day, Fe­bru­ary 3. No re­main­ing per­for­mances

Whether or not you lost your­self in The Eter­nal Tides’ loop­ing, med­i­ta­tive trance on Satur­day night prob­a­bly re­flected how much you had on your mind, or what you had to do in the morn­ing.

That’s be­cause Tai­wan’s Leg­end Lin Dance The­atre asked you to let go of all your earthly con­cerns and sub­mit to the strik­ing, of­ten slow­mov­ing pa­rade of painterly im­ages that played across the vast Queen El­iz­a­beth The­atre stage. For west­ern au­di­ences ac­cus­tomed to rush­ing around and pro­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion at the speed of 5 GHZ, set­tling into The Eter­nal Tides’ Zen-like mood wasn’t easy. Still, for those who suc­ceeded, the re­wards were pro­found and the vi­su­als were spell­bind­ing.

Iconic Tai­wanese chore­og­ra­pher Lin Lee-chen made her mes­sage of “Hurry up and slow down” clear from the out­set, can­dles burn­ing on an art­ful shrine at the front of the stage, two tra­di­tional per­cus­sion­ists ar­riv­ing to sit at giant dagu drums, their open­ing beats seem­ing to sum­mon the show’s strange spir­its.

And what a fury they con­jured: as filmy white silk pan­els rose from the stark stage, they re­vealed a near-naked, pow­dered fig­ure. She whirled for a seem­ing eter­nity, her knee-length black hair fly­ing around like she was a hu­man tor­nado. The phys­i­cal feat re­peated to the point of im­pos­si­bil­ity. And fi­nally, when we lost our­selves in its spell, she let out a scream pierc­ing enough to reach the skiers on top of Grouse Moun­tain.

The rest of the in­ter­mis­sion­less, 140-minute show was a flow of sim­i­lar dream­like tableaux. Skirted fig­ures emerged slowly from the sides of the stage, clutch­ing can­dles, then tall, feath­er­like stalks of grass, then skele­tal trees. Bare-chested men in red ban­dan­nas fought, drummed, and shook bells. Ap­pari­tions ma­te­ri­al­ized from the back of the stage to move to­ward us: in one of the show’s eeri­est mo­ments, a woman in a giant, bird­like pleated silk head­dress sim­ply shook her long nails like rat­tles in an­other un­earthly en­durance test.

The dancers were honed, com­mit­ted, and dis­ci­plined in the ex­treme. Rows of them crept, bent over, in per­fectly synced slow mo­tion, hands out­stretched with can­dles.

The props were el­e­men­tal: stones, fire, smoke, grass, and steam. The giant grasses moulted around the stage, cre­at­ing an ephemeral dust that the dancers kicked up when they moved.

Lin has said the piece is about the eter­nal cy­cles of life, and the end­less flow of water. She is salut­ing both na­ture and the an­cient rit­u­als of Tai­wan’s Indige­nous peo­ples here, but she also dis­suades view­ers from try­ing to find any­thing too lit­eral in her work.

No doubt: some au­di­ence mem­bers were im­mune to The Eter­nal Tides’ spell, un­able to let go of their to-do list or sim­ply too at­ten­tion-de­fi­cient to dial in, with a few leav­ing be­fore the show was over. But the ma­jor­ity who stayed pro­vided an ex­tended stand­ing ova­tion for the cur­tain calls. Though the strange cer­e­mony we had just been a part of re­mained a mys­tery, it worked its heady, hyp­notic power any­way.

MASSEY MAD­NESS Arts events for fam­i­lies are hard to find these days, but the Massey The­atre is man­ag­ing to ad­dress the short­age in a sin­gle day. The his­tor­i­cal the­atre comes alive from morn­ing to evening on Satur­day (Fe­bru­ary 10), with the Massey Mad­ness Fam­ily Arts Fest kick­ing off at 11 a.m. with a per­for­mance of Axis The­atre’s lively First Na­tions mask-and­mu­sic work Th’owxiya: The Hun­gry

Feast Dish. At 2 p.m., Capricorn The­atre Pro­duc­tions presents the youth-ori­ented Con­fes­sions of a Gro­cery Store Clerk, fol­lowed at 7 p.m. by the ac­ro­bat­ics of The New

Con­form­ity by Cause & Ef­fect Cir­cus and the comedic magic tricks and jug­gling of Straight favourite Travis Bern­hardt (shown here). There are rea­son­ably priced day passes for adults and kids, plus all kinds of free arts ac­tiv­i­ties go­ing on in the lobby and the on­site Plas­kett Gallery from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Eter­nal Tides opened with a ghostly form. Chin Cheng-tsai photo.

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