This was a remarkable year for Taipei dance fans, with an abundance of productions by local companies and a large number of visits by foreign troupes. Audiences were often spoiled for choice, with some weekends, especially in the fall, seeing as many as four or five productions on offer. With such profusion, it was impossible to see all the shows.
Topping the list of outstanding productions was Fang-Yi Sheu & Artists’ “Timeless” show in October, which brought three New York City Ballet dancers — Wendy Whelan, Craig Hall and Tyler Angle — and Briton Akram Khan to Taipei to dance with Taiwanese modern dancer Sheu Fang-yi (許芳宜). Sheu and the three dancers from New York performed Christopher Wheeldon’s Five Movements, Three Repeats, while Sheu joined Khan in his Gnosis. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all three works together, since Sheu said she had turned down requests from promoters in New York and London because of the difficulty in getting all five of the principals together.
Other modern dance works of note were two shows in March that were part of the 2012 Taiwan International Festival of Arts at the National Theater. UK-based Hofesh Shechter brought his hard-driving Political Mother, while French hip-hop choreographer Mourad Merzouki and members of his Kafig Company teamed up with Taiwanese fashion designer Johan Ku (古又文) for a piece created especially for the festival, YogeeTi. Merzouki’s fusion of hip-hop and modern dance was fascinating to watch, while Ku’s giant knotted creations made for a memorable set. The National Theater Concert Hall team deserves a round of applause for bringing the two men together.
In September, the resurrection of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s (雲門舞集) Nine Songs (九歌) at the National Theater was a much welcomed return of an old friend, albeit one clad in totally new costumes and sets since the original creations had been burned or damaged beyond repair by the February 2008 fire that consumed the troupe’s rehearsal space and storage facility in Pali.
Cloud Gate’s founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) challenged audiences with his choices for this year’s Novel Hall dance series, and many were too timid to give his picks a chance, which was their loss. Lemi Ponifasio’s New Zealand-based dance theater company MAU were the best of the lot with the amazing Birds with Skymirrors.
Ballet fans also had several shows to rave about. The American Ballet Theater returned in July after a 12-year absence, bringing with it both a mixed bill show and a production of La Bayadere. It was great to have a chance to see a second work by Wheeldon, Thirteen Diversions, and a full-length romantic ballet that was not Swan Lake.
Producers Wang Tzer-shing (王澤馨) and Chat Tzongue (謝宗益) took a huge risk in bringing ABT to Taipei, and while the ticket sales were perhaps not what they had hoped to achieve, they still earned balletomanes’ thanks.
The couple produced another outstanding International Ballet Star Gala earlier in the year, their sixth, with standout performances by siblings Polina Semionova and Dmitry Semionov in Come Neve al Sole, Alicia Amatriain and Jason Reilly in Itzik Galili’s duet Mona Lisa and Isabelle Ciaravola and Yann Saiz in Roland Petit’s Le Rendez Vous.
The Fondazione Nazionale della Danza Aterballetto from Italy closed out the National Theater’s Dancing into Autumn series (2012舞蹈秋天) by performing Les Noces and Rossini Cards, both choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, in November. It was the first time the troupe had performed in Taipei, but hopefully it will not be the last.