Dressed up as the Taoist folk deity, the Third Prince (三太子哪吒), while dancing to music by Lady Gaga, a Taiwanese adventurer is setting his mind to achieving his dream: raising the nation’s international presence by taking his novel dance performances on a worldwide tour.
Wu Chien-heng (吳建衡), a backpacker since the age of 19 who used to intern at a Disneyland in the US, is determined to make an effort to resolve Taiwan’s international predicaments after having personally experienced the bitterness of Taiwan’s suppression in the international arena and the consequently limited knowledge many people overseas have of the country.
During his internship at the Disneyland, Wu, currently a senior at National Taipei University, said he encountered many common misconceptions about Taiwan held by the international community. Some of his local colleagues even mistook “Taiwan” for “Thailand.”
Another frustrating incident occurred when he represented Taiwan in the World Cyber Games in Singapore in 2005.
“I was holding a Republic of China (ROC) flag on stage, when the host organization forced me to replace the flag with a white one it had prepared before I could join the games,” he said.
Incited by these incidents, Wu said he reached an epiphany while watching a TV program in which comedienne and singer Lotus Wang (王彩樺) was promoting one of her new hit songs in a performance that featured the Third Prince and a celebrated middle-aged dancer.
“Their performance inspired me to dress as the Third Prince and dance in various countries, while filming and uploading the entire project to the Internet,” Wu said, hoping his recorded performances would circulate widely and spread to every corner of the world.
Wu hit on his plan only five days before a backpacking trip to India, which put him under time constraints to gather all the equipment necessary for his performance, including music, a stereo set and, most importantly of all, a costume of the Third Prince.
However, Wu’s lack of dance experience and scant knowledge of Taiwanese temple parades and the Third Prince also complicated his plans, and caused his friends and family to cast doubt on him.
Determined to carry out his project, Wu flew to India where he made his “world debut.”
“I learned my dance steps to a song by Lady Gaga from her music video while I was on the plane to India,” Wu said, adding that his first performance had earned him more positive feedback than he had expected.
Up until now, Wu has danced in the deity outfit in a number of countries aside from India, including Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Thailand, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
Wu described himself as a lucky man, saying he had made it through a few delicate situations during his travels.
“In India, I was detained in a police station for eight hours as a result of filming in front of the nation’s presidential office. I was also blackmailed by police while in Egypt and by a gang leader while in a slum in Kenya. Luckily, all of the incidents were resolved safely,” he said.
While these overseas journeys may have put Wu in some stressful situations, his dance performances have often earned him some hugely positive responses as well.
“Prior to my performance in Egypt, I thought Muslim countries might not welcome a religious figure as the Third Prince. However, my performance there sparked a frenzy among the locals, with a Muslim mother even taking a group picture with her children with me,” Wu said.