Shows to challenge students and society

TNUA students will perform a full-length version of Lin Hwai-min’s 2001 ‘Cursive,’ while in Tainan, Resident Island Dance Theatre is staging ‘Collapse’

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Dec 14, 2017 - Page 13

As the year draws to an end, the oft-frenetic pace of dance performances around Taipei and elsewhere in Taiwan has begun to slow to a trickle. This weekend there are two shows worth catching, one in Taipei, the other in Tainan — or if you are in Kaohsiung, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) is performing artistic director Lin Hwai-min’s (林懷民) latest work, Formosa (關於島嶼), at the Kaohsiung Cultural Center’s Chihteh Hall (高雄市文化中心至德堂) on Saturday and Sunday.

‘CURSIVE’

In Taipei the show to see is the annual end-of-the-year production (2017舞蹈學院歲末展演) at the Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA) in Guandu District (關渡), which is, coincidentally, featuring another work by Lin.

There have always been strong ties between TNUA’s Dance School, Lin and Cloud Gate. Not only did Lin found the department of dance when the university was formally established — as the National Institute of the Arts in 1983 — and served as its chairman for five years, 10 years later he founded the graduate dance program.

In addition, several early members of his troupe went on to became professors at the school, while several of its graduates have joined his company and/or choreographed for it or for Cloud Gate 2 (雲門 2), including Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍), who will succeed Lin as Cloud Gate’s artistic director in January 2020.

For the past few years, under the supervision of former Cloud Gate dancer Chiu I-wen (邱怡文) — who was joined last year by another veteran, Lin Chia-liang (林佳良) — the students have been learning and performing sections of a repertory version of Lin’s 2001 work, Cursive (行草), which was the first of what eventually became a trilogy inspired by traditional Chinese calligraphy.

The repertory, or exercise, version of Cursive means that the emphasis is on Lin Hwai-min’s choreography, without the stunning stage design and lighting created by Lin Keh-hua (林克華) for the company. However, that means audiences can focus solely on the students’ technique, control and articulation, and the students in previous shows have shown themselves up to the challenge.

Traditionally, the year-end concerts have featured five or six works by faculty, alumni or the restaging of classics from the Western ballet or modern dance canon designed to both educate and challenge the students.

There will be five performances, beginning tonight, and a shuttle bus run has been arranged from the Guandu MRT station to the university that will leave from the bus stop outside the front of the station (Exit 1). The shuttle bus will depart 30 minutes before show time and a return run will also be available after the shows.

‘COLLAPSE’

In Tainan, the six-year-old Pintung-based Resident Island Dance Theatre (滯留島舞蹈劇場) will be performing founder-director Chang Chung-an’s (張忠安) newest work, Collapse (鏽塔) at the Tainan Municipal Cultural Center (臺南文化中心).

Chang, who has won a number of awards for his works for his troupe, is not all that interested in creating pretty, lyrical dances — although he can, as shown by short pieces that he has created for the Kaohsiung City Ballet’s (高雄城市芭蕾舞團) “Dance Shoe” productions.

The shows that he creates for his troupe are usually inspired by and center on key issues affecting today’s society and the pressures of modern life.

For example, 2015’s multi-media Lost in Grey, which the company performed at Taipei’s Huashan 1914 Creative Park in May, was an exploration of mental health disorders, a dynamic piece that was both driven and energized by its rock score.

Collapse tackles the questions created by Taiwan’s rapidly aging population, including the influx of migrant caregivers, mostly from Southeast Asia, to handle the ever-increasing numbers of elderly people; the growth of an M-shaped society and the resulting widening gap between rich and poor.

Chang tackles such issues from the perspective of both an insider and outsider, which is partially a reflection of his own life.

The Pingtung-born Chang headed to northern Taiwan as a teen to pursue his dreams of dancing and choreography. An illness took the sight in his right eye when he was 18, ended his hopes of being a professional dancer and led him to drop out of university and return to his hometown.

Far from the nation’s dance center in Taipei, Chang has still managed to experiment and flourish, winning support from audiences and the government, and earning invitations to international festivals.

Hopefully, Chang and his dancers will be able to bring the show to Taipei at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Performance notes:

WHAT: 2017 TNUA Dance School end of the year show: “Cursive”

WHEN: Tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 7:30pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30pm

WHERE: Taipei National University of the Arts Theater (國立臺北藝術大學展演藝術中心戲劇廳), 1 Xueyuan Rd, Taipei City (台北市學園路1號)

ADMISSION: NT$400

WHAT: Collapse

WHEN: Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm

WHERE: Original Theater at the Tainan Municipal Cultural Center (臺南文化中心原生劇場) 332, Chunghua Rd Sec 3, Tainan City (臺南市中華東路3段332號)

ADMISSION: NT$350, tickets are available online at www.artsticket.com.tw, at convenience store ticketing kiosks and at the door