INTERVIEW/Choreographer Huang Yi combines a robot, dance, life in on-stage café

01/31/2021 04:39 PM
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Photo courtesy of Huang Yi Studio+
Photo courtesy of Huang Yi Studio+

Taipei, Jan. 31 (CNA) After creating works involving robots for over a decade, choreographer Huang Yi (黃翊) is set to present his latest work in the spring in the form of a coffee shop set in the future.

In the upcoming production "Little Ant & Robot: A Nomad Café," Huang further develops his dream of having robots and dancers perform together and interact with the audience, the choreographer told CNA in a recent interview.

"The coffee shop is set in the future. I have been wondering about the possible interactions between people, as well as people and robots ever since I was little," he said.

"It should not be about technology replacing people in more and more areas," according to Huang, who envisages a harmonious relationship between people and robots, in which they help and support each other.

Huang, who is also a coder, first contacted German automation solution provider KUKA Robotics in 2010 and created "Huang Yi & KUKA" in 2012, in which he danced with a pre-programmed robotic arm that was over two meters in length.

"Huang Yi & KUKA." Photo courtesy of Huang Yi Studio+
"Huang Yi & KUKA." Photo courtesy of Huang Yi Studio+

The 2012 production has since been performed 78 times in 32 cities and 17 countries.

For his new production, which is scheduled to premiere at the National Theater in Taipei on April 23 before touring Taiwan through July, Huang uses a smaller 50-centimeter tall KUKA model.

KUKA will be programmed to serve coffee and dessert, interact with dancers, and use a drumstick to play rhythm, with some performances designed for families and children, said Huang.

Despite the fact that he is not a coffee drinker, his new work is set in a café and revolves around the drink -- an important element in the lives of people he collaborates with -- focusing on incorporating daily life into a dance piece, Huang said.

"It will be as if people can download fond memories here. There will be moments of people meeting with each other, parting, celebrating, as well as times of happiness, which are 'saved' in this work and can be played again and again like memories," he said.

Apart from KUKA's more detailed and intricate movements, Huang also mentioned the progress he is making with the new production.

"I'm very pleased that this time it is not just me writing the program," he said, noting how every member of the production is more involved in the creative process.

For instance, one of the dancers is in charge of all technical aspects of the production, as well as designing the robot's automation, according to Huang.

The dancer who is also in charge of the technical side of the production.
The dancer who is also in charge of the technical side of the production.

Huang also thanked Cloud Gate Dance Theatre founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) for his support, giving him lots of space and asking questions that helped clarify his ideas and taught him to be practical.

Given Lin is about 35 years his senior, Huang, who is in his late 30s, is also thinking about the role he can play for future artists, who he said are perhaps still babies now.

Huang believes 35 years is just about the time needed for an artist to make a major breakthrough in both the arts and technology.

"Then I can offer more substantial assistance," he said, "the person (who would have my assistance) could be Taiwanese or a foreigner. I'll wait for the individual to come to see a performance and to grow up."

"I'll encourage that person to have a unique voice, to contribute to the industry and to create art for his/her generation," he said.

Members working the production pose for a photo in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.
Members working the production pose for a photo in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.

"Little Ant & Robot: A Nomad Café" will be staged at the National Theater April 23-25, before moving to Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in Taipei for a month-long presentation in a more intimate setting in May.

The production will then move to the National Taichung Theater June 4-6 and the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts July 10-11.

(By Chao Ching-yu and Kay Liu)


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