Kuan-Hsiang Liu and Ching-Ying Chien
There’s a lot of “stuff” in life, most of it not visible or, frankly, understandable. But you feel its force anyway, like it or not. As in life, so in Kids, a trio by Kuan Hsiang Liu and Ching-Ying Chien backed by recordings of conversations between Liu and his dying mother. That, at least, is what the programme note says; the experience itself is both more baffling and more bruising. Liu is initially the stalking onlooker, shining a lamp onto the thrashing figures of two women. The younger one turns contortionist, legs splayed to wince-inducing extremes to expose her crotch. They all clump into a grotesque, composite creature of strained torsos and overloaded limbs. Liu twists into a tight knot and bangs his head against the floor. Why? The meanings are murky, but images of painful extremes and chants of children’s voices are unsettlingly primal in power.
Grimacing, slapping, flopping, sweeping and slicing: Kuan-Hsiang Liu and Ching-Ying Chien’s Kids is a dance of bodies in painful, hyper-articulate crisis. While a voice recording – Liu’s cancer-stricken mother – fills the bare space with family traumata, a trio of dancers vigorously swat away at their own imaginaries.
One memorable tableau has Liu folded on his back with his knees by his ears, his shins sticking up, a female dancer perched widely on his feet. “I came from here!” he shouts, while she gestures at his genitals (later, his face between her legs: “pussy juice! pussy juice!”). Nonchalant euro-conceptualism this ain’t.
In another choreographer’s less-able hands, the familial psycho-drama and root-chakra thematic might dip into kitsch, but Liu is no mere provocateur: here, neurotic anxiety is the motor for a unique engagement with the body, fleshy and articulate.
Three people – a man, his sick mother, and another embodiment of his mother with whom he must act as a parent – try to find their lost harmony in reunion. Once they all were one body: the dancers get tangled together so much we cannot even see which limb belongs to who. But they got separated and not by their own will – the traumas of birth and death force the bodies to abnormal, twisted poses. As they try to reunite, the roles of the characters interchange: instead of being a guided kid, the son has to keep his mother on the surface of reality before she sinks in the illusions of her ill mind. She keeps sinking and start to drown – it doesn’t make sense to shout with her any more. The son reconstructs his identity like an independent body in a jerky, painful, vivid dance which is guided by the (lamp)light of his mother’s eye.