There were so many good performances in dance this year (and a handful of not so good) that it was difficult to pick one or two winners. But in looking back, it was very clear rather than one or two outstanding shows or performers, it was really two categories that came to mind in the “if you missed these you really missed out” sense: newcomer and old master.
Now the newcomers were not fresh-faced grads; some have been working on their craft professionally for more than a decade. But this year they embarked on new ventures that showed promised of even greater things to come.
The year started with a bang: dancer Sheu Fang-yi (許芳宜) and choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava (布拉瑞揚) launched their reconstituted company LAFA & Artists with the breathtaking 37Arts show in January. Sheu is a supernova on stage and with 37 Arts, Bulareya showed he could deliver a work every bit as intense as his leading lady’s performances.
In March it was the turn of 20-something choreographer Huang Yi (黃翊). His Body, Sound (身音) for Cloud Gate 2 was a revelation, with its incredibly imaginative use of the dancers’ own movements and amazing costumes — by designer Yang Yu-teh (楊妤德) — to create the score.
Ballet lovers had the chance to see a star in the making in June when 21-year-old Daniil Simkin appeared with the 2008 International Ballet Star Gala ahead of his first season with the American Ballet Theater (having jumped from the Vienna Opera Ballet). He may look waif-like, but his outstanding technique, combined with a sense of playfulness, served to remind audiences that dance can be as exhilarating to do as it is to watch. And it’s not often Taipei dance lovers get to feel that they are ahead of New York audiences.
The final newcomer provided an early Christmas treat for dance lovers, as dancer/choreographer Lin Wen-chung’s (林文中) showed a highly polished jewel of a work — Small — for his new company WCdance.
In the second category — old master — there was really only one contender, despite a strong showing by Lin Hwai-min’s (林懷民) yin-yang combination Whisper of Flowers, and that was the Paul Taylor Dance Company. It was a delight to see Taylor’s work, through his hand-picked dancers, after so many years. The sheer physicality of his dancers and the cerebral twists and turns of Taylor’s choreography were both a revelation and a reminder of what he has contributed to the dance world over the past 54 years. Let’s just hope Taipei won’t have to wait another 20 years to see the company again.