Mon, May 14, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Historic studio of dance legend opens as museum

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Eight years after the dance studio of Taiwanese dance legend Tsai Jui-yueh (蔡瑞月) was gutted by fire, the Japanese-style wooden building has been reconstructed as a museum and opened to the public.

Addressing an audience at the opening ceremony held on the front lawn of the building yesterday afternoon, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said it was appropriate to open the historic site on Mother's Day.

The facility was named the "Rose Historic Site" to signify Tsai's passion and love for dance.

"It shows our respect for the mother of Taiwan's modern dance and her love for her passion, which is like the love of a mother for her child," Chen said.

Chen said he had the honor of meeting Tsai in 1997 when she returned home from Australia for a visit. During their conversation, Chen, who was Taipei mayor at that time, said that he suddenly realized how scarce performing venues were in Taipei.

Tsai inspired him to take more interest in the art of dance and strengthen his resolve to promote Taiwanese art, he said.

The Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Club, formerly called the China Dance Club (中華舞蹈社), was Taiwan's oldest modern dance studio. It witnessed the personal plight of Tsai and her family during the political turmoil over the past decades.

Tsai began her dancing and teaching career in Taiwan in 1946 at the age of 25.

In 1947, Tsai married poet Lei Shih-yu (雷石榆) and gave birth to their only child a year later. In mid-1949, during the White Terror period, Lei was arrested for political reasons and was subsequently expelled from Taiwan.

Tsai and her baby boy were forbidden to leave Taiwan with him, and that winter Tsai herself was imprisoned.

She established her dance studio in 1953 when she got out of jail. By the 1960s, the dance club had become an important venue for international dance exchanges.

Tsai emigrated to Australia with her son in 1983 because of what she called the stifling political atmosphere in Taiwan, and because her son was recruited as a professional dancer by the Australian Dance Theatre.

The city had originally planned to demolish the dance studio in 1994, but a conservation campaign launched by local artists led to its designation as a municipal historic site in 1999.

Located on Zhongshan North Road, Sec. 2, the Japanese wooden building burned down four days after it was designated a historic site, giving rise to suspicions of foul play.

After the fire, then Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) pledged that an investigation into the blaze would be completed within a month. No arrests were made. An NT$18 million (US$562,500) reconstruction project was launched and was completed in November 2003.

Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Foundation (蔡瑞月文化基金會) was awarded the operational contract for the site.

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