This year proved to be a great one for ballet fans, and not such a ho-hum one for fans of local companies and choreographers either. Topping the list was the first ever visit by Britain’s famed Royal Ballet, which brought its enchanting version of Giselle and a mixed bill of some of its newer pieces, which are already well on their way to becoming classics. The two programs ensured that whatever night you went, you would see several of the troupe’s principal dancers and the well-trained corps, but as wonderful as Giselle was, for me the outstanding work was Christopher Wheeldon’s DVG.
However, the Royal was just the cherry on the sundae as far as ballet went, with the first quarter of the year seeing performances by the State Ballet of Georgia (and its version of Giselle), the St Petersburg Ballet, the Universal Ballet of South Korea and the International Ballet Star Gala, whose guest stars had the audience swooning and cheering in turn.
There weren’t any pointe shoes, but there were plenty of castanets when the Ballet Nacional de Espana (Spanish National Ballet) performed La Leyenda and Dualia at the National Theater at the end of September. Both were a good introduction to the clean lines of classical flamenco, but the passion didn’t show up until Elena Algado and Christina Gomez took to the stage for La Leyenda, a tribute to legendary flamenco artist Carmen Amaya, and the power of the two leading ladies more than made up for the sometimes kitschy choreography. Taipei audiences couldn’t get enough of the troupe.
On the local scene, while Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) showed he still has some surprises up his sleeve for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) with How Can I Live On Without You (如果沒有你), the best production of the year was the New Idea Series put together by the National Theater Concert Hall for the Experimental Theater.
The series began with Lin Wen-chung’s (林文中) WCdance (林文中舞團) and the delicate, yet often funny Small Nanguan (小南管), followed by Lai Tsui-shuang’s (賴翠霜) Drawer (抽屜) and capped by Cheng Tsung-lung’s (鄭宗龍) marvelous On the Road (在路上). The three choreographers were challenged to push their boundaries, and all three more than delivered with pieces that really expanded their range.
Other notable highlights included two programs at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), Horse’s (驫舞劇場) Successor (繼承者) and To Create — The Next Landscape (下一個編舞計畫 I) produced by Chou Shu-yi (周書毅), which featured several up-and-coming young female choreographers. Both programs took dance and audience-unfriendly spaces and made them work.
Horse really went out on a limb with a show that ran over three weekends, each featuring a different production. The risk paid off artistically and in terms of audience satisfaction. In addition to the members of Horse, Yannick Dauby and his friends, Chrisophe Havard and Hughes Germain as Volume Collectiv created wonderful soundscapes for the show, while Tsai Wan-shuen’s (蔡宛璇) sculptures and sets ranged from the very simple to the amazingly complicated.
And finally it was a good year to see several of Bulareyaung Pagarlava’s (布拉瑞揚) works. One of the problems with Taiwan’s dance scene is that financial demands make it almost impossible for small troupes to maintain a repertoire and revive older works. It is even harder if you are a freelance choreographer, as Bula is now, to keep your works in circulation, and he is too good a choreographer to have his productions languish on rehearsal DVDs and as memories. Thanks to Cloud Gate 2, which revived his Passage (出遊), from 2000, in March and the Taipei National University of the Arts (國立臺北藝術大學), which staged his tremendously entertaining Uncertain/Waiting as part of the ArtsCross — DansCross show in August and an excerpt of the much darker and more powerful Forseen (預見) from 2005 as part of its recent winter dance concert, new audiences had the chance to see his work.