Fri, Oct 31, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Dance on the move

Two dance performances this weekend converge art and politics

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

The Mark Morris Dance Group returns to Taiwan today for a seven-day visit as part of the DanceMotion USA program organized by the US Department of State.

Photo Courtesy of Brian Snyder

Art and politics are converging in Taipei this weekend, both directly and indirectly. The Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Research Institute (蔡瑞月舞蹈社) opens the politics-centered 9th annual Tsai Jui-Yueh Dance Festival tonight at the rebuilt Japanese-style studio off Zhongshan N Road. The venue was Taiwanese dance legend Tsai Jui-yueh’s (蔡瑞月) base for decades. Meanwhile the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is hosting a visit by the Mark Morris Dance Group as part of the US Department of State’s DanceMotion USA program.

It may seem a little strange that the 34-year-old Morris troupe is back in Taipei so soon after making its Taiwan debut in June at the National Theater, but the company’s seven-day visit is part of an Asian journey that began in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia on Oct. 13, making a stop at Timore-Leste last week and will wrap up in Beijing on Nov. 16.

Morris’ dancers will be making two public appearances during their stay — tomorrow in Taipei and on Wednesday in Yilan — for what are billed as “Let’s Move” events. The public is invited to dance, exercise and move to music in Liberty Square under the guidance of the dancers. The first 500 participants tomorrow will get a free DanceMotion USA bracelet (the first 200 in Yilan).

Since DanceMotion USA is primarily a cross-cultural exchange program that takes well-known US groups and gives them a chance to interact with their counterparts and foreign communities and others through workshops, masterclasses and collaborative events, the company will spend the next few days visiting the National Taiwan University of Arts, the Yilan National Center for Traditional Arts, the Lanyang Museum and the New Taipei Municipal Elementary and Junior-High School in Wulai for workshops with young dancers and Aboriginal students.

One of the partner groups involved in the tour is the National Taiwan University Hospital Parkinson’s Center, which is apropos since the Morris company’s Dance for PD program, offered in eight countries, provides teacher training and free classes for people with Parkinson’s disease.

More information about the Let’s Move events and the troupe’s tour can be found on AIT’s Facebook page (facebook.com/AIT.Social.Media).

Meanwhile, the Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Research Institute will be providing lessons of its own this weekend — lessons in Taiwan’s democratic history since 1994, when the Save the Rose Historic Site movement was launched to rescue the crumbling wooden dance studio.

The Tainan-born Tsai, who died in 2005 at the age of 84, trained in Taiwan and Japan. Her marriage to poet and National Taiwan University literature professor Lei Shih-yu (雷石榆) in 1947, brought her into the murky world of post-Chinese Civil War politics in Taiwan and she spent three years on Green Island as a political prisoner. After her release, she was barred from traveling abroad for decades before moving to Australia in 1983, where her son was working as a dancer.

This year’s Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Festival is subtitled “Democracy in Taiwan” and will combine dance and vocal performances with short talks and discussion groups under the themes of Save Your Culture Yourself (自己的文化自己救) and Save Your Nation Yourself (自己的國家自己救).

The dance portion of the program will reflect the four nations that were central to Tsai’s personal and creative life: Taiwan, Japan, the US and Australia.

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