Forging connections through dance

For her third Dance Round Table, Chang Ting-ting tapped friends she made at American Dance Festivals, commissioned two new works and asked a young Taiwanese choreographer to stage the piece that won him a couple of awards overseas last year

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jan 11, 2018 - Page 13

January is traditionally a slow time for dance, and not just because of the frigid temperatures. However, tonight sees the start of a two-part program that should be able to lure dance fans away from their space heaters.

The 2018 Dance Round Table (圓桌舞蹈計畫) at the National Experimental Theater is the third such production organized by Chang Ting-ting (張婷婷) under the auspices of her T.T.C. Dance (張婷婷獨立製作) company, and it features two separate shows that mix new and award-winning works from Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, the US, Russia and Spain.

This year’s production has grown in size and scope since Chang’s first in 2013. That show, the Dance Round Table/New Asian Inspiration (圓桌舞蹈計畫/亞裔新思維) was, as its title indicated, focused on young choreographers from Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia.

For the second in 2016, she included European and US artists such as Laura Aris from Spain and two members of the New York City-based Shen Wei Dance Arts company.

For this year’s production, Chang drew on personal and professional connections, many made during her years taking part in American Dance Festival (ADF) events.

She said that she started to collaborate with Daniel Yeung (楊春江), director of the Hong Kong Dance Exchange program, about a-year-and-a-half ago, with the idea of sharing some of the works between his program and hers.

“The idea is not to perform dances in just one place, but to perform them in different places, including specially commissioned works,” Chang said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

In addition to Chang, Yeung was working with curators in South Korea and Japan, so there were eight works by Hong Kong artists and five from the three nations in his show last weekend in Hong Kong.

One of the Taiwanese choreographers was Chen Yi-en (陳逸恩), who Chang commissioned to create a new work, No Turning Back (不回家), for her company to perform in Hong Kong and in Taipei.

Chen took part in the 2013 show when he was just a senior at National Taiwan University of Arts (國立台灣藝術大學). After graduating, he went on to dance with Cloud Gate 2 (雲門2). He finished his contract with the troupe last month and is getting ready to head off to France for a six-month residency.

Chang also decided to bring over A Major Clown in G-flat, a solo by Hong Kong-born Jennifer Mok (莫嫣).

“I picked Mok because she is more mature and danced with the City Contemporary Dance Company (城市當代舞蹈團) for about seven years,” Chang said. “I also wanted another female to balance the show.”

Both dances are part of “Program I Asian Wave,” which opens the round table tonight and then will be performed at Saturday’s matinee and Sunday evening.

Dehli-based Meghna Bhardwaj will open tonight’s show with Edges (beginnings), while Birdy by Lai Hung-chung (賴翃中) will close the program.

Chang said she met Bhardwaj at an ADF event in China a few years back, and again in South Korea where she was doing a residency.

“A very interesting and talented person. Unfortunately her musician could not come on this trip, so she will perform her solo to a recording,” Chang said.

Birdy, which will be performed by Cheng I-han (鄭伊涵) and Chien Lin-yi (簡麟懿), won Lai the first prize at the 16th Burgos & New York International Choreography Competition in Burgos, Spain, last year.

“Program II Western Poise,” which will be performed tomorrow and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon, features Brooklyn-based artist Jesse Zaritt; Pamela Pietro, an associate professor at New York University Tisch School for the Arts; dancers Jaoitz Osa and Garazi Etxaburu from Judith Argomani’s company LASALA in Spain; and Russians Anna Shchekleina and Aleksandr Frolov.

“The Russian couple are good friends of mine. We met five years ago at the American Dance Festival. Their piece, Essense, won a major award from a Russian contemporary dance festival. We talked a long time ago about them bringing it here,” Chang said.

Chang said she hoped Argomani would be able to visit Taipei, “but she could not make the trip this time, so her dancers are representing her,” and will perform IU, which premiered last year.

“I know Zaritt from ADF and from Shen Wei Arts Dance Company, where he used to dance. His background is very different from mainstream US choreographers, so I thought he would be interesting,” she said.

He will perform Send off, while Pietro will perform a new piece, all the things I thought I Knew but….

“Pamela I have known for 15 years, also from ADF, she’s a great teacher. We are also doing some workshops and she is a strong performer and teacher, with a lot to offer,” Chang said.