Resident Island Dance Theatre
Resident Island Dance Theatre
In “Factory” and “Ice Age” Resident Island Dance Theatre challenges external forces and shows us the potential of a physically, mentally, and emotionally integrated world.
With fresh and inventive kinetic explorations of space, time, action, and gesture, choreographer Chung-An Chang’s RIDT perform emotionally charged and socially engaged works that disrupt limitations and challenge society’s expectations. This outstanding company, based in Taiwan’s rural south, performs works rooted in the power of the human body and spirit.
How can we support one another? This is the central questions of Ice Age Quartet. Made in collaboration with French choreographer Maylis Arrabit, the dance is set on two performers in wheelchairs and two standing dancers. Factory, whose cumulative vocabulary contemplates the value of the body, thrillingly illustrates the impacts of dynamic, perpetual motion.
Founded and directed by maverick choreographer Chung-An Chang, Resident Island Dance Theatre is one of few professional theaters outside of Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei, to tour abroad, collaborate internationally with contemporary dance makers, and to integrate non-traditional dancers into its company. Among other engagements, RIDT has performed at London’s Unlimited Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Istanbul Fringe, Avignon’s OFF Festival, and at the Internationale Tanzmesse NRW in Germany.
“’Factory’ is a critical work. The intensity comes not only from the dancers’ bodies in motion, and the dynamic theatrical atmosphere, but also from the topic itself, a reflection of our lives and times. The work is like a stone falling into a long-silent lake, creating layers of ripples, but without subjective judgment or definition – no which is right or wrong, expressed as a long held exhaled breath. Continuously agitating in my heart, the impacts of ‘Factory’ linger.”
U.S. DEBUT WITH CENTER STAGE
11 on tour (Choreographer, 7 dancers, production and administrative managers, U.S. company manager)
Proscenium theaters suitable for large-scale contemporary dance work (with sprung floor, lighting package, audio playback). ADA accessibility for all performances and activities required for a performer who is a wheelchair user, and for choreographer Chung-An Chang, a person with low vision.
Reckoning with External Forces, Resident Island Dance Theatre Models an Inclusive World
With kinetic brilliance and innovative staging, Taiwan’s Resident Island Dance Theatre layers the commonplace, unconsidered movements of everyday life to foreground limitations and suggest how we all might break free. Founded and directed by maverick choreographer Chung-An Chang, the company is one of few professional theaters outside of Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei, to tour abroad, collaborate internationally with contemporary dance makers, and to integrate dancers with disabilities into its company.
Chang sees dance as a way to communicate deeply with others, in moments when words fail and when our experiences may not overlap. His explorations often start by noticing our movement habits – the motions of a factory line worker, the everyday routine of quarantine – and shaking loose human insights, taking his dancers through moments of entropy and organization, crisis, and harmony.
"I'm not a person good with words,” says Chang. “I use my body to express myself and hope to touch others by letting the movements speak for themselves. Although I lost my vision while learning to dance, dance has really become the light of my life."
January - February 2023 U.S. Debut Tour
Resident Island Dance Theatre will make their U.S debut in 2022-2023 as part of Center Stage, the cultural exchange program that has connected performing artists from abroad with American communities since 2012. Five other music and dance ensembles from Argentina, Armenia, and Taiwan will also make independent tours with the program, promoting global ties and engaging with audiences on stage, off stage, and online. Center Stage is produced through a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the New England Foundation for the Arts. The company will present a program of two works: Factory and Ice Age Quartet.
Chung-An Chang’s path to founding and directing his own dance company started with what felt like a catastrophe. A dedicated student at Taipei National University of the Arts’ respected and rigorous dance department, at age 18, Chang found he was losing his sight. His doctor cautioned him against maintaining such a physically demanding regime or his vision would deteriorate further. “I cried for days. I thought the university was the best dance training in Taiwan and a gateway to the dance world,” he recalls. “I thought I could achieve something huge and I had lost that opportunity to illness.”
