The Taiwanese connection at Avignon
Watching five dancers leap from chair to table and back with almost mechanical precision is one of the arresting moments at this year’s Avignon festival. It’s a physical metaphor for the influence of family on our lives.
The young dancers, members of Taiwan’s Scarecrow Contemporary Dance Company, are performing “The Keyman.” Taiwan discovered Avignon in 2007 and since then Taiwanese artists have been gaining recognition at France’s premier cultural festival.
Dancer and choreographer Lo Wen-chun says that the work is based on one of Kafka’s letters and the true story of a friend who somehow becomes isolated from, or can never get on with her parents and siblings. It’s a mixture of menace and some perhaps unintended fun, a choreographed cross between Kafka and Marx Brothers.
Like so many other young artists at Avignon, Lo Wen-chun took to the streets to promote the work. “We have learned how to express and promote ourselves.” she said, “And we are not afraid to perform on the street, with or without an audience.”
Also taking to the streets when they weren’t on stage was the Ten Drum Art Percussion Group, led by Chiu Ya-Hui. Ambassadors of Taiwan’s drum tradition, which is spiritual as well as musical, they were nominated for a Traditional World Music Grammy.
They’ve brought “The Glory of the Ten Drum” to the festival, a spectacle that is hypnotic not only for the power of the drumming but also the precision of movement and physical prowess of its percussionists, who are capable of striking 180 beats per minute.
All five Taiwanese companies at the festival are performing at the Theatre de la Condition des Soies, a former silk factory located in the centre of Avignon.