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Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Taiwan Season: Varhung – Heart to Heart

Tjimur Dance Theatre, Taiwan

Genre: Contemporary, Dance

Venue: Dance Base


Low Down

Taiwan’s premier indigenous dance-theatre company presents a richly patterned, open-hearted performance in which private feelings are on the verge of being made public. Working in close collaboration with the company’s founding artistic director Ljuzem Madiljin, in-house choreographer (and sibling) Baru Madiljin and three dynamic dancers bring ancient Paiwan cultural traditions up to date.


Two dancers bend and then twist their bodies, they clasp their hands making a circular arm movement, then they bend deeper and rhythmically, with the music. It is evident by the movement quality and choreography that this is a sophisticated dance piece.

Now a trio, the dancers sweep forward, swaying and undulating together. There are several repetitive motifs and the choreography explores variations by individual sequences and brief pairings.

Tjimur Dance Theatre from Taiwan focuses on the Paiwan culture, and how their stories and emotions are often expressed in music and dance. Ljuzem Madijin, Artistic Director and Baru Madiljin, choreographer are interested in transforming the traditional Paiwan music and dances into contemporary dance forms, which is fascinating. The programme notes state that the two words spoken in the performance are in Paiwan: anemaq (what) and Makudja (what happened) and that listening to others – and having someone to talk to – is a way for people to unburden themselves. Therefore, Madiljin “projects the performers into listeners and speakers”.

While the choreography is abstract and open to our own interpretation, the depth of warmth of the culture comes through in the piece from the commitment and heartfelt determination of the dancers. There are some brief moments in the fifty minute performance when the dancers pause and there is much power in their stillness. Then they are moving dynamically with emotive textured movement seemingly in the same breath.

These powerful performers (Ching-Hao, Yang| Ljaucu Tapurakac| Tzu-En, Meng)  each blend in to the group sharing the space and each movement is finished through in unison. A section with an electronic beat is very effective and each dancer is precise in the pulsating movements connected by intertwined limbs. Costumes in beige tones, comprise detailed tunics and wide trousers and are very effective, because they flow with the continuous movement.

There is a variety of choreography and movement in the piece – long steps into dramatic kicks with flexed feet gracefully undulating, leaning back balanced on one foot, they sing and build energy by running faster and faster – then slow down to birdsong and city noise. When they each react to the other and look around we can see the imagery they have evoked.

This dance performance expresses humanity and the inspiration of this special culture as a starting point is genius. It’s mesmerizing. This is fine work, fine dance, fine visual storytelling. Highly Recommended!