TEACHER PROFILE: YI-CHUN LIU
Originally from Taiwan, Yi-Chun Liu first performed in Anouk van Dijk's work in 2005, joined her dance company in 2010 and completed her Countertechnique Teacher Training in 2012. She has had a vibrant performance career and is currently a member of the renowned dance company Peeping Tom in Brussels. Here, Yi-chun shares her discovery of Countertechnique and how it helped shape her understanding of the mind and body.
Tell me a little about where you are from and how you started dancing:
I’m from Taichung, the middle of Taiwan, and I started dancing when I was five at a small kindergarten where I was trained with the basics of Chinese Opera. After some time my teacher advised my mother that I could continue in either gymnastics or dance, and thankfully my mum chose dance!
Where did you complete your training, and what did you do after?
I completed my BFa in Dance at the Taipei National University of the Arts. Here I did classical ballet training, contact improvisation, classic modern dance classes, and other somatic trainings. Graham was important in the school and my Graham teachers were very tough. Shortly after graduating I joined Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and very much appreciated my time there. They really invested in educating and training their dancers and I learned a lot. I was fed from many different perspectives and it was their I encountered martial arts, Tai-chi-dao-in, and calligraphy.
What brought you to Europe and how was the transition?
I was curious about the world and the international world of dance, so when I was 24 years old I went to Europe visiting different companies and places of interest to me. I had met Anouk van Dijk a few years prior in 2005, at the American Dance Festival, where I danced in a work she created. When I went to take class with her in Amsterdam, it was just such a great reunion. I felt so good to be connected with this kind of energy again! I spent time in the studio with her company, and I noticed that the dancers had a very open and direct personality. The directness could seem tough sometimes and I remember being taken aback by this at first, but I soon learnt this was the cultural practical manner and was not personal; when talking about an issue, it was about the problem, not about you! I remember there were many things in Europe that I had to get used to culturally - in a good way.
What was your first experience with Countertechnique like?
My first impression of Countertechnique was that it was very enlightening. I had been trained at school in the ‘work harder, try harder, never give up’ mentality, and in Anouk’s class it was offering more - somehow allowing the body and mind to work together. In her class at the American Dance Festival I thought it was another world. I felt no judgement, only encouraged, and this made me feel incredible in the space and free to explore in class. I felt in the right place, finally finding a training system that could speak with my mind and body. The musician was also great and I was so impressed watching the teacher and the musician work together seamlessly. I knew I had to keep in touch and I had a great appreciation towards her.
What was one of your biggest discoveries when you first started working with Countertechnique?
During school and in the beginning of my career I had touched many diverse methods of movement, from martial arts, tai chi, modern techniques, ballet and yoga, and some of them I worked with for some years. When I went to Amsterdam to meet Anouk again, I remember a feeling of realisation of what Countertechnique was and I felt a big correlation between all the physical trainings I had done. I found that all the information connected, for example how to look at the body anatomically and how to use that in space - which is what I had also encountered with martial arts. Also in martial arts I had been taught about spirals and how energy constantly travels, returns and is reused, and also how to let go of unnecessary tension. Countertechnique articulated all the information together, with all of the other tools simultaneously, without a hierarchy of importance. It brought about the way that I work with myself today - with the acknowledgement of all my history.
I find that in many perspectives, Countertechnique delivers information in a very clear and constructive way without judgement and load. It generously offers tools and articulates ideas clearly, calmly and practically. It’s laid out there clearly for me to see. I was also encouraged to make my own decisions proactively and to value my own thinking. Through this I finally found my confidence.
You have been touring all over the world with Peeping Tom and other companies. How is Countertechnique supporting you in your work?
Using the tools for myself has allowed for an independent way of working which is very important to me. This is one thing that I always communicate in my workshops and classes. In physical work, I often work with changing the point of view of my body parts. It keeps dance more alive and fun! For me putting my awareness in two or more places at the same time enables me to allow things to happen, or not. It also helps a lot in making artistic choices or to work out human relationships in different layers and levels. I have learnt to take a moment to allow something to happen, and then find a solution afterwards. This is very helpful in being able to work together creatively.
What do you like to focus on in your classes?
My ultimate aim for my class or workshop is to help the dancers understand that they can work on themselves as individuals - to discover what they can do, what they're good at, and develop these qualities. The purpose of class for me is about helping the dancers find themselves and the first step towards this is to get to know themselves, to ground themselves, and to become more aware of themselves. Usually this will take a bit of time, but by giving them a taste they can continue on their own.
What do dancers often come to realise in your class?
Many people come to me observing the realisation that they don’t have to do so much, that it is enough to just exist. This is close to the feeling of doing nothing and for them this can be scary - but they are amazed by it! The body already has the physical existence in the space so you don’t need to add “more” to it. It is important to learn how to work with less, so that you can support and emphasise the essence in the pure physicality as much as possible. This allows you to dance more at ease, with clarity and confidence.
Find out here where Yi-chun is teaching next.
The Countertechnique Teacher Profile Interview Series started in October 2017 and is written by Madeline Harms, an Australian dancer and writer, currently based in Mainz, Germany. Learn more about Madeline on her blog Travelling Dancers.