One of the greats of American choreography, Eliot Feld, arrived in Taipei yesterday to prepare for a show at the end of the month with the Taiwanese troupe Horse (驫舞劇場), featuring five of his works.
Feld is one of the major US choreographers from the second-half of the 20th century and is still going strong at 71. He has created close to 150 ballets since he first crafted Harbinger for the American Ballet Theater (ABT) in 1967.
Dance has been part of Feld’s life since he was a young child in New York City. He studied at the American School of Ballet and was just 11 when he performed with the NYCB in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. At age 16, he joined the cast of West Side Story. He went on to dance in other Broadway shows, on US television programs and with ABT as well as his own companies — the American Ballet Players (later the American Ballet Company) — founded in 1969 and the Eliot Feld Ballet, founded in 1974, which later became Ballet Tech. Given his early introduction to dance, it is no surprise that a major part of his work now is with the New York City Public School for Dance (now renamed Ballet Tech), which provides dance training and academics for students from elementary-school and junior high, and its performing group, Kids Dance.
Feld’s connection with Taiwan stems from his hiring Taiwanese dancer Chen Wu-kang (陳武康) for his former Ballet Tech troupe in 2001. He has created several dances specifically for Chen since then, and in recent years he has had Horse, the dance collective founded by Chen, Su Wei-chia (蘇威嘉) and four other men in 2004, perform as part of his annual Mandance Project at the Joyce Theater in New York.
What: 3 Men on a Horse
When: Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 at 7:30pm, Sept. 1 at 2:30pm
Where: Novel Hall (新舞臺), 3-1 Songshou Rd, Taipei City (台北市松壽路3-1號)
Admission: NT$700, NT$900 and NT$1,500; available at NTCH box offices and online at www.artsticket.com.tw and 7-Eleven ibon kisoks
Horse has previously performed Feld’s Steps, Proverb and Zeppo, so when I sat down with Chen on Aug. 10 to discuss the 3 Men on a Horse show at Novel Hall, I asked when the idea of presenting an all-Feld show in Taipei came up.
“We started talking about it right after Successor (繼承者, Horse’s 2011 show). It took about six months of talking before we decided to do it,” Chen said.
“When I went back to New York to rehearse after Successor, he [Feld] asked me: ‘Did you dance?’ When I said I hadn’t, but Wei-chia had, Eliot wanted to know why I didn’t dance for my country when I was so good. I said I couldn’t find a choreographer for me that I can trust,” Chen said, adding, “I trust him.”
Once they decided to do a show, they found it difficult to decide what to perform, he said.
“There is such a long history of his work — since 2001 he has created a lot of dances for me,” Chen said.
The works on the program are two solos for Chen — Undergo and Mending — and Zeppo 1, Zeppo 2 and Z as in Zeppo for Su. Feld has made some changes from the original productions.
“It [Undergo] was a solo with a group of dancers in the back, but he took out the group because he didn’t think it was interesting. Transit was a duet, but it is now a solo [called Mending]. It was too expensive to do a duet, too expensive to fly the props and I couldn’t find a girl,” Chen said.
Feld started working with Su after seeing him in Horse’s 2008 show, Bones, creating Zeppo, inspired by the fourth brother of the Three Stooges.
“Eliot says Wei-chia has the soul of a prince trapped in Quasimodo’s body, just like Quasimodo himself. It is rare to see a chubby man in the center of stage, focus of attention,” Chen said. “Before I didn’t think it was a big thing [for Wei-chia to solo], but now I do. The Wei-chia I knew before is gone, now it’s a new Wei-chia … these three dances fit him so well.”