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.
Describe your 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.
How did you begin generating movement for Full Moon?
To begin generating movement I looked back at the Chinese story of the Rabbit in the moon (you can read a version of this story here)
I spent a lot of time trying to understand the dancers to build a trusting relationship so they could explore the movement well. I would talk with the dancers then work to find movement and then talk some more, the creation of the piece went this way.
See Full Moon live on stage in the world premiere of Orb from 29 April – 27 May in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.