There is a description about moments in dance from The Great Preface to a Book of Songs, an anthology of Chinese poems dating from the 10th to the 7th century BC:
The poem is the place to which one’s preoccupations go.
Within the mind it is a preoccupation;
emerging in language it is a poem.
The emotions are stirred and take form in words.
If words are not enough, we speak them in sighs.
If sighs are not enough, we sing them.
If singing is not enough,
then unconsciously our hands dance them
and our feet tap them.
I often have a feeling tingling deep in my heart, difficult to express it in words. I hope to convey this feeling through dance, through the myth and the moon. If a description of this feeling in text is a must, perhaps “pursuit” is the word. The pursuit of having the understanding of the full moon at all times.
Behind The Scenes
Watch the behind the scenes video with Cheng Tsung-Lung in rehearsals with the company dancers, where he talks about his inspiration behind the work Full Moon.
Snapshot with Cheng Tsung-Lung
Cheng Tsung Lung grew up in Taipei in Taiwan, his family owned a slipper making factory and Tsung-Lung sold the slippers on the street to help support his family. Here we talk with Tsung-Lung about how he began to dance and where he finds inspiration.
How did you begin to dance?
I had a lot of energy when I was a child, so much that my mother decided it would be good for me to take dance classes so I could release some of that energy. I would be too excited and break something in the house or hurt myself when I was playing, my mum decided to send me to a dance school. When I came home after I had been dancing all day I came home, she didn’t need to entertain me as I was already so tired! I was 8 years old when I began dancing. We had special classes for dance, they picked just 40 people to participate in an experimental dancing school from age 8 until I reached university. I would dance all day – sometimes we needed to learn Chinese, English and Maths, but my favourite was to dance. As I was so young, I wasn’t really sure what dance was, sometimes I felt I had a monster inside and dance helped me to bring it out.
How do you find inspiration to create movement?
When I was younger, aged 8 to about 30, I didn’t like to read anything, or touch any other art. I was interested, like most people I think, in Hollywood movies. When I was young, most of my classmates would go to the movies in their spare time. As I was often working to sell the shoes my family made on the streets around the factory, I think that the street became my movie theatre. Where I would see so many different characters and people – it was like the movies without the popcorn.
When I started to create movement I felt something within me that I didn’t understand. I wanted to know why people like different art for example – why do people like Beethoven, why do they like the movies which are difficult for me to understand. I like to understand why something is popular, and how something like this does well.
After 30 years old I started to read books and listen to different music and to research the best book in the world and to know more about why artists are thinking in the way they do. I think this helped me expand the way I was thinking and gave me greater insight into why people connect to a work of art. There are so many artists work I love to look at some examples are Picasso, Rodin and Hemmingway. I also love the culture of Chinese poetry and literature as I find it ver funny and it carries a lot of colour and stories.
One of the most important things I learnt was that I can’t say “nothing inspires me”. You always have something inside of you that can inspire creation, you might have to dig very deep, but there is always something form your own story that can inspire.
More about Cheng Tsung-Lung
To understand more about Cheng Tsung-Lung read the interview by Jane Albert in Broadsheet here.
Cheng Tsung-Lung describes his thoughts surrounding the stimulus for creating Full Moon:
When I knew I was going to work with Sydney Dance Company, I wanted to bring a feeling that I find very difficult to describe to the work. In Chinese culture we have a very important date on August 15th friends, neighbours, family and friends come together and celebrate the Moon Cake Festival. The desert is like a circle – on the Full Moon we celebrate. Full Moon is a circle, people can connect together in a positive way and this is what I wanted to bring to Sydney Dance Company.
I started to do some research into legends and stories surrounding the moon from around the world, I realised the human inside is very similar. People living in different parts of the world but they all have a similar idea when you look at stories about the moon, China believe in a Rabbit in the Moon and some western cultures believe in a man in the moon, different cultures have different stories but their essence is rather similar.
Full Moon is an exploration of those ideas – it’s like we invited the legends and Gods onto the stage from all different cultures Gods, it’s like a party with the different Gods and characters from fables across the world.
I set up some characters I wanted to explore (you may or may not see them in the performance):
- Moon rabbit. People idolise the shadows of the moon. The moon rabbit is said to represent immortality.
- The god of creation, destruction, and dance. He’s the king of dance. He dances when in joy; he dances when in pain.
- Japanese rock garden in the moonlight. The dark stone afar. Male moon god in Japan.
- A witch dances in the moonlight at full moon to absorb energy.
- A couple courts each other like in the Chinese poetry, living in the hut in the bamboo forest of a landscape painting.
You can read more about each of the characters included in Full Moon in our Blog Post here.
To begin generating movement Cheng Tsung-Lung read the Chinese story of the Rabbit in the moon (you can read a version of this story here)
Tsung-Lung spent a lot of time trying to understand the dancers to build a trusting relationship so they could explore the movement well. Tsung-Lung would talk with the dancers then work to find movement and then talk some more, the creation of the piece went this way.