He returned home to Pingtung County, a rural enclave in southern Taiwan, to regroup. One day, he ran into his childhood dance teacher, who invited him to teach young dancers at the local dance club. Chang agreed and became a force to be reckoned with in Taiwan’s competitive youth dance world, training champion teams that won national competitions year after year for a decade.
In working with young people, he began to find his own aesthetic way forward. “I had really high standards for myself. Every year you have to present a different style of movement and vocabulary for the dancers. I grew as a choreographer thanks to these challenges,” Chang reflects. “But in the end, I realized the young students didn’t have enough life experience. They weren’t intellectually and emotionally ready to inhabit the stories I wanted to tell.”
This desire to tell deeper stories led Chang to create a haven for talented dancers in a region of south Taiwan where they had few professional options. “We’re in the countryside,” explains Chang. “At that time in Taiwan, most resources were in Taipei. We didn’t have a contemporary dance theater here, so the best dancers moved to northern Taiwan to seek better chances. We wanted to have a place for talented dancers to develop further, where dancers from southern Taiwan could stay and work together.”
Developing as a new company, which included professionally trained dancers Chang had coached from childhood at the club, Resident Island began to develop a compelling aesthetic of its own.
U.S. Repertory Program features Factory and Ice Age Quartet
For Factory, Chang was inspired by the repetitive motions demanded by the administrative tasks he faced as a dance teacher, and that dominated the lives of many hardworking people around him. “This kind of task, whether it’s typing or assembling something on a line, always repeats,” says Chang. “People shouldn’t live for work. I wanted the audience to think about how we can do more than work for a living and escape from imposed structures.”
Factory’s vocabulary assembles then accumulates everyday gestures and the movements of workers on a shop floor, breaking down elements then reforming them. And as the piece develops, the action transitions from the floor to a pair of moving platforms. The dancers adapt to meet the challenge.
Nothing in the pattern can stand still under the influence of their circumstances. “The movement starts in an individual body and in response to their proximity and interactions, but I wanted to explore what happens when an outside element is added -- an external force,” he says. “This dynamic stage is the first experiment in that direction, and it feels like a huge step forward.”
While disrupting standard movement patterns with an innovative stage, Chang also sought dancers who broke the typical mold for professional performers – people with a range of intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities. Thanks to an invitation from the British and Taiwan governments, Chang worked with the Stopgap Dance Company in London, learning more about inclusive dance and choreography. He took his ideas back to Taiwan and shared them with the local disability community.
That’s how he found the lead dancer for a new piece, Ice Age, he is co-creating with French choreographer, Mailys Arrabit, a section of which will be performed in the U.S. Now in his 50s, Yo-Chen Zheng sold lottery tickets from his wheelchair outside the post office in his hometown. He participated in a workshop Chang gave and discovered his passion and talent for dance. “He is gaining confidence from the training, performance, and feedback from his fellow dancers,” says Chang. “He’s been working with us every weekend for a year and never takes a day off.”
As this collaboration was taking shape, COVID-19 swept across the world and in-person residencies became hours-long virtual workshops across time zones. “All the things that make up daily life and relationships are changing. That’s the main concept,” continues Chang. In the U.S., RIDT will present a standalone quartet from what will be a longer work. Set on two standing dancers and two disabled dancers, Ice Age Quartet is “a choreographic experiment to uncover, recognize, and relate to this new moment of change in motion not just for some, but for us all.”
Review: Pareviews – Factory: Rethinking the interaction between people and society
Interview: Critical Dialogues Issue 7.2 (2017), pages 38-45 – Claiming Disability: Artists speak about their experiences and claiming spaces as artists with disability
Interview: The Outlier Scotland – Interview: Resident Island Dance Theatre
View and download production information as of August 2021 at the link below. A Technical Rider with these general conditions will be created for all Center Stage engagements.