The Taiwan International Festival of Arts (台灣國際藝術節, TIFA) begins its fifth season in mid-February. As arts festivals go, it is relatively young, but it has had strong backing from the National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center (國立中正文化中心) and in a relatively short time has established itself as much more than a showcase of top international acts. It has also become a source of support for local companies in pushing their creative boundaries. This year, the festival will present 17 productions, over 49 performances, including a number of specially commissioned works.
“TIFA has become a significant platform for Taiwan’s performing arts to be showcased internationally,” said Huang Pi-twan (黃碧端), artistic director of the cultural center. Huang cited the European tour of YogeeTi (有機體), the annual production in the choreography of TIFA 2012, which enjoyed a high level of success.
This year, the flagship performance of the festival is Fall for Eileen Chang (落葉。傾城。張愛玲), which has been commissioned by the cultural center and will have its international premiere during the festival. For this production, two internationally renowned composers, Christian Jost and Chung Yiu-kwong (鍾耀光), were invited to collaborate with the well-known Taiwanese theatre director, Li Huan-hsiung (黎煥雄) to produce a music-theater work inspired by Eileen Chang’s poetry Love of the Fluttering Autumn Leaf (落葉的愛), and short stories The Heart Sutra (心經) and Love in a Fallen City (傾城之戀). It is a production that reeks of the east-meets-west fusion art that the cultural center is much in love with, bringing together two traditions of music, new media and classical Chinese art.
The center has sponsored a number of notorious turkeys in its efforts to find the perfect international cultural product, and it can only be hoped that Fall for Eileen Chang will meet the same kind of success as YogeeTi.
Another new production is Japanese choreographer Hiroaki Umeda’s Temporal Pattern, a work co-commissioned by the NTCH and Esplanade-Theaters on the Bay in Singapore.
A press release for the festival defines its aims as “continuing to cross boundaries, both national and artistic, reflecting on what we have achieved and seeking new cultural elements to create a multifaceted contemporary artistic scene.”
A number of other collaborations that will feature in the festival include the joining together of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) and the Rustavi Ensemble of Georgia in a reworking of Cloud Gate’s Songs of the Wanderers (流浪者之歌). Two showcases of traditional performance art also deserve a mention: Flowing Sleeves and Rouge (水袖與胭脂) by the Guo Guang Opera Company (國光劇團), which takes a look at opera from an actor’s perspective, and Moon in Your Eyes: Concert of Nanguan (望明月南管音樂會), a production by the Gang-a-tsui Theater (江之翠劇場), which describes itself as “breathing contemporary spirit into traditional art.”
Certainly for audiences, the festival provides a banquet of outstanding works. The festival runs from Feb 15 to March 3. Tickets have sold out for some shows, and limited tickets remain for others. Extensive information about all the shows is available in Chinese and English at the festival Web site: tifa.ntch.edu.tw.