The Taipei Folk Dance Theatre (台北民族舞團) opens a three-show run of The Divine Chant for the Centenary (百年香讚) at Taipei’s Metropolitan Hall tomorrow afternoon, yet another in the list of events celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Republic of China.
The troupe’s latest production is no paean to patriotic fervor, but rather a continuation of founder-artistic director Tsai Li-hua’s (蔡麗華) musings on Buddhism and a “Chan [Zen] dance style.”
Tsai founded the company in 1988 as the country’s first professional ethnic dance troupe with a mission to preserve and promote the nation’s dance heritage, including both traditional Chinese and Aboriginal dances. Starting in 2000, however, she began a series of productions that focused on developing a Chan dance style, including last year’s The Blossoming Smile of Enlightenment (拈花微笑), that draw on Chan Buddhist scriptures and stories.
She was also inspired this year by Yuan Dynasty artist Huang Gongwang’s (黃公望) landscape painting Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (富春山居圖), which was famously reunited in June at the National Palace Museum after being split apart four centuries ago. Seeing the painting, which is considered Huang’s meditation — at age 82 — on retirement, made Tsai think about her own retirement earlier this year from her full-time job as a university professor. Her new work, influenced by Huang’s painting, is titled Forgetting (忘機).
Another piece by Tsai is the “lotus dance” segment from her 2000 work Dream World (菩提), which she added to the program just in August after learning of the death of composer Gerald Shih (史擷詠), whose music she used for the piece. Shih, a prolific composer for film, dance and theater, died on Aug. 22 at age 53.
What: The Divine Chant for the Centenary by Taipei Folk Dance Theatre
When: Tomorrow at 2:30pm and 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm
Where: Metropolitan Hall (城市舞台), 25, Bade Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市八德路三段25號)
Admiddion: Tickets are NT$400 to NT$1,500, available through NTCH ticketing or online at www.artsticket.com.tw or 7-Eleven ibon kiosks
Additional Performances: Nov. 12 at 7:30pm at Taichung Chungshan Hall (台中市中山堂), 98 Syueshih Rd, Greater Taichung (台中市學士路98號) and Nov. 18 at 7:30pm at Greater Kaohsiung’s Chihshan Hall, National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center (高雄市中正文化中心至善廳), 67 Wufu 1st Rd, Greater Kaohsiung (高雄市五福一路67號). Admission is NT$350, NT$600 and NT$800, respectively. Tickets are available online at www.artsticket.com.tw or 7-Eleven ibon kiosks
Two works on the program are by Tsai’s frequent collaborators, Hsiao Chiin-ling (蕭君玲) and Hu Min-shan (胡民山) — who worked on last year’s production — and another is by Wang Lei-chien (王蕾茜).
Hsiao’s piece is titled Fragrant Praise (香讚), Hu contributed Avalokitesvara (觀自在) and Wang’s piece is called Floating Jade (浮玉).
Taipei Folk Dance Theatre spent much of September performing in the US, including a stop in San Antonio, Texas, to take part in that city’s Year of Taiwan celebrations, as well as East Coast shows in New York City and New Jersey.
The troupe will be hitting the road again after this weekend, this time just in Taiwan, taking The Divine Chant for the Centenary to Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung later this month.