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Dancing on the Edge

Wen Wei Dance Company: Unbound

Dates 6- 7 July 2006 Venue Norman Rothstein Theatre

Reviewer Ed Farolan

In his programme notes, Wen Wei gives us a background of what his piece "Unbound" is all about. He says it's about Chinese women, including his grandmother, whose feet were bound in the old Chinese tradition. He recalls his mother telling him how painful it was wearing these shoes, so that after complaining so much, she was eventually spared the ordeal.

He also mentions that part of the inspiration for this piece was the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto where he learned that bound feet were sexually attractive to older generations of Chinese men. In the museum, he saw samples of "Three Inch Lotus Shoes" used by female Chinese Opera performers in different textures and colours. He picked and tried them on his three female dancers, and after observing the way they moved with these shoes, he was inspired to choreograph this piece.

The performance itself wasn't too bad. In fact, there was a standing ovation at the end of the performance. I must admit there was a lot of hard work put into this piece, but I found the accompanying music quite repetitive. I guess it was meant to be that way to reflect, perhaps, the ongoing pain the dancers were portraying wearing these shoes. It was also quite distracting to hear the dancers huff and puff as they danced. Dancers are in fact athletes, but being artists, they should be disciplined enough not to sound off their breathing. The dancers, particularly the males, sounded more like soccer athletes doing their warmup exercises.

There were some other positive aspects: good light effects--from moody red to bright lights, and the haze mixed with the lights produced an interesting effect. There were also some movements which were gracefully choreographed.

All in all, the intention of this Dance Festival is to present the alternative to classical and traditional ballet, (which I would personally enjoy more). Thus, the nomenclature "on the edge."

But as critics, we're "bound" (using Wei's term) to review not only traditional ballet but all kinds of dance performances here in Vancouver and elsewhere, and try our very best to give our honest opinion, whether it be shallow or detailed. And in this particular performance, I am just trying to reflect the thoughts of perhaps a few in the audience who half-heartedly stood up and applauded this group of six dancers at the end of their 65-minute performance.

© 2006 Ed Farolan