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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 19 OCTOBER 2013 — New works in dance often bring surprises, whether it be an anti-climax with a creation by a well-known choreographer falling short of one’s expectations, or a revelation with a piece or pieces by total newcomers. At the Theatre aux Abbessess last week it was the latter, when the opening programme for the season presented works by the recently founded Chang Dance Theater.

After having graduated from the National University of Arts of Taiwan in 2009, Chien-Hao Chang participated in the American Dance Festival the same year and after a brief collaboration with the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company in New York, left to spend several months in France. On his return to Taiwan, he created his company with his two brothers, Chien-Hao and Chien-Kuei, who by that time had also graduated from the University of Arts. The three youngsters, barely in their early twenties began creating and interpreting their own pieces both in Taiwan and Hong-Kong, after which one of their creations, Three for one was presented at the Danse Elargie competition in Paris.

Danse Elargie, a competition imagined in 2010, the year following the deaths of both Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham, by Boris Charmatz, director of the Museum of Dance, and Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, director of the Theatre de la Ville, is a contest to bring young choreographers and dancers to public notice. During one week-end, the Theatre de la Ville invites artists to present works of no more than ten minutes and with no more than three interpreters. While the work, Three for One presented by the brothers won no prize, the interest it aroused won them an invitation to perform in Paris.

Consequently, at the Theatre aux Abbesses, the three brothers delighted spectators from the beginning with their eminently suitable opening work, Three for One, a slow, graceful, harmonious piece set to a score by Jun Miyake, (Lilies of the Valley). The brothers, all handsome, physically attractive young men danced with a rare complicity, jumping in slow motion, freezing in the air, and performing fluid sequences of arabesques where each repeated the same movement, mirror images of each other, taking full advantage of their physical similarities.

Chang Dance Theater

There could have been a momentary lapse when the music stopped, for dancing in silence can be fraught with danger, but no, the music returned and so did the dance with a change of pace, this time quick, jerky, infinitely danceable. One felt like joining in!

The second ballet, for ballet it was, was totally different, with the added presence on stage of a young girl. Compose, an atmospheric piece, was written by a second brother, Chien-Kuei Chang for himself and his girlfriend, I-han Cheng.

"We are all so happy to be here in Paris",  I-Han Cheng, a pretty girl with huge, almond shaped eyes, told me after their performance. "We all trained together at the Taiwan University of Arts and I hope so much to be able to continue dancing with the company. It is so exciting to have been invited here; it is our first trip to France and we have only been here a couple of days, but everything is so wonderful", she added.   

With Compose, lyrical and luminous, set to an exquisite score by Bach, the Sonata No. 1 for solo violin BWV 1001, one simply saw the pure dance, almost forgetting the presence of the interpreters. The body of the girl, supple and full of grace, became the instrument. Inventive and original, it was a work that simply flowed along, seemingly spontaneous and natural.  Poetical and of great beauty, was the man playing the violin or was he composing the music, the girl responding to each of his gestures?  In stark contrast to the other abstract works on offer, it was full of emotion.

There was a change of tempo indeed with the last work on offer, Vaulting, by Chien-Chih Chang set to a lively score by Yann Tiersen. Poetry, lyricism and grace were flung to the winds in favour of alarmingly high, athletic jumps in a fast-paced acrobatic piece owing much to the martial arts so popular in Taiwan. Here, the brothers were joined by a fourth dancer, Wei-An-Chen, and all four gave a virile display worthy of the finest circus, from which it was inspired.

Three completely different short pieces were presented, all without pretension, and with different scores, atmosphere, costumes and tempos. There was an outstanding pas de deux, a remarkable pas de trois, ending in an unexpected display of fireworks, a total, most enjoyable mix of styles sending home a well-pleased audience.

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Based in Paris, Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque 

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