Interview: Yu-Hsien Wu - on dancing with Russell Maliphant Company

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Yu-Hsien Wu in rehearsal. Photo: Johan Persson

Dancer Yu-Hsien Wu left Taiwan to join Russell Maliphant Company for their latest touring production – Conceal | Reveal – a celebration of the twenty year collaboration between choreographer Russell Maliphant and lighting designer Michael Hulls, which arrives at Sadler’s Wells later this month.
She graduated from Taipei National University of the Arts in 2012 and joined in Taipei Dance Forum (2012-2014). She also makes work – and has won awards from Chin-Lin Foundation Dance Alliance and 2011 Next Choreography Project.
We asked her about her experience of leaving her homeland to come and work with Russell Maliphant Company and live in London…

How did you come to join Russell Maliphant Company?
I saw the opportunity on the company’s website and sent in my cv with two videos – one of me performing on stage and one in a studio. The auditions were in London in February, but sadly I couldn’t make it on the official audition date, so I wrote an email to ask about the chance of a separate audition. I was so thrilled that they accepted!

I had a great time at the auditions, especially in the sections of improvisation I had to do. I was also asked to perform an extract from Broken Fall, which is part of the upcoming Conceal | Reveal programme.

What are the main challenges about moving to a new city to work as a dancer?
This is my first time working outside my country. I was excited and a bit nervous at first, but I’m enjoying it a lot, everything is new and fresh. Of course there are some challenges – but what’s life without a little challenge? And I actually I thrive on it! For example, I find it challenging to immerse and express myself in a different culture and language. But it’s exciting – London has such a multiplicity of languages!

I’m lucky because I moved here to a job with Russell Maliphant Company. But I imagine it can be much more difficult for freelance dancers, who have to look for work at the same time as ‘settling in’.

Is there a big difference between the dance industries of the UK and Taiwan?
There are some slight differences, in things like the way of running and organising a company, the system of dance education, the relationships between dancers and choreographers, the range of audiences, etc. But I think that in today’s connected and globalised world there are fewer and fewer big differences between countries – mainly small ones.

I would say London has a bigger mix of dance, and many more performances. So many people come here from all over the world to perform! But in Taiwan there are more fusions with eastern and western dance cultures.

What has been your favourite thing about living and working in London?
Watching shows! There are so many on every day in London. Not only dance but also plays, musicals, street performances, exhibitions, and so on. Going to the theatre is one of my favourite leisure activities. I recently saw Hamlet and War Horse, which were amazing.
- and least favourite?
I just can’t get used to the famous London weather – so unpredictable!

Tell us about the new Russell Maliphant Company production Conceal | Reveal
It includes several pieces: a revival of the iconic Broken Fall (originally created by Russell for Sylvie Guillem and the BalletBoyz in 2003); a specially commissioned solo for Dana Fouras; and new quintet specially created for me and the rest of the dancers. The London performances also include Spiral Pass performed by Munich’s Bayerisches Staatsballett.

The relationship of light, music, space, dancers and choreography are all connected closely to each other. It will definitely be a visual feast of an evening.

What are your favourite styles of dance? and who have been some of your main inspirations in dance?
I am most comfortable with contemporary dance. It’s so varied and so free. Most of all, I like dance that is natural and life-like. Moving and dancing naturally and honestly, always as a true depiction of everyday life.

Which dance artists and companies have inspired you most?
When growing up, some of my main inspirations in dance were Pina Bausch, Nederlands Dans Theater, William Forsythe, Trisha Brown and Ultima Vez.

What advice can you give dancers moving to London who have to find a place to live?
Russell Maliphant Company helped me with this a lot and I also looked on websites like Gum Tree and Spare Room. My advice would be: don’t give up when you’re getting tired of searching for a proper place to stay. The right one will come eventually.

What’s been your favourite UK city that you’ve performed in so far?
I received a warm hug from an audience member after the show in Eastleigh – I think that reflected the very warm, welcoming nature of the place.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the next few years?
At the moment, I am focusing on giving a 100% to the new production! In the future I think I would like to work some more in the UK. There are so many opportunities here to explore. So many stages to perform on!

See Russell Maliphant Company in Conceal | Reveal
at Sadler’s Wells, 26 – 28 November

Main photo: Johan Persson

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