Edinburgh Fringe 2016
“NuShu is a coded script invented by women in Hunan, China to record their private thoughts and feelings. Handed down from one generation to another in a dialect men couldn’t understand, the language captures the happy and sorrowful experiences of the Hunan women.”
A woman sits in front of us, thinking, reading, remembering.
One male and three female dancers jump vibrantly seeking…with expansive movement, outstretched arms while bending diagonally backwards in a repeated motif. The four dancers are graceful.
NuShu tells the story of an ancient coded language that women in Hunan China developed to record their thoughts and experiences. Told through poetry, and unknown to men, Tan Hui-Chen, a Taiwanese choreographer became fascinated with this language and visited China to create this dance piece for Taiwan’s Water Reflection Dance Ensemble.
A woman chants and sings while the three female dancers surround and entwine her. It’s a delicate and poignant part of the storytelling. There is a beautiful music score composed by Yung-Chih Chang, there is a wonderful visceral fusion of traditional and modern plays throughout.
Costumes are beautifully designed by Yu-Fen Tsai are striking. The dancers change several times wearing tunics of different shades of blue and short leggings, then short white tunic tops and loose light brown trousers, and long wide trousers and flesh leotards, to name a few. Lighting supports the piece well and one strong diagonal light on he floor is especially dramatic. The Dance Base studio is beautiful, large and calm and perfect for this piece. Overall dance quality is lithe and sensitive with precise extensions.
The sensitive choreography by Hui-Chen Tan is a fusion of contemporary ballet and modern dance. The visual storytelling is abstract, sustained with dynamic changes of pace. The movement is always fluid. Several fascinating hand flourishes and playful moments are very effective. Another Flash image is when a dance is transported on the back of a male dancer, as if on a boat or a wave itself. A section of child-like interactions is sweet and playful showing the innocence as the girls grow up before they follow the traditions and expectations as adults. Then the mood turns darker, appropriately. It is more pensive with struggles shown through movement and vivid imagery.
Symbolism abounds as the piece builds in energy and emotion towards the moving end. The last section does seem longer than need be for the message, which in all, is beautifully articulated. The Small red stools cleverly connect to form one large bench, and separate for other very creative uses. They work well, although early in the piece the stools are moved to the other side of the space in a utilitarian way, which takes time and breaks the flow for viewers.
In all, NuShu is a moving dance piece sharing a deep sensitive message, performed by well-trained dancers with fluid precise movement. It is worthwhile – so go and see it to experience it for yourself.