Chung-Fu Chang, Verb Ballets, Explore Discover
Cleveland has no professional ballet company, but there is an abundance of local modern and contemporary dance troupes. One of these, Verb Ballets, which recently announced that it was becoming the resident dance company at the Breen Center on the campus of St. Ignatius High School, presented EXPLORE DISCOVER, an evening of original works, to an appreciative sold out house.
EXPLORE DISCOVER featured the creations of Taiwanese choreographer Chung-Fu Chang. Chang, who performed with the Cloudgate Dance Theatre and Kaohsiung Contemporary Dance Company in his native land, was in residence with Verb this winter to work on his new company piece, as well as refine a piece he previously developed for Verb.
Last year, Chang choreographed THE LILY. His latest work, BORROWING WINDS, is a fusion of Asian and Western concepts, centering on the wind. He believes the breeze has "dynamics, path, speed, shape, and ultimately emotion," which can come alive on stage through conceived choreography. He views the stage, "as a canvas, a space to explore."
Deeply immersed in a rich Taiwanese-Chinese cultural heritage, which "is poetic, ritualistic, theatrical and profoundly spiritual," Chang is motivated to broaden his creative horizons by directly connecting his culture with Western dance traditions.
Watching Chang during a company rehearsal, it became obvious that he is well disciplined and expects the same from his dancers. He does not believe in creating dances through the collaborative process, but, instead, pre-choreographs the numbers and then teaches the movements to the company. It was obvious that he creates word pictures through body angles, hand movements, and structural placements.
During the rehearsal, the dancers were relaxed, yet very involved. They were aware that the dance language Chang was using was different from that of Western choreographers. To proficiently perform required building a relationship with Chang based on respect and trust.
Chang continually checked in with the performers, asking "okay" after he gave directions and made adjustments. He seemed constantly aware that he needed to adapt the movements to the company as the dancers' bodies were not necessarily trained to bend, pose, and move in the ways of his choreographic language.
It was obvious that the Asian tradition of "face" was in force. The choreographer never yelled, bawled out, or castigated a dancer, but used courtesy in order for neither to lose respect. The session ended with the company bowing to the choreographer. He responded in kind.
Chang's solo performance, PHEASANT'S WAITING, was a world premiere. He indicated that it was a self-exploration for him as a dancer/choreographer. As he indicated during an interview, he "can no longer move like he did as a twenty-year old and, therefore, had to start a new procedure, filled with self insecurities, thus slowing down the developmental process." Besides the dance, Chang, who is a noted artist, also designed the set, which consisted of slides of his contemporary paintings, and his costume.
Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in more than 16 plays, 8 TV commercials, and 3 films. He has directed more than 30 productions. A member of the American Critics Association, the Dance Critics Association and The Cleveland Critics Circle, he has been an entertainment reviewer for more than twenty years. |
For many years he was a regular on Channel 5, ABC-Cleveland's "Morning Exchange" and "Live on 5," serving as the stations communication consultant. He has also appeared on "Good Morning America." Roy served as the Director of Public Relations for the Volunteer Office in the White House during the first Clinton Administration.
He is a professor of communication and psychology who taught at George Washington University, University of Maryland, Notre Dame College of Ohio and Towson University. Roy is the author of 31 books. Several years ago, he was selected by Cleveland Magazine as one of the most interesting people in Cleveland.