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Erenlai - Nick Coulson (聶克)
Nick Coulson (聶克)

Nick Coulson (聶克)

I was born in sunny Torbay on the south western coast of England's green and pleasant lands. I'm prowling the streets, parks and ruins of Taiwan hunting for absurdities and studying the sociology of the underground. Furthermore with our nomadic arts and action space "The Hole" we attempt to challenge rigid and alienating structures.


Tuesday, 06 July 2010 12:02

To harm is human, to forgive is divine

Ming C. Huang is the director of the Prison Fellowship in Taiwan. The prison fellowship gives counselling to various prisoners. They also look after victims and their families and try to fully reintegrate them into society . Of particular interest is that they give counselling to those on death row. This gives Ming a rare insight into prisoners that others may have completely given up on and provides a more accurate understanding of the individual issues and mindsets of each prisoner.

Saturday, 03 July 2010 14:29

I dance, therefore I am...

When you think the last of your youth has been robbed from you; your energy, ideals and dreams...

Stop! Look! Listen! Dance!

Empower yourself, stop thinking, relieve your mind of any thoughts and achieve enlightenment through dancing. Everyone needs to sing or dance. Are you missing out on this aspect of life? Enjoyed from it's purest and simplest to its most complex forms, dance has been pushing the boundaries of the human body since the dawn of man.

Dance is a natural high, both healthy and cathartic. Perhaps suggesting that if the world leaders got together and danced, all the wars of the world would be ended, could be oversimplified, perhaps even heretic, but... perhaps, just perhaps it would. On a smaller scale their is real healing potential in dance. When words become scarce, your body can become your language. A flick of the neck and a twirl can say "I'm yours"; as you stride the floor at a wedding all the family quarrels can be forgotten in an instant; and bouncing up and down at a rave in the mountains can defeat the anxiety of any economic crisis as faith in nature, in the pure is restored.

Dance is also a non-exclusive recreational activity, in which anyone can partake in regardless of means, class or status. Dance and rave culture produced the generation of love, or the Peace, Love, Unity and Respect where people of all creed and colour joined in bliss. Whether you are the most gymnastic of dancers in the infamous Cloud Gate, one of the Queen's finest in the Royal Ballet or a hundred year-old Kazuo Ohno still twirling his fingers to the very last beat. Whether you are attending your first school disco, raving away your adrenaline-filled teens, or enjoying your hard earned retirement, ballroom dancing in front of Houhai Park in Beijing.

AboJiexin01In the case of East-West dialogue there is much to be appreciated and gained from this cross-cultural exploration. With globalisation, a whole new world of exploration has been opened to us. The Beijingers have taken to Ballroom dancing and made it an outdoor park pastime. All over Asia interest is generated in obscure dances of aborigine and minority groups as a protection and celebration of diversity. Many dancers have started adopting Indian and Buddhist meditation techniques combining them with various dance forms. All around the world people are fusing different dance concepts and while language is the first step to understanding another culture, dance is a language that can help you reach another level.

We were able to put this months focus together with the generous collaboration of five dance acts and an experimental piece of dance-performance art. Firstly, we present the technical finesse Liu Shao-lu's Taipei Dance Circle and his three dancers Wang Xianbin, Huang Ruyue, Liujiaxing who we filmed in a rehearsal that was more powerful than than most performances. They combine contemporary dance with eastern martial arts and Taichi but incorporate Taiwanese traditional ceremonies. Then we report on the Horse company who are self-proclaimed as the only male-exclusive band in Taiwan. The Yuan Dancers also include old customs and their Arts Director Faidaw Fagod brings us back to the roots of Aboriginal dance in Taiwan. In contrast, the to-hot-to-handle dancers of Taiwan's only burlesque troupe, the Rock in Hose, use humour and parody to promote their social causes. If that hasn't inspired you to swing, twist, jump and twirl, we also explore some experimental acts with Sannyas tribute and development of the form of Butoh favoured by the recently deceased Kazuo Ohno, and a young digital artist Shih Wei-Chieh combines his inventions with that of freelance dancer Li Jiexin to create his latest piece 2304 + 1.

"I care not how you dance, but why" Pina Bausch

(Photos by Yu-ying Li and Shih Wei-chieh)


Wednesday, 23 June 2010 11:37

Sannyas Meditation Theatre: 'Presentation' series

Since 2007 the Sannyas Meditational Workshop has been experimenting with the use Kazuo Ohno's style of Butoh in theatre works. The Presentation Series was a 4-part workshop following in this light which started in March this year. Before the final performance, Presentation 4 on June 19th, Kazuo Ohno passed away aged 103 years old, thus this final performance was a valedictory to the pioneer of Butoh and the biggest inspiration to Sannyas.

