Year in Review: Dance

It was a year of memorable performances created by veteran choreographers and talented dancers, stunning visuals and theatrical extravaganzas, and even some shows that failed to meet expectations proved worth watching

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Dec 28, 2017 - Page 14

Taipei dance and drama lovers were treated to a host of intriguing, thought-provoking and fun productions this year, thanks to the programming teams at the National Theater Concert Hall (NTCH) and the Cloud Gate Theater, the directors and creative teams of Taiwanese companies big and small and some of Taiwan’s finest dancers.

There were a few shows capable of making even critics feel like dancing all the way home and some that were more of a miss than a hit, yet were still worth seeing.

The year got off on the right foot right in March with a new incarnation of Su Wei-chia’s (蘇威嘉) Free Steps (自由步—身體的眾生相) series — a collection of six contrasting solos by fellow Horse (驫舞劇場) troupe cofounders Chen Wu-kang (陳武康) and Chou Shu-yi (周書毅) — as well as Lin Lee-chen’s (林麗珍) The Eternal Tides (潮) for her Legend Lin Dance Theatre (無垢舞蹈劇場), both part of NTCH’s Taiwan International Festival of Arts.

The festival continued to offer great shows in April with the Schaubuhne production of August Strindberg’s 1888 Miss Julie by director Katie Mitchell, and famed Spanish flamenco artist Rocia Molina’s Bosque Ardora.

In May it was U-Theatre’s (優人神鼓) turn to delight its fans with founder and director Liu Ruo-yu’s (劉若瑀) Dao (墨具五色), which owed a large part of its impact to multimedia artist Ethan Wang’s (王奕盛) projections of Ko Shu-ling’s (柯淑玲) paintings.

June brought another great collaboration: Dance Forum Taipei’s (舞蹈空間) fourth joint venture with Spanish choreographer Marina Mascarell: Three Times Rebel, as well as a chance to see some Taiwanese expatriates who have been making names for themselves in Europe and the US with the Meimage Dance Company’s New Choreographer Project show. Tu Lee-yuan’s duet with fellow GoteborgsOperans Danskompani colleague Jan Spotak, It Takes Two to Tango was the standout in that show.

Liu Kuan-hsiang (劉冠詳) continued to amaze audiences with his unique autobiographical performances as shown by Karma (棄者) at the Cloud Gate Theater in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) in July.

A touring production of the Broadway classic Chicago The Musical was at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall for only a few days in August, but the veteran cast of dancers and musicians had audiences snapping their fingers and humming along to All That Jazz as they left the theater.

September was packed with notable shows. Expatriate Sheu Fang-yi (許芳宜) came home with her production, Salute, which featured works by herself and British choreographer Russell Maliphant. Though the show was uneven, it provided a vivid reminder of the amazing artistry and talent of a dancer who made a name as one of the great interpreters of Martha Graham.

Sheu was followed by another great artist in their mid-40s, Spain’s Israel Galvan, whose La Edad de Oro (The Golden Age) at the Cloud Gate Theater proved to be a master class in flamenco.

The Yi Production Dance Company (易製作), founded by Wu Yi-san (吳易珊), another Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) dancer-turned-Taipei National University of the Arts (國立臺北藝術大學) assistant professor, her husband and TNUA colleague Goh Boon-ann (吳文安) and producer Sun Mei-hue (孫美惠), made its debut with Deviate (易色) and left audiences eager to see more of their work.

The Contemporary Legend Theatre (當代傳奇劇場) retelling of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, like the title character himself, had a lot of flaws, but was well worth watching. Cloud Gate 2 (雲門 2) artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍) proved he is not afraid of big challenges with Dream Catcher (捕夢), his stunning exploration of the world of dreams. Cheng will face even bigger challenges in the next few years, but Dream Catcher served notice that he fully deserves the faith the Cloud Gate family has placed in him.

The NTCH’s “Dancing in Autumn” series was notable this year for two shows that had very little, if any dance in them: Shiro Takatani’s ST/LL (靜/止) in October and Dimitris Papaioannou’s The Great Tamer the following month. Both men are artists, not choreographers, and their works proved to be visual tours de force.

November brought a new work by Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) for Cloud Gate, Formosa (關於島嶼), and the realization that it might be his last for the company that he founded in 1973. The company announced shortly before the premiere that Lin is to step down as artistic director at the end of 2019, to be succeeded by Cheng.

Formosa proved to be a fitting coda both for the dance year and perhaps for the man who more than anyone else has shaped Taiwan’s dance world for more than four decades; it offered great dancing, beautiful images and a sense of hope.