One of the real joys of anticipating the annual Taiwan season at the Fringe is that you know you’re never going to be presented with a Coppélia or a Swan Lake, and so it was with an air of almost breathless excitement that your intrepid reviewer crawled out of bed this morning and headed to Summerhall for a 10:20am showing of the Chang Brothers’ newest creation, Bout.
We’re greeted by a bare stage and a barefoot young man dressed in street clothes pacing to and fro as the audience file in. Gradually, under his stare, the room quietens and there’s an expectant hush as he continues to pace when – suddenly – another dancer joins him and they walk in sync like a four-legged creature, emotionless, until a third joins the trio and the lights gradually go down.
What follows can be conservatively described as some of the most outstanding physical theatre ever created as the three brothers perform a punishing array of beautiful moves more balletic than anything you’ll ever see on a conventional tights-and-tutu stage. They explore the intricate choreography of boxing and street fighting, their feet barely touching the ground as they fly across the space, so convincingly that you could swear that they are either otherworldly or on wires – yet this is no Peter Pan Christmas pantomime and in their look and dress these exceptional dancers are decidedly human and contemporary.
The Changs were an enormous hit in Bon 4 Bon at Dance Base last year, and for 2019 choreographer Hao Chang has created an outstanding and exhilarating piece of work, creatively utilising the spatial moves and pacing of contemporary organised and/or televised fighting and converting them into breathtaking dance, which, coupled with an astounding array of soundtrack music makes this piece totally unsurpassable.