Circus in Taiwan with the Weiwuying Circus Platform: Digital Street Arts - Part 2 - StageLync

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Circus in Taiwan with the Weiwuying Circus Platform: Digital Street Arts – Part 2

In participating in the Weiwuying Circus Platform in November 2021, my suspicions were verified: Taiwan has a healthy and burgeoning circus culture with artists who are keen to explore contemporary themes, and who are known for their creativity. The event, currently in its 6th year, took place from October 30th to November 28, 2021, and included all of the key players in the circus field in Taiwan and even some from beyond.Curated by Gwen Hsin-Yi Chang the project was also a collaboration with (CAN) Circus Asia Network, and Montréal Complètement Cirque in Canada. 

In this second round of coverage, we explore how the Weiwuying Circus Platform involved street artists from Taiwan in their event.These short reviews sample the larger showcase of street arts that Weiwuying organized, challenging artists to convert their outside art to the digital realm. A most interesting result in some of the shows is the purposeful absence of an audience, as performers take their customary pauses to receive adoration and applause, creating eerie moments that highlight the inherent sadness of such a venture.

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The Calling

Jerry Chou (Tzu-Yi Chou) delivers a flawless classical clown juggling routine in this short piece and yet adds a contemporary undertone that gives it a deeper meaning, hearkening back to the work of Chaplin himself. The clown is in Jerry’s heart, and is his true self, whereas his external image looks for all the world like a serious, briefcase-toting businessman, too busy for frivolous things. Happily, we get a peek into Jerry Chou’s colorful inner life, and discover his energized box juggling, contact hoop and hat juggling skills, to name just a few playful elements. What really brings the whole act together into a short film is the high production value as well as the well-timed moments of new magic and illusion woven into his work. 


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.Life∞Hope

Double V serves up a big helping of Life and Hope (with capital L&H) in this stunning contemporary diabolo performance. Taiwan is well-known for its world-class diabolo troupes, and Double V came ready to uphold that reputation. What is different about them is their contemporary twist. Many diabolo troupes stick strictly to the technical prowess and vie for dramatic themes that replicate superhero or martial arts action. But Double V took on a bigger theme, that of the meaning of life itself.

Their film begins slowly and is interlaced with inspirational voice-overs from prominent men, but before the diabolo action echoes that hope, each artist goes through a dark period of despair and questioning their existence. This is perhaps the clearest response I have seen to the psychological effects of the pandemic on performers, and it crosses into a discomforting zone, with shouting and despair that is clearly expressed and not rushed through. That darkness builds for half of the 16-minute act. Combined with the epic music, the symbolism of tangled strings, trapped souls, and the like creates a sense of melodrama that at times feels heavy-handed. But the four diabolists emerge from their despair, and the metaphor of the diabolo– a light-emanating, flowing yoyo free from gravity itself– becomes uplifting and inspires hope, especially as the artists’ skills emerge, showcasing vertical tosses, long strong combinations, and perfectly synchronized choreography. This short film has similar vibes to The Matrix films in its willingness to toggle back and forth from darkness to light, and in the poetic quality of the motion displayed by the diabolists. 

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Engineer+Nerd? Out

What begins as a serious science experiment for this juggling duo soon devolves into a chaotic sports fantasy of football (aka soccer) and basketball all told through juggling, balancing, acrobatics and hipster dance moves. Hsin-Lei Tang and Chong-Min Huang bring the playful and inquiring spirit of clowning to this short film, as they jump between their science and sports identities, but their skills resonate most powerfully when they are manipulating soccer balls by hand or foot in a joyous exchange.

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The Street Bar

A bartender named Jonas (Chia-Ren Liang) is serving up cocktails that encapsulate his life struggles, but not without some flair. His film would be visually engaging enough if he were simply juggling and serving drinks, but it goes well beyond flipping, juggling, balancing bottles, contact juggling and creating beverages. “Flairtending” is a lucrative skill, one that is displayed at many high-end resorts globally and well-respected in the juggling world, and Liang has full command of the art form, from incorporating fire and chemical reactions to displays of magie nouvelle.

He mixes up his cocktail of earnest storytelling as well by hyper-realistically discussing his late start in flairtending. He recognizes his determination and hard work as qualities that got him through to his current level while leaving space to explore how his perfectionism and contemplativeness often got in the way of his success, and led to the accompanying depression. He explores the ins and outs of flair competitions, too. Liang ties it all back to the signature drinks he delivers in an engaging and sincere manner while simultaneously delivering the goods– a rare combination of the burgeoning self-acceptance that must accompany excellence in order for one not to be consumed by one’s passions.

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Tsung-Lin & David, A Musical Debut

The clown and the straight man (a serious musician hoping to advance a musical career) work out their creative differences in this comical short film about their musical debut. Tsung-Lin Hsieh has a new assistant, the overly eager David, who just can’t keep himself out of the serious love songs Tsung-Lin is trying to play. He inserts himself with the enthusiasm of a child, playing the triangle, whistling and even juggling until Tsung-Lin patiently redirects him to more helpful activities. It isn’t until they find a patsy, a third guy volunteer from the audience who will play triangle upon command, that they are able to collaborate and play a whole song together. This classic street act is a musical farce that translates well to the stage.


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.Contemporary circus in Taiwan is at such an exciting stage: building young companies and growing established ones, fostering a connection to their folk histories and traditions, and seeking to gain its artists recognition and space in the global circus market.Weiwuying Circus Platform and its collaborators are in a good position to continue to make this mission thrive and to bring their art to the world.AsGwen Hsin-Yi Chang, 2021 Weiwuying Circus Platform curator, herself says,Circus lets us take part in a social action of change. When the applause rings, we once again have the courage to believe in life and hope!”

Trailer for 2021 Weiwuying Circus Platform:

Part of the Weiwuying Circus Platform 2021 programming is still available on the Weiwuying Art Center's YouTube channel.
Main Image: Imaginary tragedy — No sacrifice, no victory @Dua shin te Production
Kim Campbell
Writer -USA
Kim Campbell has written about circus for CircusTalk.News, Spectacle magazine, Circus Now, Circus Promoters and was a resident for Circus Stories, Le Cirque Vu Par with En Piste in 2015 at the Montreal Completement Cirque Festival. They are the former editor of CircusTalk.News, American Circus Educators magazine, as well as a staff writer for the web publication Third Coast Review, where they write about circus, theatre, arts and culture. Kim is a member of the American Theater Critics Association.

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Kim Campbell

Kim Campbell has written about circus for CircusTalk.News, Spectacle magazine, Circus Now, Circus Promoters and was a resident for Circus Stories, Le Cirque Vu Par with En Piste in 2015 at the Montreal Completement Cirque Festival. They are the former editor of CircusTalk.News, American Circus Educators magazine, as well as a staff writer for the web publication Third Coast Review, where they write about circus, theatre, arts and culture. Kim is a member of the American Theater Critics Association.