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ISSN 2206–9615 C R I T I CA L D I A LO G U E S I S SU E 13.2


Critical Dialogues is a biannual online publication. Sign up to Critical Path’s e–news to stay informed –

PUBLICATION STAFF Project Manager – Ozlem Bekiroglou Aldogan Editors – Claire Hicks & Ozlem Bekiroglou Aldogan Designer – Andrea Cheng

CRITICAL PATH STAFF Director – Claire Hicks Finance and Administration Manager – Stephanie Tatzenko Producer – Ozlem Bekiroglou Aldogan First Nations Producer – Jasmine Lee Gulash Digital Artist-Curator – Matt Cornell

Cover Photo: Sasikirana Dance Camp Documentation Team Sasikirana KoreoLAB 2017, an embryo of work by Geri Krisdianto Photo: Sasikirana



Introduction Claire Hicks & Ozlem Bekiroglou Aldogan


Hell Month Archives Revisiting # 6 Daughter Charemaine Seet


Dance – Past, Present and Future Matthew Doyle


DokumenTARI: From The Stories of Homelands to The Narratives of The Indonesian Dancescape Keni K. Soeriaatmadja


Back to the moment Dancing Talking Bar Wu-Kang Chen


Martin Del Amo’s Thoughts on his 2017 Dancing Sydney Archive Project Residency Sharing Martin Del Amo


A Generation Lost – When AIDS Hit Our World Lisa Petty


INTRODUCTION Claire Hicks & Ozlem Bekiroglou Aldogan

The first volume of the 13th edition of Critical Dialogues, was born out of the Dancing Sydney: Mapping Movements: Performing Histories project, with artists writing about archiving practice and a guide to self-archiving. In this second edition of the publication, we wanted to expand our reach and give space to more voices. Each artist shares their approach and experience on archiving along with the opportunities, challenges, and benefits of archives to ongoing practice. Charemaine Seet refers to the challenges of trying to keep alive and learn the dying art form of Teochew Opera, Matthew Doyle explains the important role of archiving for Indigenous peoples in terms of continuing the culture to future generations. Keni K. Soeriaatmadja talks about the influence of a family passing to her practice. Keni explains how the

program DokumenTARI was born and launched to continue the culture of Indonesian dance. Wu-Kang Chen argues if a performance can be recreated through archiving and describes Back to the Moment Dancing Talking Bar sessions where Taiwanese dance artists` past practice/s were discussed. Martin Del Amo on the other hand, who has been in residency at Critical Path in 2017 for the Dancing Sydney project, talks about the challenges of somatic recreation of previous work and the engagement of audience during the sharing of his project. In this volume we also give space to Lisa Petty`s poetic writing on how HIV/AIDS has impacted the lives of many friends and colleagues in the dance sector, which was first published by Delving into Dance. You can also listen to related podcasts by Phillip Adams, Noel Tovey and Gareth Chambers through the links.


“In many different contexts the term archive carries with it significant weight, the term often brings with it notions of longevity, safe keeping, order and concerns with authenticity, it’s about items or records that hang together for good reason.” Trevor Owens (What Do you Mean by Archive? Genres of Usage for Digital Preservers).

Finally, the place of the body in dance archives, speaks out through these different writings… both the stories and processes lost or relegated, those recovered and those celebrated. Dance artists are using diverse ways of creating and examining their archives for themselves and for ‘archivists’ of the future.

For Michel Foucault (The Archaeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language), “the Archive” is “the system of discursivity”, indicating neither a neutral space nor a place to find truth, but rather a set of frameworks that many now recognise as holding incomplete, colonised and contextually biased records. It may be argued then that archives can be an integral part of an artist`s life, using archive materials to re-examine, reconstruct and re-tell the pasts of our dance practices. It also follows that artists may wish to control those knowledges and narratives - whether an archive is a recording, a writing, an image or any other digital format. Surely archiving becomes very important if dance cultures, practices, memories and stories are to be passed to future generations. Even for oneself to go back and turn the pages of histories to remember and be remembered.

