A debut and lots of improvisation

This weekend sees the premiere of a new modern group in Taipei and the joining of forces of foreign and Taiwanese dancers at the biennial i.dance fest

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Nov 29, 2013 - Page 12

Dance lovers are once again faced with a challenge this weekend with several shows to choose from and not enough time to see them all, including the premiere of a brand new troupe, a gathering of international and local artists and site-specific performances at a museum. And that is just in Taipei itself; there are more shows in nearby towns.

However, there are two events that should not be missed by modern-dance fans — the first performances by the Tussock Dance Theater (兩個身體) at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park and the i.dance festival at the Red House Theater in Ximending (西門町).

Tussock was established in March by dancer Wu Chien-wei (吳建緯), a wonderful dancer who created memorable performances in Zhang Xiao-xiong’s (張曉雄) The Floating Life (浮生) for the Taipei Crossover Dance Company (台北越界舞團) in 2008 and Mourad Merzouki’s Yo Gee Ti (有機體) at the National Theater last year and again this year.

Wu has teamed up with Xing Liang (邢亮), the Beijing born dancer/choreographer who has developed a strong reputation with his work for the City Contemporary Dance Company in Hong Kong in recent years.

Their production, Two Bodies /邢亮 X 吳建緯, was inspired by the writings of Lu Xun (魯迅), one of China’s greatest 20th century writers, and is billed as “a return to the essence of dance,” with less technology and more physicality.

Tussock is the latest small dance troupe to seek sponsorship from members of the public as well as selling tickets for the show. It is offering two price levels — NT$600 for general admission, or NT$2,500 for a “sponsor” ticket, which will give you preferred seating as well as a voucher for a post-premiere reception. At a time of limited corporate sponsorship for the arts, unless it is for a major company such as Cloud Gate Dance Theater (雲門舞集), and reduced government support, it is an innovative way of drumming up support and forging closer ties between artists and the community.

Over at the Red House Theater, choreographer and dance professor Ku Ming-shen (古名伸) has organized a series of performances as part of i.dance Taipei, which focuses on the technique of contact improvisation.

The second biennial i.dance Taipei has featured workshops, master classes and panel discussions this week, as well as the performances that began on Wednesday night, with invited artists coming from Spain and Italy, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.

Tonight’s show features Kim Eun-jeong, Han Chang-ho, Damien Bernard and four Taiwanese dancers, while tomorrow night it will be Nancy Stark Smith and Mike Vargas from the US, Ku & Dancers (古名伸舞蹈團) and DJ Stephen Ying. Sunday’s show will be a closing gala, featuring all the guest artists who performed this week, including Wednesday and Thursday’s shows. Each night there will be a special surprise performer.

Asked how she chose the Taiwanese dancers invited to perform — aside from her own troupe — she said she “sort of smelled them out,” that they are the ones with most potential to improve in their performances.

However, Ku said she was amazed at the number of people flying in to take part in the week’s activities, who have come from places as far off as Finland and the US as well as from Singapore and Malaysia.

“It’s become really international. It’s wonderful, people traveling to participate,” she said.

“The nature of improve is about dialogue, communicating. It is a force to draw people together, a tool for understanding,” she said.

It is no surprise that given the limited seating on the second floor of the Red House Theater, shows for tomorrow and Sunday have already sold out.

For those who want more dance, check out Step In (2013足in‧複合體 ─ 遊走台北當代藝術館創作展演) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (MOCA Taipei) tonight, tomorrow and Sunday evening. The site-specific performances have been organized by the Scarecrow Contemporary Dance Company (稻草人舞團) and choreographed by the troupe’s artistic director Lo Wen-chin (羅文瑾) and others.