Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay and National Theater and Concert Hall
Online, September 18, 2021
On screen, in black and white, Taiwanese dancer Liu I-Ling looks directly at the camera. She takes it with her everywhere as she sets up her space on the empty stage of the Taichung National Theater.
The audience is confused as to whether the performance has started. Liu begins a countdown to the start of the show – stretching at 15 minutes, speaking at 10 minutes as the absent stage manager would, marking her steps at five minutes. The lights begin to dim and the announcement of the house is made.
Liu’s is the first of 19 solos by independent artists filmed in empty theater spaces in Taiwan, Thailand, Italy, Indonesia and Singapore, and streamed for five hours.
Conceived by Taiwanese artists Chen Wu-Kang, artistic director of contemporary dance company Horse, and videographer and director Sun Ruey Horng, 14 serves as a prelude to the da:ns de l’Esplanade festival next month (October).
The project seeks to answer the question of how dancers around the world are responding to the uncertain conditions of the pandemic.
The Esplanade had planned to livestream all solos, but changes had to be made due to Covid-19 restrictions in various territories.
Some works, notably those of the Italian theaters Centro per la Scena Contemporanea, Lavanderia a Vapore and Spazio Kor, had to be pre-recorded.
In a nod to the 14 days typically required for self-isolation, performers are alone for 14 minutes without any visible crew or audience in abandoned theater spaces, which they attempt to reclaim with their performances.
Each solo depicts an aspect of what the dancers have endured over the past 11/2 years, though the overlaps and resonances between the works serve as a reminder that they are not alone.
Kornkarn Rungsawang sits outside the Chang Theater in Thailand, surrounded by posters of past performances, and writes in black ink the years there were performances from 2010, but turns red from 2019 to this year (2021), with the lost year of 2020 represented by a dash.
Indonesian Siko Setyanto rocks violently back and forth in the empty seats of the Salihara Arts Center in Jakarta, mourning the loss of the audience.