PuSh Festival 2018: The Walkers

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The Walkers | Presented by VIFF and the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival | Vancity Theatre | January 23, 2018

“Creativity is an emancipation of the soul,” says Lin Lee-Chen as she talks about her philosophy of dance, choreography, and life. This epic documentary follows Taiwanese choreographer Lee-Chen over the course of 10 years as she creates her ritualistic dance art for Legen Lin Dance Theatre.

The film is presented as a pairing with Legend Lin Dance Theatre’s performance of The Eternal Tides at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. It’s the largest dance work the festival has presented and the company’s Canadian debut.

Director Singing Chen has captured intimate details of Lee-Chen’s life, such as her morning stretching rituals, her playful demeanour, and her love of her cats. There is also a great deal of interview footage where Lee-Chen discusses her philosophy of creativity: “Creativity is not something you make up,” she says, “it should be right there beside you.” Lee-Chen explains that her dances are taken from everyday life and that our life experience can inspire great creativity.

After seeing a Paul Taylor performance as a young woman, Lee-Chen dreamed of someday having her own dance company. In 1995 she founded Legend Lin Dance Theatre, and her dedication to her craft and to her dancers is impressive and all-encompassing. She asks nothing less than their all, even during rehearsals, and she tells them that dance is more than the movements, it requires total concentration to evoke meaning. Lee-Chen has a unique way of defining dance, and one statement that I found particularly profound was “the body itself is a theatre.”

Some of the most striking scenes are the outdoor performances, on sand dunes, on oceanside rocks, and in forest glens. There is an undeniable spiritual element to her works, but they are at once ritualistic and natural, bringing out the ritualistic aspects of everyday life. There is also a great deal of performance footage including Mirrors of Life, Anthem to the Fading Flowers, Who Am I, and Worship to Heaven.   

As one of Lee-Chen’s friend’s explains, her company presents something different from the traditional Western style of dance that we’re used to. The focus is less on virtuosic movement and more on the essence of the human condition coming through in the dance. Her works have a focus on slowness, full body involvement, and dancing from the heart.

The presentation of The Eternal Tides on February 3 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre will be something unlike anything Vancouver dance audiences have ever seen.    

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