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Hungry Ghost Festival During the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar the “gates of hell” were flung open in Muar, the small town I grew up in Malaysia. Dead souls wandered the streets picking at the offerings of food left out in front of people’s houses and inhaling the smoke of incense and burning joss paper. The otherworldly forcefully entered the realm of quotidian existence. During the seventh month, traveling opera troupes would appear and put on performances that would last through the night. Teochew Opera, my dialect group’s version of Chinese opera, was the common street form in my neighbourhood. The troupes would construct temporary, make-shift theatres that allowed us kids to wander through their skeletons and innards. As a child, I freely circulated through the troupes’ scaffolding in the dark, watching the performers donning costumes putting on make-up, smoking,

eating, and then making an entrance and transforming into the iconic theatrical roles in the opera. It was the first live performance that I experienced. This experience of theatre was ritualistic and imbued with superstition, mystery, and the supernatural. It was understood that ghosts circulated the realm of theatre and were treated like wealthy donors or critics, given offerings of food and front row seats. # 6 Daughter was a work I performed in 1989 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. It was an installation performance piece based on the transmutation of my early childhood memories of the phenomenon of Teochew street opera performances. I used dancers’ bodies to represent the operatic backdrops—draping them and installing them like the scaffolding of the opera set. I burdened the bodies with ritualistic paraphernalia. The movements of the dancers were raw and child-like, a regurgitation of what


Teochew Opera Singapore Photos courtesy of the artist

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I had sucked in as a youth—stylised interpretations of opera forms mixed with primal movements of crawling and huddling. The soundtrack was a 78rpm recording of an obscure Teochew Opera piece, “the 6th Daughter” which was about a woman eluding an arranged marriage. The video documenting the work was lost when I moved back to Sydney, and only exists in two photos of cast members and in the memory. Now my dialect group’s form of opera— Teochew—is almost extinct, preserved by a few artists in Southeast Asia. In late 2018, I had a week-long residency with Catapult Dance and Critical Path. The intent of my project was to analyse and embody multiple phrases of movement vocabulary from Teochew Opera. I worked by observing and memorizing the gestural and choreographic forms from a digitised film of Teochew Opera that was made in the 1960s. I learned the movement in great detail by “copying” the performer and then used this as source material for improvisation. I had the notion that if I could embody these phrases well enough (as second nature), then when I improvised, this new information would trigger new dance patterns to emerge. I recorded my own improvisations and in turn

analysed these. I reconstructed phrases from the improv. I also used different sound stimulus: film soundtracks, old recordings of 78s (some manipulated), click tracks, my own vocalisations and whistling, to allow for a variety of rhythmical patterns to develop in the improvs. The initial experiments were interesting. If I concentrated on the changing angles in the wrist joints and finger directions, I found it affected the way my spine moved. This resulted in choreographic sketches developing which related to how the hand articulation resonated with the spinal movement and postural shifts. Revisiting # 6 In 2020, I was successful in my application for Critical Path’s 2020 Responsive Program. The grant would have allowed me to travel to Singapore and work with a Teochew Opera practitioners in Singapore, namely the Thau Yong Amateur Musical Association. One of the urgent/critical issues for me was that Teochew Opera is a dying art form and many of the practitioners in Thau Yong Amateur Musical Association are in their 70 and 80s. The plan was to work directly with these masters on the movement/choreography of Teochew Opera. I would video my lessons and take journal notes as to my emotional responses and specific memories that are stirred up during this process. With this

Mirjam Montandon in early version of # Daughter Photos courtesy of the artist

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material, back in Sydney, I would make choreographic responses to each lesson. As a native Teochew speaker, I would have a linguistic as well as a movement dialogue with my teacher. I had the notion that accessing my sub-conscious memories will be facilitated by being immersed in the linguistic, theatrical and cultural world of Teochew Opera as it exists in situ. The 2020-2021 pandemic put a spanner in the works. My trip was cancelled. #6 Daughter was down but not defeated. My project became a part of Anna Tregloan’s Impossible Project series — a “fantastical exhibition out of and about projects that have become impossible” or delayed by unforeseen circumstances. Anna interviewed me at length about my stalled trip and created a visual response to it. With the support of Critical Path, I began working with Teochew Opera practitioner Zenn Lim Soo Hiang via zoom. I had four sessions learning hua dan (young woman’s movements) and Chinese opera sword play from Zenn and fellow associates of the Thau Yong Amateur Musical Association. Zenn taught me significant postural details such as the correct way to hold the body and shoulders to show grace and liveliness while displaying great modesty. I was surprised by the speed of some footwork. We focused on 18 codified hand gestures and every gesture corresponded to an idea or

