Contact for a speechless heart
Kao Pei Ling is a freelance dance and full-time teacher at Cloud Gate Dance School in Taiwan. She graduated with a BFA in Dance from Taipei National University of the Arts in 1996 and has completed technique training in ballet, contemporary, Chinese folk, World folk and contact improvisation. Recent productions include Flora (2007), Memory Puzzles for Ku & Dancers (2006), CH3CC13 for the 8th Taipei Arts Festival (2006); Island of Silence for Taipei Crossover Dance Company (2006) and Labyrinth of the Senses for UK Choreographer Joumana Mourad (2006).
For those familiar with the rich, unique and diverse Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Kao Pei Ling’s London residency in 2007 was an opportunity to witness the choreographic vision of a leading teacher from the Cloud Gate Dance School. As a freelance dancer who graduated in 1996 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Taiwan’s National University of the Arts, Pei Ling has adopted a fusion style of eastern and western contemporary dance practices, reflecting upon both her local and global experiences of culture and movement styles.
She has translated these themes into numerous works, including Flora (2007), Memory Puzzles for Ku & Dancers (2006), CH3CC13 for the 8th Taipei Arts Festival (2006), Island of Silence for Taipei Crossover Dance Company (2006) and Labyrinth of the Senses with UK Choreographer Joumana Mourad (2006). She has also performed several pieces with Body Expression Dance Theater between 2001 and 2004.
Born into a middle income family, Pei Ling considers herself lucky that her parents supported her choice of a creative education. Her earliest training in the arts consisted of dance, piano and painting at the tender age of five. She was particularly drawn to music, excelling in her lessons, improvising and playing music by ear. Pei Ling began to create movements whilst singing – a combination of talents that have stayed with her to this day. The Ministry of Education in Taiwan recognised Pei Ling’s talents, and she participated in a sponsored dance program at elementary school where the curriculum consisted of ballet, modern, Chinese folk dance and improvisation.
In 1988 Pei Ling majored in dance at the Huagang Arts School through a recommended talented admission program. Three years later, by the same scheme, she gained a place at the Taiwan National University of the Arts – the best creative institution in Taiwan. During her five years professional training, Pei Ling’s passion for modern dance grew and she regularly took leading roles. As her techniques developed she began to realise that dance was not only important as a perfect technique and a rigorous exercise, but also as a tool for expression – sensations, emotions, observations and life experiences.
She began to combine the precise techniques of her western training, with more delicate, spiritual, eastern movement styles such as Tai-chi. Her philosophy is that everyone can dance: “You can dance at home or in the park, in a happy mood or a bad mood, in a solo or a duet form. Just simply open your arms, kick your legs, make turns, or jump up and down.”
As well as performing, Pei Ling teaches dance, believing that the satisfaction gained from leading a range of students from age four to 60, both professional and amateur, gives her the same feeling as she gets from an applauding audience. As well as teaching for Cloud Gate, she gives lessons in public and private Taiwanese schools.
Pei Ling recently took part in a residency with Independent dance, based at the Siobhan Davis Studios in London as part of the Taiwan-England International Artists’ Fellowship programme run by Visiting Arts. The programme aims to expand creative and artistic knowledge and horizons; create opportunities for exchange and dialogue; further international arts practice and champion intercultural understanding.
During her three month residency, Pei Ling absorbed the local contemporary dance scene, taking professional classes at The Place and Greenwich Dance Agency as well as with Independent Dance. She saw almost every performance at the 2007 Dance Umbrella festival and explored the city in her spare time. In particular, Pei Ling extended her interest in contact improvisation. Compared to just one company in Taiwan that teaches the practice (KU & Dancers), she has had many opportunities to take classes and jam. In London, Pei Ling found the process of sharing experienced through contact improvisation at odds with a city in which people usually avoid making eye contact with one another. She also enjoyed learning release based techniques, which have allowed her a freer sense of movement and an ability to feel her own physicality by playing with the natural flow of weight and gravity.
During the course of her residency, Pei Ling developed her choreographic offering “Conflicts of a speechless heart”, comprising of a set gestural work, a contact improvisation duet with John Koratjitis, and an improvised solo.
The set work combined Pei Ling’s observations of London with her newly developed techniques. Release based movements flowed seamlessly into one another – a shoulder roll leads into a gesture tucking the hair behind the ear, leads into finding her ‘place’ –centre of gravity and weight. She performs nervous movements, rubbing her hands and tapping fingers, but a sense of calm pervades the work. The size of London was portrayed as Pei Ling mimics abstracted versions of her daily ritual – dressing, running in slow motion, sitting on a tube and looking around, or gazing upwards. These pedestrian movements were punctuated with traditional dance steps such as pirouettes, shunts, leaps and sequences performed with rigid posture. Combined with this contained style were softer, continuous sequences, falling and rolling.
Pei Ling’s duet with Koratjitis allowed her character and personality to shine through as she used her body to support, teach, follow and trust another’s. The piece begins with very slow, soft movement – almost butoh-esque – in silence. Contact is held by the fingers before moving into other body parts, leading and rolling until they are bearing one another’s weight, and support is given and received. Pei Ling takes risks as she is lifted over Koratjitis’ shoulders, hanging like a pendulum weight over his back. She swings between unsure and tentative, or cocky and playful. Sometimes angular and slightly rigid, sometimes delicate and expressive, she moves with abandonment and joy as she flings herself, windmill like, over her partner’s shoulders. Although she is lifted like a doll and dropped like a puppet, she somehow manages to regain control.
Her residency in London enabled Pei Ling to investigate, through contact improvisation, not just her own choreographic practice but also the experience of being culturally “out of context”. Pei Ling returns to Taipei intending to further develop the pieces begun in London.
Nov. 2006 Ku & Dancers: performed “Memory Puzzle” by Ming Shen Ku.
Oct. 2006 8213 Dance Theater: performed “Chloral Aerification” by JT Sun in The 8th Taipei Arts Festival.
May 2006 Taipei Crossover Dance Company: performed “The Silent Island”.
Feb. 2002 Worked with U.K. Choreographer, Dancer and Filmmaker, Joumana Mourad: performed “Labyrinth Of The Senses” at Taipei Artist Village.
2005 Participated Taipei Arts International Association special event: performed “@Dream” in ShangHai, China.
2004 Body Expression Dance Theater: performed “93 City.Data”.
2003 Body Expression Dance Theater: performed “Swan and Rose”.
2002 Body Expression Dance Theater: performed “Seeking the Shakespeare of this Century”.
2001 Body Expression Dance Theater: performed “Found City”.
1996 Taipei National University of the Arts: Graduation Performance “Dance All Night Long”.
2002-Present Cloud Gate Dance School
*Children Ballet and Modern dance and children’s creativity in Dance
*Non-profession adult dance class
2003 Nan Chiang Industrial Commercial School
*Summer Modern Dance Intensive Workshop
2002 The Lan Yang Dancers
*Beginning of Ballet technique
1995-2002 National Taiwan College of Performance Arts
*Substitute Teacher for Chinese Folk Dance
1996 Short Term Continues studied at Mary Anthony Dance Theater, NY.
**The artist/professions that I worked with are Hwai-Min Lin (Founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theater), Men-Fei Lo, Ross Parkes, Mary Anthony, Min-Shen Ku, Xiao-May Ho, Susan Van Pelt, Joumana Mourad. Reference is upon by request.
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(25 January 06 - 14 May 06)