Deva Satyana wrote the following passage to introduce 'Presentation 4' and give a tribute to the life and Butoh of Kazuo Ohno:

On June 1st 2010,

Kazuo Ohno left this world

but perhaps Kazuo Ohno's Butoh work

has just entered a new phase

Thus, we must continue to ask: What is Butoh?

Critiques split Hijikata and Ohno into dark Butoh and spiritual Butoh

But what is dark? And what is spiritual?

Formed of spirit, life and nature

further definition and analysis affords no gain

Because each dancer is unique

Finding their own distinct path to spirituality

When sandstorms cover the skies,


you must wait for the sand to settle, before you can find your own way

Similarly, only when your train of thought, ideas, impulses and feelings have calmed,

can your consciousness truly emerge, clear and distinct as the shine of a mirror

And this consciousness must be able to exist in your body

In other words the body must produce this paramount channel of consciousness

The body's central balance, alertness and freedom,

these various aspects of body and consciousness

in Kazuo Ohno and Yoshito Ohno's Butoh teachings

are all key elements, whether explicit or hidden

Qualities one must realise, before the colourful images of the soul can reach their correct place and function


Presentation 4 marks the conclusion of this phase of Sannyas'

The next phase will be the building of this body state and consciousness,

Fully, assiduously entering the spirit that Mr. Kazuo Ohno envisaged

this abstruse, mysterious and dazzling universe

dance_meditationThis road is not easy, not easy at all

due to the ailments of inertia and feeblemindedness

Even so, Kazuo Ohno is still watching us

perhaps with even more encouragement and expectations

And thus, Sannyas will keep moving

towards a true essence, a true divinity

...a true Butoh

(Translated from Chinese by Nick Coulson)


The following video contains fragments of the Presentation series:

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The written tribute was accompanied by this video introduction to 'Presentation 4'


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Tuesday, 22 June 2010 18:21

Breathe with Taipei Dance Circle

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The Taipei Dance Circle was founded by Liou Shaw-Lu in 1985, formerly a co-founder of the Cloud Gate, widely recognised as one of the biggest contributors to contemporary dance in Taiwan. The Circle absorbs aspects from traditional Hakka ceremonies along with Tai Chi and other eastern martial arts to form their aesthetic.


Creeping around, past broken wires into an abandoned middle school in Xinbeitou, we went to find out what exactly the Dance Circle were up too in such a secretive location...


On arriving, the troupe were beginning a practice performance, I was speechless and heart palpitating as the tension in the line formed by line of three dancers pushed me into a corner. After, Teacher Liou enthusiastically began detailing the pursuits and personnel of his current troupe and how he sees puts emphasis on three areas when creating his dances: mind, body and the mystical Chi based around breathing methods. The bottom line, however, was that these feelings, these physical emotions could not be put into words."When your body begins listening to you, the need for language becomes obsolete", Teacher Liou concluded...


Photos provided by Taipei Dance Circle and N. Coulson

Tuesday, 22 June 2010 17:44

Sannyas Meditative Theatre: Kazuo Ohno's seeds planted in Taiwan

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On June 1st 2010, Kazuo Ohno, one of Butoh's two great pioneers, passed away aged 104. Below are some inspiring words he donated to the universe in 1998:

A Message to the Universe

On the verge of death one revisits the joyful moments of a lifetime.
One's eyes are opened wide-gazing into the palm, seeing death, life, joy and sorrow with a sense of tranquility.
This daily studying of the soul, is this the beginning of the journey?
I sit bewildered in the playground of the dead. Here I wish to dance and dance and dance and dance, the life of the wild grass.
I see the wild grass, I am the wild grass, I become one with the universe. That metamorphosis is the cosmology and studying of the soul.
In the abundance of nature I see the foundation of dance. Is this because my soul wants to physically touch the truth?
When my mother was dying I caressed her hair all night long without being able to speak one word of comfort. Afterwards, I realized that I was not taking care of her, but that she was taking care of me.
The palms of my mother's hands are precious wild grass to me.
I wish to dance the dance of wild grass to the utmost of my heart.

A Message to the Universe by Kazuo Ohno

(Translated from Japanese by Maura Nguyen Donohue, Dance Insider)



In late 2005, Deva Satyana founded Sannyas, or the Sannyas Meditation Theatre, finally planting the seeds of Kazuo Ohno butoh in Taiwan. While the everchanging troupe follows in the soulful footsteps of Kazuo Ohno's Butoh, it is heavily influenced by Indian meditative practices and the writings of Osho. Sannyas means seeker of the truth. Here Satyana explains a bit more about the concepts and philosophy behind Sannyas.