emotional state. The gestures had names which loosely translated to descriptives like: “Inner heart hands”, “outward heart hands”, “double brow hands”. Achieving correct finger positions and angles of arms was difficult. And the opera practitioners deemed my fingers as being “meatless” or too skinny. Learning sword work through Zoom has specific challenges too. A theatrical sword has a long tassel attached. The tassel has to be skillfully manipulated in movement to extend the choreographic patterns of the sword. For example, during some pauses the tassel needs to be perfectly along the elbow of the other arm to punctuate a climactic end pose. Performing sword work in an apartment is difficult as I had to avoid smashing the light fixture—leaving me feeling somewhat inhibited. But I did carve architectural lines through the space, while slashing and striking. And I noticed how the sword work, with its extra weight and physical demands had a strong impact on the movement of the wrist and subsequent spinal movements. It was my teacher’s assessment that Zoom sessions were not sufficient for me to learn Teochew Opera movements and I would eventually have to travel to Singapore to learn by direct transmission. I think she personally felt it cumbersome, tiring and inadequate for her teaching methodology.



Note: It should be acknowledged that post-modern dance and many of the associated somatic movement studies were influenced by East Asian philosophy and martial arts.

Teochew Opera Singapore Photos courtesy of the artist

Teochew Opera Hand Gestures from 1960s Film Photos courtesy of the artist

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Dance has been an integral part of Indigenous culture for countless Millenia, and it plays an essential role in maintaining cultural life, lore and connection to Country and all who live within it. Traditionally children learn about everything in their domain through observation and active participation through dance and continue to do so throughout their whole life, then becoming the custodians and teachers of the next generation. Throughout Australian history there have been many historical recordings of Ceremonies including dance of Indigenous peoples including books, film photographs and audio, mostly done through Anthropologists spending time studying and trying to understand our culture in general. Unfortunately, many recordings could have possibly misunderstood or mistranslated what they were actually recording or have done so without permission from the people.

Having said that, if those archives are accessible to the descendants, they may use and take ownership of what was documented for this and future generations. As our law/lore is passed down through generations it is often under threat in some communities as the young ones/youth look to and are influenced by modern technology and slowly moving away from traditional dance and cultural practices. However, this is not the case all over this country. In fact, and particularly in the Southern states, there has been a growing revival of dance in many communities. Archiving can and does play an important role for indigenous peoples as it records time, place and people which can be utilised by the communities who wish to reclaim and re learn dance in its entirety, song lines, regalia, stories, language. Ownership in all its forms is the utmost importance as it gives the owners control of what, who, why, how, when dances can be


taught and or performed. I guess the need for archiving in this day and age is an important way for organisations and individuals to leave a body print of their works journey and a record of their creation and one that can be shared with others both in the studio, bush or via the many digital mediums available to most. If I may share one experience I had about 20 years ago. Myself and a Songman Dancer from Yirrkala NE Arnhem Land were invited to University of South Florida (USF), Tampa USA to collaborate in a theatre/dance production alongside professional First Nations Artists, dance students from the university and other alumni, produced by the University Head of Dance Gretchen Warren. Thankfully the production was recorded and can now be shared with all who wish to see, as this was a once in a lifetime experience for all involved. This would not have been possible without modern technology and the importance of archiving for future generations to see and learn from. In closing I would encourage all when appropriate to record your works in the many formats that are available today so others can enjoy your work.

Matthew Doyle Photo by Jan Wells

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Abib Igal - Central Kalimantan DokumenTARI Seri.02 : The Distance to Return, Photo courtesy of artist


I rushed up the front stairs, stormed through the back door and quickly washed my hands. My parent’s house was quiet, I could smell the fresh morning air mixed with a soft lavender scent, my mum must have just finished mopping the floor. It was an ordinary morning on an ordinary Monday, but somehow when I received my mum’s call a few minutes earlier I could sense there was something different in her voice telling me to hurry come and check my ill-father. I wiped my hands, turned to my father’s room and just as I was about to enter his room, Nurul -the homecare nurse, came out of the room and slowly whispered, “He’s gone...” My father just turned 83 a week before and had suffered from Alzheimer for 13 years. I knew that day would come but I never knew it would be so… soft. I had a few dramatic scenarios of death in my head but never as easy and soft as his. As I came to realize,

maybe, most probably, he had been ‘training’ us to let him go since the day we realized he was losing his memory. At the beginning he repeatedly asked the same questions every five minutes, he started his teaching schedule, then he began to forget our names, lost his ability to read, and ultimately lost his speech, all memories, and any ways to communicate. It wasn’t easy for any of the family members, it was painful to see your once gallant father ‘evaporated’ and slowly faded out, locked in his own mind and never looked back. He talked to his reflection in the mirror, he spoke gently to photos and dolls, yet he forgot and totally ignored us, his children. Since then, losing memory has become the most traumatic thing for me in this world. A couple of months after my father’s passing, my team and I launched DokumenTARI.

