Dance: Culture shock

‘Collecting Button’ brings together four choreographers who ponder what it means to return to home after spending considerable time living abroad

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 - Page 12

Expatriates often have difficulty adjusting when they return to their home countries, whether for a visit or a permanent stay, and artists are no different.

Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA) dance professor and choreographer Ho Hsiao-mei (何曉玫) says that Taiwanese dancers and choreographers going abroad to pursue their careers often leave home when they are young, so they do not always have a chance to absorb the changes Taiwan is undergoing. She thinks it is important for them to be able to stay in touch with the dance scene back home, so that both sides can see how the other is developing. That is why her Meimage Dance (玫舞擊) began hosting a new choreographers show three years ago.

The third Collecting Button show, with the theme of “Returning home to make new friends,” is taking place this weekend at the Eslite bookstore’s Xinyi Store before heading down to Greater Tainan for two shows next Saturday.

For this year’s show Ho and producer Lu Chien-ying (盧健英) invited three TNUA graduates — Tsai Kuan-ling (蔡冠伶), Kao Pei-ling (高沛齡) and Chang Lan-yun (張藍勻) — and Yuan Shang-jen (袁尚仁). They then matched up the choreographers with four Taiwan-based designers or companies, asking the choreographers to include an object that dancer(s) could interact with, such as paint, wooden furniture, glass balls and sea salts.

Taipei-born, California-based Kao has been a freelance dancer for 15 years, though she has been dancing with the San Francisco troupe Molissa Fenley and Dancers since 2010. Her piece, titled The Best Defense, She’s Found, was inspired by a novel by Karl Jensen as well as her own life experiences. She was paired up with glass artist Lynn Lin (林靖蓉).

Tsai worked with Ku and Dancers (古名伸舞團) and Taipei Crossover Dance Company (台北越界舞團) before moving to Switzerland, where she danced with the Theatre of St Gallen dance company and the Zurich Opera House company. She is now based in New York.

Her piece is titled Kio Restas (What Remains), for which she was paired up with The Escape Artist (藝甸園), the painting studio founded by jewelry designer Brendon Chen (陳建衡) and Lesley Hu (胡世恩).

Chang used to dance with Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company, after having previously worked with Taipei Crossover and Kaohsiung City Ballet (高雄城市芭蕾舞團), which featured some of her works in its Dance Show productions. She is now living in Gothenburg, Sweden, with her husband/dance partner. Their duet is titled Gray Tones (灰色調), for which she was paired up with a group promoting Taiwanese sea salts, and uses popular Taiwanese songs for its score.

Yuan, the only non-TNUA grad, studied ballet at Hong Kong’s Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA). He was one of three HKAPA students selected for a four-month program at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy last fall and has also worked with the National Ballet of Portugal. He is now based in Bremerhaven, Germany.

He is collaborating on his piece, Dialogue (對話), with Romanian choreographer Constantin Georgescu. It is about his experiences traveling, a kind of dialogue with his surroundings. Yuan was paired up with the Furnishings Gallery (四一玩作).

Lu said the aim of the Collecting Buttons project goes far beyond just providing an opportunity for the dancers to come back for a visit.

“Our project helps dancers to gradually reorient and reconnect to where and what they are from, emotionally and culturally. What they contribute today will be a base for when they move back home,” Lu said.