In February 2010, Sannyas made a tribute dance to Kazuo Ohno. Hidden in the crumbling buildings of Taipei's Wolong Street, the new Sannyas troupe ventured the furthest they had ever been into the fourth dimension. For a slideshow of the performance, click here


Visit Sannyas' website



Wednesday, 09 June 2010 18:34

Concrete Sound Dialogue

In April 2010, Alexis Mailles, a teacher at the Ecole Nationale Supérieur D'ARTS Paris-Cergy and founder of No Media, brought a multi-year group of students to Taipei, to give a workshop on 'concrete music' and multimedia art installations.

Since France is full of machines and has a strong musical culture of using these machines to make music, he thought it would be interesting to hold this workshop in the place where all of these machines are manufactured which, in contrast, does not have such a culture of making electronic music.

Alexis combines his technological skills with a distrust of using machines that people do not understand. Thus he deconstructs these machines to their simplest form; using the loop technique to manufacture his music.

Watch his interview

Monday, 31 May 2010 11:18

Xu Guangqi - China's Man for All Seasons

Paul Xu Guangqi (1562 -1633) from rural Shanghai rose to the office of Grand Secretary of the Ming Dynasty Emperor and is known as the forerunner of modern science in China. His friendship and collaboration with European Jesuit missionaries, especially the renowned Matteo Ricci, is the first instance of real cultural dialogue between China and the West. Together with Ricci, Paul Xu introduced western mathematics, astronomy, and scientific method into Chinese scholarship. By developing new crops to combat famine, Xu triggered China’s “green revolution”. This 4-part docudrama shows China at the start of its cultural relations with the West and provides us with a wealth of material for reflection on globalization today.

Thursday, 20 May 2010 00:00

Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit in the realm of the dragon

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In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the passing of Matteo Ricci, Gjon Kolndrekaj was commissioned by the Society of Jesus and the Italian diocese of Macerata, the birthplace of Matteo Ricci's birthplace, to direct the documentary on the life of Matteo Ricci. In  filming the documentary he would journey along Matteo Ricci's path, starting in Ricci's home town of Macerate. Taipei's own Ricci Institute also thought it fitting to invite the accomplished director to Taiwan's first screening of the 50-minute documentary at the National Central Library in Taiwan, before which he was interviewed by eRenlai.  The on-site interpretation was provided generously by Antonella Tulli of Fu Jen Catholic University.

Gjon spent his early years in Albania. His inspiration to focus on directing documentaries came from Mother Teresa, a cousin of his mother. He once asked Mother Teresa to come with him for a couple of hours to a special place. He took her to a place where they would be drawn by a reknowned holy artist. Whilst they were being drawn, Mother Teresa told him that if he wanted to do God's work he should count on his fingers every morning on awaking, five things that he would do for humanity. By night he should count how many of these he had accomplished. Each good deed for humanity would be considered a deed done for God. From then Gjon put all his efforts into documentary, where he perceived his mission to lie.

Eventually Gjon tried to progress to a prestigious film school in Rome. At the time Albania had a very closed off regime (whose few allies included China) and no one in Europe had much information about the situation. Gjon took advantage of this to proceed in his mission, recounting some tales about the situation at the time in Albania. Fascinated by what he told them, the competitive school decided to enroll him. In this school he was exposed to some of the greatest documentary and filmmakers to ever embrace the world, amongst those he was influenced by, learnt from and worked with were Valerio Zurlini, Micros Jankson (Autumn Sonata) and Jon Evans.

Gjon has made documentaries of two particularly great people. They were of different eras and their missions were in different countries. He has already made a documentary of Mother Teresa and says that she and Ricci both managed to raise awareness of the struggles and poverty of the common people to the leaders of their respective countries. However they started from different paths: Mother Teresa initially acquainted herself with the leaders and worked her way down to those with the worst hardships; Ricci started off with the common people then worked his mission into the sympathies of the gentry class and then all the way to the emperor. His achievements go without saying, he was the first person to really introduce Chinese civilisation to the west.

When asked about the future Gjon talked with the confident optimism of a man who is constantly in the process of accomplishing his mission and with the knowledge that he is at least  contributing . Regarding the situation in his own homecountry of Albania he said "Clever people, will find a clever solution. The path to democracy is a slow process. They're on the right path". On his own future, he will be returning to his own hometown this summer. Furthermore, he has another project in the works, another Saint - Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini - who helped Italian immigrants in the USA when they were one of the most marginalised and maltreated groups in the country. Later Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and other prominent Italian Americans later set up a foundation in her name and her honour. Once again, hers is a case that has huge relevance to the modern day where there are still innumerous groups of immigrants suffering persecution and racism all over the world.

