The 11th Taiwan International Festival of Arts (TIFA) opens in Taipei this weekend, and for the first time the festival will truly live up to its name, with programs offered in the north, center and south of Taiwan at the three venues that make up the National Performing Arts Center.
While there is some overlap, with a handful of programs being performed in all three cities or in two of them, the venues have thankfully staggered their scheduling to provide a wide range of opportunities to see/hear an incredible line-up of artists and productions.
The National Theater Concert Hall’s (NTCH) portion of the festival, which opens this weekend and runs through April 21, is bookended by programs by two of Taiwan’s hottest emerging choreographers — Huang Yi (黃翊) and Cloud Gate 2 (雲門 2) artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍).
Photo courtesy of Li Jian-lu
Both shows will also be performed at the National Taichung Theater (NTT) and the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying).
After several productions early in his career upstairs in the National Experimental Theater, Huang Yi has finally made to the National Theater with A Million Miles Away (長路), which will have its world premiere on Saturday evening.
The show merits the big stage, not only because it was jointly commissioned by the NTCH, the NTT and Weiwuying, but also because Huang Yi needed a lot of room for the 9m-diameter revolving platform on which he has centered seven dancer/performers, including himself.
Photo courtesy of Julian Batman
With A Million Miles Away, a story about life and unexpected encounters, Huang Yi continues his exploration of the intersection of humans, technology and dance.
Cheng’s latest work, 22° Lunar Halo (毛月亮), is an exploration of human anxieties, desires and the search for love in a lunatic, every-changing world.
The piece, which could be Cheng’s final piece for Cloud Gate 2, since he will succeed Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) in January next year as head of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集), will be at the National Theater for three shows starting on April 19.
Photo courtesy of Sangpuy
However, the world premiere of 22° Lunar Halo will be on April 13 at Weiwuying, and Cloud Gate 2 will be at the NTT for two performances on April 27 and 28.
When the NTCH began programming for the first TIFA more than a dozen years ago, the idea was to introduce local audiences to the latest in performing arts from around the world and provide an international showcase for Taiwanese artists and companies.
With this year’s festival, it wanted to redefine the concept by using TIFA as a vehicle to encourage the public to explore their own creativity and inspiration, NTCH artistic director Liu Yi-ruu (劉怡汝) said.
Photo courtesy of Huang Yi Studio
This has meant moving outside the confines of the theaters and music hall, whether for the four shows of choreographer Su Wei-chia’s (蘇威嘉) FreeSteps — NiNi, which will be performed at four different outdoor locations, or erecting a giant pneumatic structure in Liberty Plaza for UK-based Architects of Air’s Katena (April 2 to April 14) or creating an installation exhibition on the ground floor of Taipei 101 that runs though March 24.
Whether inside or out, the 19 programs in Taipei offer a wide variety of contemporary dance, theater, opera and music options.
To name but a few: the National Symphony Orchestra (國家交響樂團) is reprising its legendary 2002 collaboration with Lin in a concert version of the Puccini opera Tosca, the Munchner Kammerspiele is bringing Christopher Ruping’s revival of Bertold Brecht’s Drums in the Night, Puyuma singer Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw will headline three concerts by Aboriginal musicians and singers and Pai Hsien-yung (白先勇) is staging excerpts of three kun opera (kunqu, 崑曲) classics.
Taichung’s TIFA, with a focus on youth, features a selection of 10 programs starting with the Ballett am Rhein Dusseldorf Duisburg performing Martin Schlapfer’s ballet 7 on March 9 and 10 and finishing with a return of the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT 1) with a selection of four short dances on June 15 and 16.
The line-up also includes puppet theater, a fusion opera production and a hip-hop production from the UK, >>>>Boy Blue Blak Whyte Gray>>>.Weiwuying’s festival will also begin with Ballett am Rhein Dusseldorf Duisburg, only on March 2 and 3, and include the NTD 1 and FreeSteps — NiNi programs, but given that its artistic director Chien Wen-pin (簡文彬) is also a well-known conductor, it has set itself apart from the NTCH and NTT with a TIFA Contemporary Music Platform featuring three programs: Ensemble KNM Berlin’s Stereoscope music-theater production, The Modern-Day Flavours Of Namyin and Naamyam (南音味自慢-現代古韻) and Lin Liao (廖曉玲) and the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble’s (香港創樂團) The sound of Bloom’s Epoch (崢嶸之樂).
A complete rundown of the TIFA programs and related exhibitions and installations at all three theaters can be found online, with easy to navigate pages in Chinese and English that include information about the artists, their shows, ticket links and related exhibitions.
The English-language sites are: for the NTCH in Taipei (tifa.npac-ntch.org/2019/en/#programme), the National Taichung Theater (www.npac-ntt.org/tifa/2019-NTT-TIFA.pdf) and Weiwuying (www.npac-weiwuying.org/programs?lang=en).
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