By Cassie Call
A couple weeks ago, the dance community at Union was lucky enough to have a visit from the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers.
This dance company came to offer a master class on Oct. 22, an interactive lecture on the 23 and a free performance at the Egg in Albany on Friday the 24.
The company, based in Philadelphia, was first founded in 1994 and has since grown immensely, performing at prestigious dance festivals across the U.S. and throughout the world.
Their style of dance is exhilarating and unlike anything I’ve seen before.
It is a medley of Kun-Yang Lin’s study in traditional Eastern dance in his native Taiwan and his training in American modern dance when he moved to the states.
The dancing relies on the overall emotion of the music, rather than the rhythm or beat in the song, and focuses on the central chi energy inside of oneself.
Most of the motions are very fluid, but they can also be choppy and sporadic, depending on the emotion at the heart of the piece.
At the master class, which was taught by company dancers Rachael Hart and Liu Mo, we kept coming back to this idea of chi energy.
We started class just walking around the space, aware of our own bodies, the people around us, even the feel of the floor on our feet, to get a feel for the energy in the room.
To help us visualize our own chi, we did an exercise where we used a tennis ball to symbolize our individual energy.
Letting the ball move around ourselves in different ways, our bodies would create unique motions and shapes before we passed the tennis ball to someone else in the circle.
We then expanded on this and let our motions grow. By losing the physical tennis ball but keeping our hands held around our own invisible one, the energy flowed through us and guided our motions.
The exercise was similar to improvisational dancing, where one does not know what her next movement would be.
However, the exercise had a more centered energy, which could be felt as we moved through the room and weaved in between each other.
Next, we did a few exercises across the floor, learned a couple small combinations and even learned a part of one of the pieces the dancers would perform on Friday at the Egg.
It was all such a new, fun experience for me, because the echnique is different from the dance I am used to. I also really liked how the class was doable for dancers of all levels.
When I saw their performance at the Egg, it was cool how I could recognize a lot of what we did in the master class.
However, I quickly realized that what we learned in class was only a small fraction of the many techniques and concepts showcased in their five-part program.
Each piece was different from the last, but with common themes throughout the five segments.
There were times when each dancer was moving independently of the others, so that many different stories would be happening simultaneously.
But when they came together as a group, they were always incredibly in sync.
I was amazed by how they all had that visible energy, consistent for over an hour and though all five pieces.
Sometimes their movements were fast and sometimes they were so slow it as like they were pushing through molasses.
Every once in a while, the music would go quiet for a moment but the dancers kept moving, or sometimes the dancers would begin in silence.
The emotion was always apparent on the faces of every dancer, like the audience could see and feel what they were going through in their individual stories.
The pieces each focused on different topics, emotions or stories.
The first, called “Pilgrimage,” was about spiritual journeys and involved individual praying motions from each dancer.
“Moon” was the next piece, a solo danced by Liu Mo, where his flying motions indicated his character’s desire for freedom.
One of my favorites was the third piece, titled “AUM,” which is actually the sound used in prayer or meditation.
Each dancer was dressed in a different color and began standing still, scattered throughout the stage, until their movements grew bigger.
They all had individual characters and told their characters’ stories through dance.
Throughout the piece, we could hear the sound of their breathing to the background music of resonating, spiritual humming.
At one point, the dancers all lined up at the front of the stage and verbally guided us in the audience through their relaxed breathing, asking us to breathe with them.
After intermission was the fourth piece, “Souvenirs,” which was the only piece done to a song with lyrics.
The dancers, all dressed in black, told a story of love and desire as they paired up in couples, leaving one lonely man to dance out his frustration.
This piece was unique in that it required the performers to do a lot of acting — including laughter — in addition to the usual dancing.
The last piece, “Be/Longing: Light/Shadow,” was about the darkness within everyone, as the dancers expressed their inner struggles and their yearning for light.
It emphasized the light or shadow in the dancers through their motions, but also by using different lighting and even fog at one point.
As they transitioned to the “Light” portion of the piece, the backdrop was completely black, so only the dancers were lit up, like candles.
To some, their style of dance is more confusing than entertaining.
But the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers are certainly intriguing to watch, whether you understand their style or not.
I personally enjoyed it, and I think any dancer would have great appreciation for this unique and extremely talented company of dancers.