Friday, July 1, 2022

Dance Review: Tze Chun, Calculated Stumbles Towards the Future

Tze Chun Dance Company While many people bemoan the dawning of the quarter century marker, choreographer Tze Chun nails it in stride…or flight.  The twenty-five year old’s Tze Chun Dance Company shows a work in progress, new work and a rep piece this weekend at The Tank. Having presented at numerous venues in the city and prepping for a tour of China, TCDC reflects a choreographer with an unwavering vision.  Each piece drowns the audience in thoughtful details, effortless movement, and intriguing stories that leave me wanting more.

The lights come up on several dancers in champagne hued vests, shorts and other meticulously detailed garments by Hannah Shaw and Chun.  Reflecting upper middle class people of the 1800’s, TCDC dancers toy with the notion of play…often flirting or cultivating all things competitive.  This work in progress, Parlour Games, fancies oranges as baseballs and lives the philosophy, “if you have a prop on stage, use it!”  These "baseballs" become the Siamese between the notion of twins, permanent extensions of fingers, and finally like anything that’s close by when angst has reach its ultimate height – purely something to throw.  Things get interesting when two dancers engage in an intimate duet front to front, cheek to cheek.  This closeness rivals the music that modulates from carnival Prozac-pumped beats to melancholy piano chords.  This searching quality, that drapes the duet, feels like the valley between hiking two mountains marked by the quest to win.  Never taking her dancer’s physicality for granted, Chun manages to honor their personalities as well.  Her detail-oriented approach to dance is echoed by her dancer’s acute articulation of the body.

Real Friends 336 In Phase Vidcoder v2.0, Chun takes the stage with Daniel Iglesia at the foot utilizing ‘cutting-edge technology to create multi-media performances using live video feed.’  Without the benefit of a visual on this apt description, it takes Chun’s precise movements and manipulates them then and there onto a screen like a magical video game or something at the Apple Store.  As her second iteration of this piece, first created in 2008, Chun sticks to one side of the stage bursting with movement and then stops to let Iglesia work.  At times multiple Chuns are projected, tracing the same movements like interesting dominoes. These moments entice me most – seeing several projections enliven the movements separated by one second.  The possibilities here seem endless and could easily help generate choreography.  Instead of wondering what it would look like to have three dancers create a phrase, this projection could create that vision without any additional sweat necessary!

My concern for this piece lies in its ability to constantly engage viewers.  Like a shiny new toy, it has intense seductive power; but, after seeing the major modulations the machine offers, after the dance of seduction wanes, I am still in a theater hoping for something intriguing.  Chun’s physicality, however, the rise and fall of her breath and the noise it makes for her to travel the stage, soar far above the silent images created by Iglesia.  I am confident in Chun’s ability to work with this machine that may prove to be the "dance of the future" with its choreographic capabilities and her ability to continue to bring the "blood, sweat, and tears" that never cease to enliven an audience.

Tze Chun Dance CompanyThe evening closes with a piece that walks the line between everyone’s worst nightmare and a typical Friday night.  Out and About explores ‘modern-day limits of inebriation, inhibition, and privacy.’  Essentially, there is dancing, there is alcohol, and there is an intense amount of American Apparel cloaking the stage. The five dancers take actual shots of alcohol onstage as the 26 minute piece unfolds.  Chun says that they rehearsed with alcohol only at night, giving them shots and timing how long it took to effect them – this dictated how many they were to have during the piece.  The choreography is set, and clean, and as a credit to the dancers, it does not seem to grow unsteady as alcohol is consumed.  This brings about the most enigmatic quality of the piece – the alcohol does not bring the obvious stumbles, but a deep emotional change as clear as anything. Interactions between dancers grow cold, aggressive and vengeful.  Chun says that on Friday, “the piece has a playful tone and tonight it went to a place I had hoped it would go, to an uncomfortable place.”  Watching Out and About is like sitting at a bar where everyone’s a few deep, rife with dance skills, and you’re sipping on seltzer.

Go see Tze Chun Dance Company’s latest work at The Tank to watch work that honors its concepts wholeheartedly, flirts with the future, and chooses to stumble in order to chart new ground.  … And, as an inspiration for all young dance pros out there, it’s a delight to see how 25 could turn out to be just lovely… if you’ve half the ambition as Chun.

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Official Dance Review by Eileen Elizabeth
Performance:  Tze Chun Dance Company
Venue: The Tank
Show Date: December 4, 2009
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