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For hundreds of years, dance has always been recognized as one of the most significant manifestations of Indonesia’s diverse culture. Each part of the country, occupying 17,000 islands of the archipelago, has a myriad kinds of performing arts that demonstrate body movements. Traces of natural history and social constructions embedded in Indonesian traditional dances, making them the real moving museums of culture. The highly religious and martial-arts-based dances of West Sumatra, for example, show significantly different appearance and texture to the more complex and hierarchical Central Javanese dance culture, which also differs to the communal folk dances in the Eastern part of the country. The plurality of Indonesian dances is so real, making it effortless for us to recognize one piece is different from another, which inevitably will lead us to the question of Why. Why are they different? Who were (are) the creators of the dances? How do they live? What is the significance of dance in their community? In what construction of culture is this dance presented? Where is it positioned in today’s geo-political map of Indonesia, of Asia, of the world? Recognizing the rich potential of dance research in Indonesia, I established a platform called Sasikirana Dance Camp D O K U M E N TA R I

in 2015 together with Ratna Yulianti, my dance partner in Bengkel Tari Ayu Bulan in Bandung, West Java. This annual program primarily questions the existence of contemporary dance in the socioscape of the arts in Indonesia. We were curious about the development of contemporary dance in this country, and how it meets the strong traditional based performers and choreographers. How do these perspectives negotiate with each other, how is the mind constructed in such a way that gives space to a specific historical timeline of one particular society in Indonesia to the perspective of postmodernism that is basically fabricated by the social movements in the West? In order to find answers to the questions, we invite dancers and choreographers to apply and get selected to a one-week-long-KoreoLAB and Dance Camp. The program offers a compressed simulation of contemporary dance creation process where participants, usually 25-30 of them, get an intensive experience of creative ideation, concept materialization, body exploration and training, space orientation, and public presentation. While (very busily) focusing on our goal to upscale Indonesian young contemporary dancers’ conceptual thinking, networking, and choreographing methods, after 5 years between 20152019, at one point we come to realize


Hartati, Sasikirana Dance Camp 2016 mentor, with participants Photo by Sasikirana

that the most important thing we stimulated in the program is actually a very simple thing: We give space for conversations. In a large, complex, developing and multi-ethnic country like Indonesia, a room for non-hierarchical and nonjudgmental conversation is a luxury. We had mentors like Arco Renz, Eko Supriyanto, Melati Suryodarmo, Lim How Ngean, Melanie Lane, and many others that challenged the participants to think and work harder than usual. We faced blisters, cuts, cramped muscles, and emotional breakdowns from the participants, but at the end of the day the participants never failed to amaze us with their generosity to learn, to equally accept differences,

and to articulate their thoughts and open their heart and mind in learning to question things, another habit that needs time to getting used to for people in post-collonialized country like us. We treasure our lunchtime chats while sharing our favorite drinks, we cherish the moments of late night games while listening to the stories of their hometowns and families, we take notes on their diverse gestures of breakdowns and find ways to get them back on the track. We come to realize that uncovering and understanding diversity doesn’t happen in classes nor on the stage. It generously happens actually, when we, as a collective, become most humane.

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Up until today, the program has brought together more than 100 young dancers (age 20-35) from different parts of the country with varieties of gender, ethnicities, and educational background. However, from the five years of experience in the dance camps we notice there is seemingly a challenge for these young dancers to develop their critical perspective towards their environment even though critical thinking would be the key for them to be able to create substantial contemporary dances and identify their role in the society. As a response to this situation, in mid 2020 Sasikirana launched a new program: DokumenTARI (“Tari” means “Dance” in Bahasa) as an extension of the

dance camp that primarily focuses on increasing the skill of Indonesian young dancers in articulating themselves by using photo essays and life-narrative writing methods. Not only acting as a maneuver of dance presentation in the time of COVID-19 pandemic, DokumenTARI also emerged as a reaction to the lack of dance archives in Indonesia. The minimum resource and references to knowledge about dance is predicted to cause the wide knowledge gap between the general public’s view about dance as only a form of ‘entertainment’ that contrasts to arts practitioners who deeply see dance as a complex and intellectual production of culture.