Gjon explains that he began to understand the achievements of Matteo Ricci when he had the opportunity to travel to Beijing in 1976: "Focusing so much on researching Matteo Ricci, this Catholic missionary, this Italian scientist who met with eastern philosophy and ideology, was an undertaking that fascinated me. I hope that through this documentary I have contributed to the understanding and recognition of Matteo Ricci, not just those for those who worked on the project but to give many others the chance to know him"

"Because he fascinated me as a person; first as a man, secondly as a man of faith and this insight in knowledge that he wanted to transmit. His magnanimity that all men of good will can have" -Gjon Kolndrekaj 

To see the official trailer for the documentary click here.







Thursday, 20 May 2010 13:29

Remembering Ricci: Opening of the Matteo Ricci - Pacific Studies Reading Room at the National Central Library

On April 16th in Taipei the National Central Library of Taiwan and Taipei Ricci Institute inaugurated the new "Matteo Ricci Pacific Studies Reading Room" to commemorate Ricci's contribution to East-West cultural exchange. The vibrant ceremony is shown in the video above, and it was followed by Professor Nicolas Standaert's symposium: "Sino-European Displacements: The Circulation of Prints between Europe and China". Professor Standaert is one of the world’s foremost experts on cultural exchanges between Europe and China during the Late Ming and Early Qing dynasties.

Named after the famous Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, over the last 50 years the Ricci Institute has been devoted to research in fields such as international Chinese Studies, comparative religion, and linguistics. The Institute is the compiler and publisher of Le Grand Ricci (a Chinese-French dictionary), and publisher of Renlai Magazine. During the process of compiling this dictionary, the Ricci Institute amassed a considerable number of books, particularly relating to linguistics, philosophy and the social sciences. In order to promote an atmosphere supporting academic research, and to allow many more people able to make full use of its collection, the Institute has permanently loaned them to the National Central Library. The Library possesses the ideal environment to house such a collection, with extensive experience in preserving and digitizing valuable historical documents and records to a professional standard. To fulfill the need to safely store and make available for reading the books entrusted to it by the Ricci Institute, the Library has established the Matteo Ricci & Pacific Studies Reading Room on the 6th floor.

At the same time, with the support of the library, the Council for Aboriginal Affairs and of individual scholars, the Taipei Ricci Institute is working towards the creation of a "Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies" that will become its main research outlet and focus. New research into language evolution suggests most Pacific populations originated in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. The Austronesians arose in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. Before entering the Philippines, they paused for around a thousand years, and then spread rapidly across the 7,000km from the Philippines to Polynesia in less than one thousand years. After settling in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, the Austronesians paused again for another thousand years, before finally spreading further into Polynesia eventually reaching as far as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island. This cultural and linguistic history opens up compelling perspectives on the globalization process and on the challenges that humankind is now confronting.



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Thursday, 29 April 2010 17:57

Notes on impermanence

Being an outsider in the city can give rise to a poetry of sorts. Whether we are business ex-pats, exchange students or foreign workers, we all eventually face the same problem of our wandering impermanence. For this months Focus on poetry in the city, I look back at some written scraps and ramblings on my own impermanence and identity issues whilst I was a student of Mandarin in Taipei. Of Anglo-French descent, studying Chinese, for me it was fitting that I could find scrawlings in the three languages (and cultures) between which I’m torn:

Thursday, 15 April 2010 15:29

On the shoulders of Matteo Ricci: The Jesuits meeting with Chinese scholars

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Fr. Matteo Ricci. This remarkable Jesuit not only signifies the spread of the Catholic Church to China but also in his partnership with Xu Guangqi, introduced and shared European astronomy and maths further enriching Chinese society and its education system. Two modern day 'Matteo Riccis', Jacques Duraud and Jerry Martinson, both Jesuits in the service of cultural exchange introduce to us the life and achievements of Matteo Ricci and let us know what he symbolizes for them.

An exhibit on Matteo Ricci was organized at the National Central Library in Taipei:
The Jesuits’ Encounter with Chinese Scholars: A Meeting of East and West -- An Exhibition Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of Matteo Ricci
The exhibit formally started on Saturday 17 and ran until May 16, 2010,
at the new Matteo Ricci Pacific Studies Research Room


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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 17:05

The Urban Nomad film festival in Taipei

The Urban Nomad Film Fest is back Commencing tonight, April 30th, David Frazier and Sean Scanlan wil bring you the 9th consecutive year of the festival. Here we interview them on the history of the festival, their best moments and living in the underground.

As well as all the usual original and interesting films, this year's festival will have an environmental touch to it. For more information and full schedules check out the film festival blog here.

Readers in Mainland China (Apologies for advertisements):



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