Edinburgh Fringe 2016
“Can one person bombarded by the pressures of modern life shake an entire society? Resident Island Dance Theatre use dynamic movement, multimedia projection and an experimental rock soundtrack to create a hard-hitting and intensely human reflection of mental health disorders in Taiwan and beyond.”
Lost in Grey is a dance theatre piece that explores mental health issues. Choreographer Chang Chung-A focuses on psychological issues found in Taiwan which also relate to other cultures.
The ensemble expresses different areas of youth mental health challenges through erratic, jerky and dynamic physicality. It’s often small and subtle, such as the twitching of a hand or finger to intricate full body athletic movement. An interesting quality is the bound or more controlled movement which gives a finesse to the piece and intensifies the emotional depth.
Several young dancers dressed in trousers, shorts and skirts with a variety of t shirt type tops in current favourite earth tones of olive, mustard and maroon make this look like a typical group of people in their early twenties or younger. It’s a fresh and relatable ensemble and they give 100% as they perform and interact in groups.
The fascinating episodic style of the choreography by Chung-An, Chang, where each dancer has their solo in between group work is very effective as each expresses a differing side of psychosis. Set to rock music there are a few times words from the performers themselves are spoken out loud. Facial reactions of the ensemble vary from a blank stare to emotional angst, yet not overdone. The quality of the dance is lyrical, contemporary, with slight balletic moments and a step or two of hip hop and segments of the choreography are theatrical and dream like. It’s an interesting fusion of dance that works very well for this ensemble and topic. They are well trained, energetic and work well together as they work through each issue.
As a theatrical dance piece the performers could be encouraged to show their breathing more than in a strictly dance piece, thus allowing them to emote even more deeply and live their characters.
The piece is clear in intention with some lovely transitions from one section to the next, especially the third one from a solo to a duo. During the second half of the show the choreography is more organic, inspired and faceted than the first half, which is interesting and adds to the build of the piece – offering effective visual and physical storytelling to the end.
The strong ensemble shows their range through muscular to sensitive movement in several combinations, solos, duos and entire group work. The addition of a character with long hair is interesting but at times in the way. Intention-wise this does add a logical way to glue the sections together and personify one person’s inner demons – yet it would be interesting to see if the piece really needed this aspect, thus embracing the wonderful abstract tone of the piece.
Lighting design by Lee Chihuahua Hsiang enhances the piece, adding mood and drama in appropriate places.
This well produced exciting piece is a moving expression of mental health told very well by this young ensemble in an original and creative way.