If you think that traditional arts must be dry and outdated, you owe yourself a visit to the 2006 Taipei Traditional Arts Festival. This year, organizers have arranged 40 performances, discussions and exhibitions centered around the theme of "combining innovation and tradition." Artists will show that Chinese traditional art forms can still be infused with fresh new ideas.
The festival is centered at Zhongshan Hall and will run from now until June 11. Groups have been invited from Taiwan, China and throughout the world to showcase the best and most representative examples of traditional Chinese performance art, including theater, instrumental and vocal music, dance and even puppetry.
At the opening press conference earlier in the week, attendees got a taste of what innovating on tradition is all about. Mugute Farah, award-winning choreographer for the Mugute Dance Theater, exemplified this blending of modern and traditional with a sneak preview of "Untamed Aboriginal Flare." The performance combines Amis singing and dance steps with elements from Mugute's own modern dance style. The routine is modeled after a traditional religious ceremony, but the influence of Mugute's fluid modern dance movements creates something both spiritual and elegant.?
In contrast, a troupe from the National Taiwan Junior College of Performing Art dressed in rooster and frog costumes and performed a playful, acrobatic excerpt from its "Images of Formosa." Jumping and contorting their way through hoops set well above their heads, they hammed and improvised their way through mistakes and cheered each other on before particularly difficult stunts by encouraging the audience to clap.
Between just these two short pieces, one could sense the diversity of styles that will shape the festival, and the multitude of ways in which the word "traditional" can be interpreted. Hsu Ke-wei (
Of course, there will also be plenty of traditional fare for the purists. The Taipei Chinese Plucked String Instrument Festival runs from today until April 16, and will feature masters from around the world on pipas, zithers and other traditional Chinese instruments. There will be a series of discussion on April 14 and 15 about a variety of topics related to Chinese traditional instruments, and for those wanting a closer look at the instruments themselves, a free exhibition will run from now through June 11.?
While many of these performances feature some of the most renowned musicians from around the world, audiences should also take advantage of the opportunity to see lesser-known groups. This year organizers have made an effort to invite groups from rural areas to contribute to the festival, and give them a chance to make their reputation. "We hope that this year's festival will not only raise the prestige of Taipei as a cultural arts center, but will also elevate the status of these lesser-known groups," Hsu said.