Fri, Dec 05, 2014 - Page 12 News List

A dance through Hakka

Neo-Classic Dance Company founder Liu Feng-shueh retained her usual role as executive producer for the company’s latest production, but she handed over the choreographic duties to one of her former dancers, the dynamic Lu Yi-chuan, giving him a chance to explore his own Hakka background

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

The Neo-Classic Dance Company will perform The Drifting Fate of Hakka for three shows at the National Theater in Taipei, starting tonight.

Courtesy of Neo-Classic Dance Company

The Neo-Classic Dance Company (新古典舞團) opens its new production, The Drifting Fate of Hakka (客風‧漂鳥之歌), an exploration and celebration of Hakka culture, at the National Theater in Taipei tonight for a three-show run.

The show is something of a turning point for the 38-year-old company because it was choreographed by Lu Yi-chuan (盧怡全), one of its former dancers, not the troupe’s founder and artistic director, Liu Feng-shueh (劉鳳學), the doyenne of Taiwan’s dance world.

Liu gained fame as a dance teacher, a dance scholar and something of an anthropologist. She worked for decades in National Taiwan Normal University’s physical education department and then as director of National Taiwan Arts College’s dance department — among other jobs. Her meticulous research in Japan and South Korea that helped her reconstruct the intricacies of Tang, Sung and Ming dynasty dance and music based on documents she found, as well as create new works using those styles.

Her research into those old dances was part of her path toward creating “modern Chinese dance,” a form that was not heavily influenced by contemporary Western choreographers.

She also spent many years conducting research in Taiwan’s Aboriginal communities and her abiding interest in the impact of ethnic and cultural roots has influenced several of her dance productions, including 1994’s Subtlety in Ethnic Poundings (沉默的杵音) and 2009’s Land of the Clouded Leopard (雲豹之鄉), which drew on the dances and music of Amis Aborigines.

One group in Taiwan that she had not explored artistically was the Hakkas.

“Hakka dance should not be confined to the Hakka traditional framework, but belongs to the world,” Liu said at a news conference earlier this year to promote the production.

Performance notes:

What: The Drifting Fate of Hakka

When: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm

Where: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

Admission: NT$700 to NT$1,800. Available at NTCH box offices, online at and at 7-Eleven ibon kiosks and other convenience chain store ticketing kiosks. Only seats left for Sunday’s show are NT$1,800

While Liu has continued to teach and choreograph in the decades since she officially “retired,” at 90 she felt it was time to pass the torch to a younger choreographer while she acted as executive producer for the show and wrote the storyline.

Lu, who is himself Hakka, danced with the troupe for 11 years. In 2004, Liu encouraged him to begin choreographing. He said he drew upon both traditional and modern Hakka culture for The Drifting Fate of Hakka. Lu was known for his dynamic performances and his choreography for this production fully reflects that style.

Together Liu and Lu have created a big, multifaceted production, which is divided into four acts to introduce traditional rituals, the history of the Hakka migrations and the conflicts they often faced with their neighbors and the adaptation to a modern, settled culture. The acts are titled: “Offering to the Heavens: An Eternal Dialogue Between the Heaven and Earth;” “The Way Out: A Historical Path;” “The Hakka Style: A Thousand-Year-Old Voice in Modern Tones;” and “Drifting Fate: The Drifting Bird Settles Down.”

Well-known Taiwanese composer and academic Wen-pin Hope Lee (李和莆) was drafted to compose the score for acts I, II and IV, while Hakka folksinger/rocker/songwriter Hsieh Yu-wei (謝宇威) was asked to contribute songs for Act III. Both men have won Golden Melody Awards for their works and have worked with a variety of other artists in their career. However, Hsieh said working with dancers was a new experience for him. He will be performing in Act III, alongside singer Huang Pei-shu (黃珮舒).

Lu’s action-packed work requires a lot of performers, so in addition to the company’s 16 dancers, nine students from National Taiwan College of Performing Arts’ (國立臺灣戲曲學院民俗技藝學系) Department of Acrobatics and Dance were recruited, as well as drummers and other members of the Team-Win Lion Dance Theater (廷威醒獅劇團), which was founded by Chen Chin-yi (陳晉億) and his two elder brothers in 2000.

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