Dwi Febrianto - Banyuwangi, East Java DokumenTARI Seri.02 : The Duality of Names, Photo courtesy of artist



Presented as an online database in a website, the access to the photo essays and life narratives is hoped to uncover the empirical reality of dance lives, bringing to life a collection of data that entrust the authority of cultural mapping to the practitioners themselves. DokumenTARI is a growing cultivation of knowledge that respects and gives space for personal experiences to contribute to a bigger cultural narration. Through periodic open calls, DokumenTARI invites ten dancers/ choreographers for each series to receive writing, photography, and selfdevelopment workshops that aim to upscale the contributors’ ability to raise questions through different methods which is expected to be the key to develop their critical thinking, helping contributors to identify their position in the Indonesian and global dancescape. Interestingly, the media transformation they go through -from previously using their body to express themselves to utilizing their verbal articulation, have somehow opened up new channels to unfold hidden wounds that have unconsciously impacted their self-construction. More than anyone had expected, the writing and photo-essay creation process become a journey to dig long lost memories, weaving one experience to another, and resulting in surprising self discoveries. We are humbled to witness

contributors uncovering the dark history of living in neighbourhoods of religious and tribal conflicts, dancers who struggled in the remains of tsunami, participants who share their journeys to fight for the rights for their sexual orientation, immigrants to big cities that are victims of inequality in the access to knowledge and career opportunities as the cause to post-dictatorship centralization. The diversity of discourse offered by these personal stories -that are told in such modesty, are extremely valuable. We suddenly face a cultural mapping that is not only rich with empirical data, but also moving. It has been a long journey that started from questioning how Indonesian dancers interpret contemporary dance in their artistic practise to where DokumenTARI pins its current position as an alternative research platform. As the program develops, it has grown from a simple space that gathers data of personal stories to a thick and delicious ‘chicken soup for the soul for dancers’ that collects the warmth of self-acceptance, spices of engaging conversations and the delicacy of preserving personal memories.

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“Someone can live alone, in their dreams. Unfortunately, human beings live in the complicated reality of the world. Therefore, we need other people to make us move -to make sure that we are alive and live what we choose in life.” (Tamara Agustina Hurulean, Contributor DokumenTARI Seri.01 from the islands of Maluku)

It may be just words with a couple of photographs but one day in the future, those words would mean the world for some people. People who wish to hear more stories from them, or write more notes before their memory fades away.

I looked out as I heard a soft knock on the window. A sprig of freshly bloomed white rose nodded gently as the wind puffed. The rose was a gift It has been months since my father’s passing. The afternoon from my father. was warm but I could feel the breeze coming through the window, the orange sky reflected the lights of one lazy sun. I sat down in the den reading through the finalized documents written by the contributors of DokumenTARI. I couldn’t hold my tears from falling, having the privilege to collect these remarkable memories that were scattered around the country. They may not realize how valuable the treasure they had just created. Arbi Nuralamsyah, Sukabumi-West Java DokumenTARI Seri.01 : “History of Pain” Photo by Hanifah Dwi Chandra

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There is no way to “bring back” the work in its entirety in the reproduction scene, it has already passed. But I think that through the act of “bringing back” we can approach and try to understand a past that has been buried by information and forgotten by most people. We can theatricalise it - to create an irreplaceable sacredness and reconnect “us” in a special moment. Horse`s project Performance X Choreographer X Criticism, was a presentation and re-conversation of performances, addressing how to challenge the irreversible and reproducible limits of performing arts.

The cruelty and dilemma of performing arts, as well as its beauty, lies in the fact that it cannot be reproduced. The performance takes place in the present moment and is created and experienced together with all the participants in the audience. Even if it is the purest classical work, the purest way of watching the performance, the communication between you and me is difficult to reproduce and recreate.

We invited artists to bring their work, when the aura of the performance becomes the past, in a different time and space, and with a critic to bring us back to the moment when it was alive.

