Taiwan just can't stop dancing.
From tango to salsa to samba, many styles of traditional and modern dance have found followings on these shores. This is in addition to the many foreign dance performances Taiwanese pay top dollars to see. A more recent craze is tap dance and those wanting to see a professional performance could do no better than check out Tap Together, a series of tap acts performed by local and Japanese tappers beginning tonight at Taipei City Hall's Taipei City Family Theater.
"Most Taiwanese know tap dance from Irish dance, like Riverdance," said Crystal Kuan (官孟瑤), promoter for Tap Together. "But Irish and tap dance are different," said in Rex Peng (彭承佑), artistic director of Dance Works, the dance group responsible for organizing the festival.
The organizers attribute the confusion to the Chinese translation for tap dancing and Irish dance as being the same.
So what are the differences? "The shoes, style and music are different," Peng said. "Tap dance is like freestyle jazz, but the Irish style is like folkdance."
Kuan chimed in with her interpretation: "Jazz and tap dance are brothers."
Like many flourishing art forms in Taiwan, tap requires a movement of exponents that both teach and demonstrate the art form in question. The festival has grown from a small one-day jam session of tappers dancing on a street in Ximending, to this year's festival, which includes a week of classes and lectures that culminates in a series of performances by tap professionals.
Already in its third year, the festival is in four parts; the first three - workshop, tap talk and tap party - expose participants to tap's different styles, particularly American and Japanese, through lectures and workshops.
What: Tap Together
Where: Taipei City Family Theater (台北市親子劇場), 2F, 1 Shifu Rd, Taipei (台北市市府路1號)
When: Today and tomorrow at 7:30pm and tomorrow at 2:30pm
Tickets: NT$350 to NT$1,200 and are available through NTCH ticketing or online at www.artsticket.com.tw
The range of topics covered by the speakers include basics like tap kids and balance tap to more advanced techniques like rhythm style and funk tap. The speakers will also discuss their experiences of tapping in countries throughout the world.
The workshop component exposes budding tappers to the finer points of the dance. "We have different styles and levels of tap dancing. We have 20 classes taught by eight Taiwanese tappers and three from Japan," Kuan said.
The Japanese instructors and dancers include Funny Bone, or the team of tappers known as Makoto & Yoko, who will be making their third appearance at the festival. Other Japanese performers include Suji and special guest Yoshiko - all well-known tappers on the Japanese scene.
After learning a style, tappers are free to join other dancers of the same level. This is the "tapper's party," or what Kuan calls "a kind of jam (session)."
The festival ends with instructors from Taiwan and Japan sharing the same stage and clicking to a number of jazz standards.