Kaohsiung City Ballet (KCB, 高雄城市芭蕾舞團) is marking the 10th anniversary of its innovative Dance Shoe (點子鞋) program this year, the latest edition of which is at the Experimental Theater in Taipei this weekend.
Company founder Chang Hsiu-ru (張秀如) launched the program with the dual goals of providing a platform for the work of up-and-coming Taiwanese choreographers and offering her senior dancers opportunities to stretch their abilities by working with a variety of choreographers. While the focus has been primarily on classical ballet techniques, with Chang encouraging the choreographers to include point work, the shows have rarely been just about toe shoes and tutus.
Including this year’s production, 29 choreographers have produced a total of 54 works through the Dance Shoe programs. It has been interesting to see the evolution of some of the frequent contributors, as well the dancers, and catch a glimpse of new talent. There had been reports last year that Chang was going to drop the Dance Shoe format, but in the end she stuck with what is now a well-known brand.
This year’s production features six choreographers, with the two women among them probably the best known to local dance fans, though not for ballet.
Lee Ching-chun (李靜君) gained both national and international recognition as a leading dancer for many years with the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集), where she now serves as associate artistic director.
Lin Hsiang-hsiu (林向秀), who has contributed works to several Dance Shoe shows, is a modern dancer and disciple of the Jose Limon technique who ran her own company in Taiwan (Lin HH Dance Company, 林向秀舞團) before moving to the US in 2009, where she now works as a choreographer and dancer with sjDANCEco.
For the men, this is the fourth time Wang Kuo-chuan (王國權) and Tsai Po-chen (蔡博丞) have contributed works to Dance Shoe, while Wang Wei-ming (王維銘), a Cloud Gate dancer, has been choreographing in recent years, including working with Lin on The Other Side of Darkness (光的另一邊) for her company in 2008. Chang Chung-an (張忠安) is the fledging in the group.
The Taipei Times caught up with Lin when she was back in Taiwan early last month on a visit and asked about her piece in this weekend’s show, which is a short duet for two women titled Someone, set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita in D minor for solo violin and a piece by a contemporary Australian composer.
Lin said she has been focusing on duets over the past year, creating five of them, including Someone and another one for National Taiwan University of the Arts’ dance department.
She admitted that she didn’t have a lot of time to work directly with her dancers — both senior KCB members that she had known for years — just one week last summer and then four days on her present trip — but modern technology has helped.
“They have been rehearsing on their own, and then posting their work on Facebook for me to review,” she said.
“The artistic director [Chang] always wants us [the choreographers] to use toe shoes, but I still use my contemporary, modern dance background … I’m always telling them to put their center lower, lower. I used a lot of ballet techniques, but I want the audience to forget that they are wearing toe shoes,” she said.
Lin added that she hopes to keep making pieces for the KCB company, which she said is like her second home since Chang was her first dance teacher, to continue to have her work seen by Taiwanese audiences.
The other five works on the program are a mix of duets and group pieces, and mostly modern ballet.