Arts preview: Oculus is a moving tribute to the late Wu Kuo-chu

Edmund Lee

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 10:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 10:39pm

Cloud Gate 2


A revered figure among the younger members of Taiwan's performing arts scene, the late genius Wu Kuo-chu was appointed artistic director of the dance company of Staatstheater Kassel, Germany in 2004.

Oculus, which is often seen as the choreographer's most representative work, was initially performed that spring by the Taiwanese modern dance troupe Cloud Gate 2 as a 40-minute piece, before the 70-minute version premiered at Staatstheater Kassel the following November.

Wu was diagnosed with leukaemia between these two premieres; he passed away in January 2006 aged only 36. Cloud Gate 2 founder and director Lin Hwai-min resolved to preserve the entire piece, and invited Wu's dancers from Kassel to rehearse the piece, and pass it on to his company that very summer.

This full-length version of Oculus was first performed by Cloud Gate 2 at Taipei's National Theatre in 2007, and it has continued to be part of the company's repertoire.

Performances in Shanghai and Beijing in October sold out, and Wu's celebrated work will receive its long-awaited Hong Kong premiere this week as part of both the Zuni Icosahedron's Architecture Is Art Festival and the Taiwan Culture Festival presented by Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Centre.

"We didn't have the chance to discuss it," says Lin, when asked about his understanding of Wu's inspiration. "But I found traces of his creative impulses, as well as his strong love of dance, in the notes he wrote for his choreography. There's one paragraph that reads: 'I wish to bring out hope through Oculus, to talk to people through the pure expression of dance'."

The colourful costumes, vivid body language and uninhibited emotional expression are just some of the defining qualities of Wu's bittersweet, non-narrative piece on the human condition, which strives to distil the everyday experience of living in the city down to its core essences.

It was Wu's intention to remind his audience of the bright side of life through his work. Its title, Oculus, is Latin for "eye".

"Wu's dance work has the ability to touch his audience," says Lin. "When the sweat mixes with tears on the faces of the exhausted dancers onstage, audience members are often surprised to find tears on their own faces. This piece is all about the tinges of frustration, sadness and hope in the lives of you and me."

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Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, November 8 and 9, 8.15pm, HK$180-HK$420 Urbtix. Contains nudity. Inquiries: 2566 9696