The Fringe Festival’s Taiwan Season always seems to mange to present high-quality, interesting new work, and this year is no exception. One of the four works presented this year is TOMATO, a short contemporary dance piece choreographed by Chou Kuan-Jou and performed in the intimate space of Tech Cube Zero at Summerhall. Three dancers are involved, although the presence of a video screen, displaying what is captured by a roving miniature camera, immediately vies for our attention, a reminder of how our voyeuristic gaze is so often mediated by screens. Indeed, it is difficult not to want to watch the screen, the edited version of the reality that is also before us. Perhaps it is a way of keeping our distance and curating our involvement.
It begins with the dancers (and video) being somewhat disparate, hard to take in as a whole, and yet, rather like the Kuleshov effect, we can’t help connect them together—the slobbering wetness of a tomato being eaten juxtaposed with a writhing body, for example. There is a playfulness about the whole thing that almost demands the parental injunction at times (‘watch what you are doing with that knife! It’s sharp!’). But these disparate elements begin to come together, and a fluidity starts to appear, including a fluidity of gender.
And then there are the tomatoes. Lots of plump, juicy-looking tomatoes. Some are real, some are plastic—all are vicariously sensual, standing in for the sexual energy latent in the semi-naked dancers, whose pants very much remain on, both literally and metaphorically. Thus, despite the sensuality there is also (self) censorship, only exploding tomatoes hinting that there is potential for more.
The ending makes it clear that we cannot just be spectators here: we are also involved, part of it, responsible. We are left contemplating ourselves, the air heady with the lingering smell of tomato juice.
This is the kind of experimental work that really suits the intimacy of these small Fringe venues, and TOMATO is certainly well worth seeing. It provides an exploration of issues such as gender, inclusion and censorship (in the broad sense), while remaining full of tomatoey goodness to the end.