Below there are descriptions of how two dancers approached generating new abstract movement relating to their characters.
My movement explored the physicality of a rabbit, for example my movement has a lot of bouncing included and I also allowed that idea to influence the way I walk. I use a lot of rising and lowering so it almost becomes like hopping. We could also bring our own personalities to the rabbit, I could do whatever I felt was right when interacting with people and also took on what a rabbit might feel. For example sometimes a rabbit is really cautious or timid when it reacts to a different character or situation it might be boisterous and friendly. We played with those ideas and then worked with Cheng Tsung-Lung to refine the movement and develop relationships with the other dancers in the space.
The Female Warrior
I was asked to consider an Indonesian sculpture and when you look at a sculpture you can see the personality and characteristics behind it. We imagined if you walked past a statue without seeing it and suddenly it became alive, and it scurries off into the next position – what would that movement look like? My character is a female warrior with grounded and earthy movement inspired by the God Shiva, I imagined and interpreted heavy rolling movement if a stone could move.
Almost a year ago during the premiere season of his latest work — 13 Tongues with Cloud Gate 2, Tsung-lung mentioned to me that he was invited to choreograph for Sydney Dance Company in 2017 and would like me to compose music for the work. Since then, we have communicated via emails to discuss the concept and ideas for Full Moon, and met in early March a couple times at Tsung-lung’s home in Tamsui before he left for Sydney to rehearse with the Sydney Dance Company dancers.
Although Full Moon is a dance piece, I had to use my imagination to create the music without seeing the movements. Achieving perfection has always been the desire of mankind. However, as the moon waxes and wanes, four seasons come and go, and flowers bloom and wither, life is impermanent. It is unpredictable and ever-changing, and so is the universe. All these changes shaped the music and reflected on our email communications: many misunderstandings and revisions. At one point, as I was worried that I would not be able to complete the music in time, I had even suggested Tsung-lung to change to ready-made music. But finally, everything all came through with a perfect ending, just like a “Full Moon.” I believe Tsung-lung feels the same as I do. Deeply grateful, Amitabha!
I hope the audience will see a Midsummer Night’s Dream fusing with Zen and Minimalism, perceive the trace of water without real water in Japanese rock garden, and behold the bird courtship’s sudden flashes of bright colored feathers. I use fabrics with different textures and pleats with various depths of colors to display the breathing of lighting and the flowing of body movements on stage. Having the mountain ridgelines, water ripples, rock particles, and moonlight shadows emerged onto costumes, enriched my poetic imagination towards Full Moon, as if experiencing a “midsummer night” illusion.
The design for full moon is heavily influenced by two observers of light from the artistic world. James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson. These artists work have been a huge influence on my work and when Tsung-Lung mentioned their work I was thrilled to find ways to experiment with their forms of soft and hard light. This combination of soft and hard light allows for a huge range of depth and contrast. Enjoy.
See image of the set here
Guy Harding (Technical Director)
The set for Full Moon is an aluminum frame which is 10m wide and 5m high. Eight pieces of the frame had to be welded together to ensure a strong structure and to reduce the sag of such a large rectangular shape. Altogether the structure weights 78kgs, originally we were looking at crafting it out of steel, but that would weigh between 250-300kgs, it would be too heavy to hang from the fly bar which runs across the top of the stage, so we went with aluminium.
There are 5 channels controlling the lights which are made of different LED strips to provide both warm and cold colours.
The set change between Full Moon and Ocho is quite intricate and took us over 30 minutes to complete on our first rehearsal. We’ve worked really hard to streamline the process and can now complete it in 12 minutes – to move 2.5 tonnes of set in 12 minutes is quite an achievement.
Write down your initial thoughts after watching Full Moon. You may wish to do this in a brainstorm format.
Use the questions below to assist with articulating your thoughts and ideas:
- What did the piece make you feel? What specifically about the performance made you feel this way? Consider the movement style, the costumes, music, set and lighting.
- What did the piece make you think about? Consider the movement style, the costumes, music set and lighting.
- What was your favourite moment in the performance? Why?
- What was your least favourite moment? Why?
Activity Suggestion One
Write a review of Full Moon production. Your teacher will support you in identifying a structure to write your review.
Read the following professional reviews of Orb:
Write 300 words to compare the contrasts between your own opinions and the reviews provided. Discuss both similarities and differences in your opinions and why you believe these have occurred.
Activity Suggestion 2
Read the following reviews, make notes of your thoughts and responses to what each of the reviewers has to say:
Write a blog post responding to one or two reviews. Discuss why you agree or disagree with the authors’ opinions. Which of the reviews is most different to your thoughts on the performance and why?
Include in your blog how you believe people can have different opinions towards the same dance piece and share your thoughts in comparison. Include what is unique about contemporary dance and how people can interpret intent differently.
Throughout your response, justify your answers.
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