Song of Pensive Beholding
Lin Lee-chen is about to stage her company's Hong Kong debut with Song of Pensive Beholding, her third work since 1995. The acclaimed Taiwanese choreographer talks to Edmund Lee.
Every one of us has an old spirit.” Or, at least, that’s what Lin Lee-chen, one of Taiwan’s most acclaimed modern dance choreographers, tells us when we enquire about her lasting interest in legends and folklores. With the incorporation of Taiwanese aboriginal costumes, props and music – and by adapting a myth about a race of eagles living around a sacred river – the intensely beautiful Song of Pensive Beholding represents Lin’s latest work to meditate on the spiritual connections between humans and their surrounding world. The founder and artistic director of Legend Lin Dance Theatre talks to Time Out ahead of her company’s Hong Kong debut.
What was your initial inspiration for Song of Pensive Beholding?
I have made two previous works before this: Mirrors of Life (1995) and Anthem to the Fading Flowers (2000). The former is about [the relationship between] human and heaven, while the latter is about human and nature. Song of Pensive Beholding, which is the third [title in the trilogy], tells of the relationship between humans. [The Chinese title of Song] has the meaning of introspection, to reflect upon oneself. I have adapted a mythical atmosphere to talk about introspection.
You’ve only created three works since you founded the company in 1995, and it’s also taken you about nine years to come up with Song. Why does it take so long to create each of your works?
I wouldn’t call it a ‘work’. It’s more about the transformations in life and the changes of scenery. Sometimes these take [time to sink in]; it’s not up to me to actively assemble them. It’s like waiting for a tree to gradually grow up; I can’t build up a tree instantly. [The production] has made use of costumes and props that have to be collected. Like the old costumes that we’re using in Song, they are from 30, 50 or 80 years ago. It’s similar for the music: it takes time for the [dancers’] bodies to merge with the music. I can’t just take any and use it in the production. The music is supposed to grow out from the bodies; whatever grows out from the bodies will take time.
Your productions may be described as a form of ritual theatre. Is this mode of expression connected to your philosophy of life?
To me, every life is a ritual. From birth, ageing, illness to death, it’s just like a ritual. Because we live our lives too fast, we tend to forget the feelings that this ritualistic process brings about. We need to quiet down, and our sensory experience will amplify as a result. That’s why my [choreography] is so deliberate; [the performance] looks like a stationery scenery. We don’t rush. I have great [interest] in the process through which people come and go.
What do you think is the most distinctive feature of your choreography?
I think it’s the tranquillity of our bodies. From the quiet atmosphere, a source of strength emerges from deep inside us. The feelings we have lost or have forgotten will be awakened again. That’s why some of our dancers – and sometimes the viewers too – begin to cry involuntarily during the performance.
What’s the most difficult part for your dancers to perform your work?
They have to dig deep into themselves to find the genuine emotions. They’re not here to finish certain moves; all their moves have to be projected from their innermost [beings].
It’s often said that you’re working separately from any overseas schools of choreography. Still, are there any dancers or choreographers that you may regard as your favourites?
Actually, I’m interested in all sorts of dance, because I think that every dancer is accumulating his own experiences from life. When I go to see dance performances, I’m just like a listener: I listen to what the dancer has to say to me. So it’s not about whether you like [the dancers] or not; you’re there to listen to them. I respect what they offer me. It’s also impossible for one person to be able to do everything; [the performances] you watch will involuntarily be absorbed into your body.
Do you have any plan for your next work at the moment?
I feel utterly exhausted after every work. I don’t know what my next work will be like. I can only take it slow. There’s no point rushing it.
Maybe it’ll be another few years before we see it.
[Laughs] Right, right. I wouldn’t force myself into creating anything.
Song of Pensive Beholding 觀 is at Kwai Tsing Theatre’s Auditorium on Nov 4 & 5. The programme contains nudity. Tickets: 2734 9009;