Da:nsfest – Checkmate by Albert Tiong

By: Valerie Oliveiro

I challenge you to game of chess – any takers?

Albert Tiong conceived a chess-inspired choreography for a special commision for the Da:ns Festival this year. Chess is an exercise of infinite possibilities for the mind. Personify each pawn on the chessboard and you’d be juggling a mass of ideas, conflicts, schemes and consequences. On the board, each pawn is restricted by number of movements – yet personified, is restrained by situation and choice. Albert pushed the “limits of agility, integrating movement with the pulsations of breath and the malleability of space, in this gruelling and energetic work featuring dancers from Taiwan and Singapore.”  

Chess games are often seen as cold and hard because difficult decisions need to be made for the win. Empathy has no place in such a game. Albert explored, “What if the truths of relationships, often masked by impassioned emotions, are negotiated like the cold confrontation of a chess match?”

For those unfamiliar with chess, think of it as a game of attack and defense, culminating in Checkmate. Benjamin Franklin, in his work, The Morals of Chess, enumerated qualities cultivated by playing chess as “foresight, circumspection, caution and perseverance.” Perhaps these are some of the qualities we will be able to see in Albert’s idea of Checkmate. Albert’s chereography included vigorous and arduous routines to stretch the human body to its limits. Chess is also a game of interaction so seeing how the “pieces” react with each other was interesting to watch as well.

Writer, Hall R. describes how chess unfolds like a drama. “The chessplayers live through the emotions of an exciting story. Chess has a powerful aesthetic appeal. The best chess games are the products of original and creative thinking. The beauty of chess is as compelling and pleasure-giving as any other art form. The endless opportunities for creating new combinations in chess are perhaps comparable to painting or music.”


Checkmate by Albert Tiong is part of the Da:ns Festival 2008 by Esplanade.
Read about NDT Ballet’s Double Bill: Toss of a Dice and Silent Screen here.
Image of Albert Tiong from Esplanade Co. Ltd.


More about Albert Tiong:
Trained at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, Albert was a dancer with Taiwan’s acclaimed Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and Singapore’s Odyssey Dance Theatre, as well as a guest artist at the Hong Kong Dance Company. Currently he is a resident choreographer/ rehearsal master of Frontier Danceland.
His teaching experience includes contemporary dance in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore (Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, LASALLE-SIA and People’s Association).

Chess in Film:
The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman
features a famous chess scene. Knight Antonius Block returns from a crusade. On his homeward journey, he meets Death – wrapped in a large black cloak, who informs him that he had been following him for a long time. The Knight bravely asks, “You are able to play chess, aren’t you?” “Yes” replies Death, “how do you know?” Death warns the Knight that he will lose the game, but this does not dismay him, and he offers her the choice of colour. The pieces are laid out on the chessboard, and the game begins.

Chess Soundtrack:
Remember the life-sized Wizard’s Chess played on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? Take a listen to the soundtrack of that intense scene below.

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2 thoughts on “Da:nsfest – Checkmate by Albert Tiong

  1. Pingback: Oct ‘08 Issue « ArtZine

  2. Pingback: NDT Double Bill « ArtZine

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