By inviting the creator, the documentarian (video), and the critic (text) to have a dialogue with the audience again, we can look back at the creation and recreate the process and the effect of the creation. If the image is retold in a visual way, the creator’s re-enactment represents a call to perform the present and the past, while the commentator acts as a dialogue and a recontextualization of time and space.

Through watching, listening, and feeling, we continue, review, and re-enter conversation with the works.

As a documentary medium, the image constructs our memory of the past and re-tells the story in an extremely


realistic way; the relationship between criticism and the work, through different structures of thought, discourse, entry, and analysis of the work, is a writing of the work in the present moment, and an immediate response to the phenomenon of the times.

Eyes to see, ears to hear, sharing and communicating with each other through video projection I think how to recreate with the past performance or gain inspiration from it is essential to environmental protection, how to slow down the speed of moving forward.

Choreographer Ku Ming-Shen is talking about her teacher Steve Paxton during Back to the moment Dancing Talking Bar with art critic Lu Chien-Ying.

Ku Ming-Shen vs. Lu Chien-Ying Photo credit: HORSE

The opening of the Back to the moment Dancing Talking Bar with the choreographer Lin Wen-Chung and dance critic Diane Baker.

Lin Wen-Chung vs. Diane Baker Photo credit: HORSE

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Artist Lin Ssu-Tuan is guiding the audience to feel their senses with newspaper during Back to the moment Dancing Talking Bar with Dr. Chang Chung-Shiuan.

Lin Ssu-Tuan vs. Chang Chung-Shiuan Photo credit: HORSE

Choreographer Henry Yu is demonstrating one of his dance instructional system with an audience during Back to the moment Dancing Talking Bar.

Henry Yu vs. Wang Ling-Li Photo credit: HORSE

Choreographer Zhang XiaoXiong is explaining his dance journey during Back to the moment Dancing Talking Bar to the audience with dance critic Tsou Chih-Mu.

Zhang Xiao-Xiong vs. Tsou Chih-Mu Photo credit: HORSE



KU MING-SHEN As an active choreographer and dancer, Ming-Shen Ku has settled her base in Taiwan since 1987. Ku’s works are influenced by many Western and Eastern dance styles, a merging development from her diverse backgrounds. Since 1991, Ku became deeply involved in Contact Improvisation and introduced it to Taiwan. She founded her dance company “Ku & Dancers” in 1993 to present new works and promote the art of improvisation.

LU CHIEN-YING Lu Chien-ying is the current administrative director of the Xinxin Nanguan Ensemble and is also an independent producer and dance critic. Having worked as an arts and culture journalist for thirteen years, LU is a major commentator on the Taiwanese dance industry, culture, and ecosystem, and is known for delivering unique insights and opinions in her succinct, crisp writing.

DIANE BAKER Diane Baker was senior copy desk editor and a features reporter for the Taipei Times. She began writing on dance for the Journal newspaper chain in suburban Washington, D.C. in 1983. She wrote on dance and theater for Bang Magazine in Taipei as well as other magazines from late 1987 to 1999, before stopping for several years when she became a senior news producer for International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT). It was Mikhail Baryshnikov’s visit to Taipei with the White Oak Dance Project in February 2001 that inspired her to return to writing on dance and theater for the Taipei Times.

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LIN WEN-CHUNG Founder of WCdance, he has performed professionally with Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company in New York (01-07), Repertory Dance Theatre in Utah (00-01), Dance Forum Taipei (96-97), Chamber Ballet Taipei (93), and Taipei Folk Dance Theatre (91-94) among others. In 2015, he won the Taishin Arts Award with Long River and created Aerodynamics that co-commissioned by the Macau Arts Festival and National Theater of Taiwan.

LIN SSU-TUAN Lin Ssu-Tuan was the first female nude model in Taiwan in the 1960s, she is also a dance educator. In 2011, Ms. Lin gathered a group of teachers specializing in dance, arts, music, drama and horticulture. She established a non-profit organization and research association in Taipei, aimed at carrying out integrated arts education for people with special needs.

ZHANG XIAO-XIONG Born in Cambodia and moved to China in the early teens, He studied modern dance at the Centre for Performing Arts (Adelaide) and started the career as a professional dancer. He was a member of the Australian Dance Theatre (Adelaide) from 1987–1992. Former Director of Academic Affairs of the National Taipei University of the Arts, Artistic Director of Taipei Crossover Dance Company, Artistic Director of Focus Dance Company. In 2010, he founded Zhang Xiao Xiong Dance Theatre (Dance Theatre XX).



