PuSh Blog

A force of nature: The Eternal Tides—A curatorial statement by Norman Armour

January 20, 2018

Photo: Chin Cheng-Tsai

The Eternal Tides, a North American premiere, is one of the most ambitious undertakings in the PuSh Festival’s 14-year history—in scale, technical and touring challenges. 32 people on the road from Taipei to Ottawa, to Montreal, and then on to Vancouver. A project unimaginable without a cross-country partnership involving the National Arts Centre, DanseDanse, and TAIWANfest. Collectively, the partners have well over 50 years of experience in the presentation of contemporary dance.

The one-night only showing in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre of Lin Lee-Chen’s—known in her circles as Madame Lin—The Eternal Tides follows through on several years of curatorial discussions and is the first time that our four organizations have collaborated together. And while DanseDanse and the National Arts Centre regularly present work of this scale, the PuSh Festival has only recently taken on such ambitions.

Norman Armour, PuSh Festival and Charlie Wu, TAIWANfest in Taipei to see a presentation of The Eternal Tides.

PuSh’s presentation of Holy Body Tattoo (monumental, 2016) at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was about bringing back one of Vancouver’s most celebrated companies and placing them on our largest, most prestigious civic stage. Presenting Australia’s Black Arm Band (dirtsong, 2017) was a celebration of indigenous culture and our relationship to First Nations in Canada. They were statements writ large about the values we see at the centre of civic conversations, and about how we view our city in an international context.

Presenting The Eternal Tides, on the other hand, is about our place on the Pacific Rim, a reflection of the demographics of our region. It’s about the need to make central a cultural perspective that has too long existed at the edge of Canada’s mainstream culture. Very few contemporary works from Asia—of this magnitude and artistic rigour—are being presented in Canada. And yet, Madame Lin’s vision exemplifies the breadth of contemporary dance practices, the art form’s sense of possibility and imaginative field, and how tradition and contemporariness can be in a strikingly dynamic intellectual and emotional tension. Projects of this nature can also help fuel reciprocal opportunities for Canadian artists and their aspirations for touring Asia.

Photo: Yang Yao-cheng

In this highly anticipated new work, the oceans serve as muse for a profoundly moving exploration of the never-ending, interdependent cycles of water and life. Inspired by the ocean surrounding Taiwan that nourishes life on her island homeland, Lin Lee-Chen visualizes the life circle of the tide, from the water drops in cloud transforming to rain, falling into rivers, and eventually flowing to the sea.

Photo: Chin Cheng-Tsai

The Eternal Tides is the poetic hydrography of a country shaped by water and ocean. Like much of Madame Lin’s work, the piece carries a strong environmental theme. Balanced and harmonious, joyful and sorrowful, ritualistic, at times tranquil, at other times violent. Performed by a large ensemble, the work is monumental, intimate and moving; the miracle of a choreographic and scenographic language that is at once universal and highly codified.

Dance in all of its forms has the power to change the way we experience the world and take stock of our place within it. Its universality, emotional, physical and empathetic resonance is uniquely human. It can help us appreciate our shared humanity in ways that very few other art forms can. And yet, works of dance that tackle the natural environment—a subject matter of the upmost universality, of the upmost urgency—remain far and few between. Without question, it’s a topic of intense interest for our all of us here on the West Coast. The Eternal Tides addresses this and our shared humanity, and does so powerfully and unflinchingly from a very specific artistic vision, cultural context and perspective.

Norman Armour
Artistic & Executive Director
PuSh International Performing Arts Festival