Together Alone // Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya

The space is bare - white dance floor laid down in a black box theatre. Three scribbles of white florescent lights are suspended near the back. Within this abstracted space, the nude figures of choreographers and performers Zoltan Vakulya and Chen-Wei Lee resist static objecthood and make their first contact. This sparse arena hosts two people musing upon one another, gently meeting through touch. 

Our non-verbal communication/haptic communication develops so that we may know ourselves, others and the world through touch. Haptic knowledges are a key source material for dancing and coming to understand the world non-verbally in this way is shared across many species. It can be argued that such touch-led perceptions hold a lower status that our rational, verbal modes of communicating, relating and coming to know our environments. In contrast, this dance of swings, curves and counterbalances prioritises sensorial knowledge. As Vakulya and Lee’s bodies ride the momentum that their bodies conjure up from the ground; catching, sharing and releasing gravity between them, constant touch becomes a driving force. 

In their deft and assured movement, the sculptures ‘We Two’ and ‘Embrace’ by Gaylord Ho come to mind. In these works, contact points between two figures are foregrounded over the rest of the forms. Sometimes parts of the body are absent, further highlighting the sites of connection. There is a similar experience watching Together Alone - flickerings of flesh meeting are highlighted as bodies organise and re-organise themselves around points of contact, orbiting each other's centres. 

A question about pleasure hangs in the air. So too do associations with touch that can heal, support, communicate, trigger sensations of violence, of love and of care. 

A memory comes to me of Nancy Stark-Smith dancing in Fall After Newton, specifically, the lines her body swings through space.

At one point, Vakulya and Lee’s shadows are cast on the floor next to them. These shadows make the contact between their iliac crests blend into one another. The shadows are more porous than their bodies are and my question about pleasure begins to be answered. I think about sweat, temperature, the sensation of how it must feel to be so close to another and swing arms while exhaling warmth into the face of the person opposite you. I think of the places bodies fit together and how this interlocking can fuel movement. Eye to chin, armpit to kneecap, nape to forearm; each link propelling the search for the next. 

Charleston-like steps appear and bodies reveal their buoyancy, laughing and shimmering with abandon. In the closing parts, everything slows. The figures knot and unknot. They return to sculptural forms but their combination is now twin-like, pod-like and into an amorphous biped creature. 

Vakulya and Lee continue, sensitively indulging in their articulations with soft gazes, until they finish, spinning into black.

- Alexandrina Hemsley


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Taiwan Season: Together Alone

Meet the Artists: Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya

Fall After Newton Clip (1987)

Embrace - Gaylord Ho

We Two - Gaylord Ho

The Power of Touch - Psychology Today

Haptic Communication - Changing Minds

Haptic Perception - WiseGeek