HENRY YU Henry Yu studied with Martha Graham and danced with her company in the mid-1970’s, he was the first Asian man to join Martha Graham’s dance troupe. He later returned to Taiwan, where he established the Henry Yu Dance Company in 1983 and has been called the “father of modern dance” in Taiwan.

CHANG CHUNG-SHIUAN Ph.D. in Education, Columbia University, New York, USA. Former vice president, Dean of the Dance Department of the National Taipei University of the Arts, Research Member of the Council for Cultural Affairs, Executive Yuan, Director of the National Performing Arts Center, Chairman of the Taiwan Dance Research.

TSOU CHIH-MU Tsou Chih-Mu has an MA in Film from Ohio State University, and is the author of “Cursive”, a behind-the-curtain record of the creation of Cloud Gate Dance Company’s famous work “Cursive”. Her dance reviews have been recorded in Taishin Arts Review, PAR magazine, major newspapers as well as PA Reviews, Culture Express ,and ARTalks among others. She has also been a judge for the Taishin Arts Award.

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During my 2017 Dancing Sydney residency at Critical Path, I became interested in the idea of ‘physically archiving’ previous work. For this purpose, I revisited a 15-minute solo, A Severe Insult to the Body, which I had first performed in 1997. I then presented a reworked version of the piece as part of my endof-residency sharing.

A Severe Insult to the Body performance: https://vimeo. com/434915413 This performance was filmed during Martin’s Dancing Sydney residency at Critical Path in December 2017. Video: Samuel James.

CP showing 2017 Photo credit: Heidrun Löhr



Background I created A Severe Insult to the Body over a 3-month period in 1997. Its staging – I performed the piece in underpants and high heels, lit by a single spotlight from above – was a nod to the Queer Cabaret aesthetic prevalent in contemporary performance circles at the time. Choreographically, it was the first time I employed a strategy I would later call ‘physical fragmentation’ – the body is divided into separate body zones, each of which is choreographed independently from each other. In subsequent years A Severe Insult to the Body became somewhat of a signature piece of mine. I performed it in many different versions, in a variety of contexts, over a long period of time. Dancing Sydney residency By the time I undertook my Dancing Sydney residency, I had not performed A Severe Insult to the Body for 5 years. It was a great challenge for me to reconnect with the physical rigour required to perform the work, given that my fitness and weight levels had changed over time. For the presentation at the end-of-residency sharing, I decided to ditch the original costume (high heels and underpants) and solely focus on trying to embody the choreographic ideas underpinning the piece.

At the time, I felt that the sharing was the ideal platform to revisit A Severe Insult to the Body in front of an audience. It allowed me to frame the performance as part of an ongoing investigation into the possibilities and impossibilities to archive dance works rather than just present it as an exercise in mastering a personal challenge. Response to the sharing The audience at the sharing ranged from people who have been familiar with my work for more than twenty years and those who had never seen me perform before. I was impressed with how engaged people were during the discussion afterwards and appreciated the insightful questions and constructive feedback. The positive response to the sharing confirmed to me that it had been worthwhile to revisit A Severe Insult and present it within an archive framework. It not only marked the 20th anniversary of its creation but also added yet another version to its long performance history. Reflecting on the sharing now, three years on, I have the impression that it might have also been its final live performance.






I turn over, pillow on head. Letterman doing his usual shtick. Iran-Contra jokes, guest banter. The constant, asinine drivel of late night, early morning TV. The drivel was the point. It was his refuge, twenty-four hours a day. Blocking contemplation of what was and what may come. Morning. Lying in bed, numb. Dazed for some time now. Anyone could tell me the most horrendous tales of bad luck or regale me with news of a brilliant achievement and I would not blink an eye. The phone rings, his mother. “How is he? Can you see any signs of it dear? Anything I can do?” What do you think? He’s covered in Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Last night he had yelped “It’s join the dots time!”


I reply nicely. “Oh, he’s good today. Slept well, still resting. No, I can’t think of anything that you can do”. How do you answer a foolish question like that? She had scrubbed the walls of her house after we last visited. I was tired of being nice. Was it a front or was it just easier to be neutral? I couldn’t even articulate my feelings to myself. I hated anyone who asked when I thought he would die. How did they know he would die? Medicine was incredible, they were making great strides all the time. I prepare for class, pack my bag, feed the cat, wash my face. No need to tidy too much, no-one comes to the house now. Friends long gone. Walking into his bedroom I turn the volume on the TV down a little. He stirs. I kiss him and say, “I’ll be back later this afternoon”. I step out of the apartment. The disgusting old man down the hall shuffles about. He smells bad, his apartment smells bad. The stink overwhelms you as soon as the elevator door opens. Back inside. Today I really didn’t want to hear the comments about faggots getting what they deserved. Silence. I start out again, hoping that Jamie is not around. That situation is odd. He, the publicly homophobic Puerto Rican superintendent, doesn’t judge or run. He says nothing. We both know he cannot acknowledge what is happening. If he did, I would have to find somewhere else to live. He simply looks at me. That look is one of honesty. He knows what is happening. It was as if a mirror is held up to me and I find it unbearable. I take the elevator down to the basement, unlock my bike, press the button to open the garage door and push my bike past the crack heads who seemed to have settled into the laneway on a permanent basis. “Hey Lisaaaa, s’uuup?” they screech. C R I T I CA L D I A LO G U E S I S SU E 13.2


I know a couple of these guys from restaurants I have worked at. Always playing the same tune, how they have suffered, that the world is out to get them. One guy has a wife and three children on Long Island. They never see him. I struggle to watch someone squander their life while others desperately try to hang on. “Go home to your family, they need you,” I say. He laughed. “Oh, you don’t understand Lise, you’re a good girl.” I ride across town repeating my mantra all the way, “Everything is fine, all is good. Everything is fine, all is good.”” New York loved the self-help guru Louise Hay and so did I. I clung to the mantras. I had no idea how to deal with this, no idea how I “should” handle this whole situation. Yesterday’s news. One of the city’s most respected ballet teachers had jumped from his window. Seventeen stories. He didn’t know how to deal with it either. Class had changed long ago. Now men covered with KS did the barre and maybe the adagio, then left before they were too conspicuous in the travelling work. I felt ashamed about thinking twice before I spoke to them, about not knowing what to say. I should know, I lived with it. Last week I had seen Rob downtown. The last man standing from a theatre cast I had worked with. He smiled as he told me he was positive. Again, I was lost for words. We all knew what being “positive” meant. We had all farewelled too many men who had once told us they were ‘positive”. Pam, my friend with the superb contralto voice, stopped counting once she had sung at two hundred funerals. I ride faster; Keith, Neil, Bruce, Michael, Les, hundreds of others. Men who were warm and loving, hardworking, honest and brave. Of course, there were others who weren’t. Derek for instance. He was a self-involved prick. Totally absorbed in his own image. It killed me to admit it, but that image had been very beautiful. The last I saw him he had lost sixty pounds, a skeleton still trying to A G E N E R AT I O N L O S T–W H E N A I D S H I T O U R W O R L D


work out. Who could believe that a virus could be that powerful? He died alone, never contacting his family down south or having any friends near him. Said he was ashamed of who he was. Derek, prick that he was did not deserve to die alone. No one deserved this. At the studio now. Lock the bike. Run upstairs, check my class card. Finally, in the change room. We are all here. The mid-west conservatives, the liberals, the chorus girls, the principals with the breathtaking artistry, the hobbyists; straight, gay, positive, negative. I bathe in talk about the “business”, about last night’s date, the best teachers, the whining about oversights at the latest audition. Into class. I know this will not change; class will not change. There are rules in the studio, there is structure and the technique is specific. It is our constant. The structure is our lifeline. More than performing, in class we know we are here together. Dealing with the same unspoken agony. ln the presence of our bossy, stick-carrying Russian ballet teacher. Today, tomorrow and the day after. Here, we are transported. We are home.

PODCAST EPISODES ON DELVING INTO DANCE THAT DISCUSS HIV/AIDS Phillip Adams: link, Transcript: link Noel Tovey: link, Transcript: link Gareth Chambers: link

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Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash



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Dancing Sydney Archive Project was supported by City of Sydney, 2019 & 2020. It was part of the larger Dancing Sydney : Mapping Movements : Performing Histories collection of projects conceived by Erin Brannigan, Julie-Anne Long and Amanda Card in partnership with Critical Path.


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