Sat, Aug 19, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Taipei Universiade: Dancers welcome world to the Games

COMING HOME:Performers in tonight’s opening ceremony will include Martha Graham Dance Company principal Chien Pei-ju and Billy Chang, a former soloist with Cirque du Soleil

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Martha Graham Dance Company principal dancer Chien Pei-ju stretches in a studio at Taipei National University of the Arts in Guandu District in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Zhang Xiao-xiong

The eyes of the nation will be on the Taipei Municipal Stadium tonight as the opening ceremony of the 2017 Taipei Summer Universiade gets under way at 6pm, including friends and family of the hundreds of Taiwanese dancers, university students and high-school students who will be performing.

Given one of the themes of the local and international advertising that Taipei has been running for the Games is “Taipei in Motion,” it should come as no surprise that dancers were given a key role in the welcoming event. If there is one thing that dancers know even more about than athletes, it is motion.

Wang Yun-yu (王雲幼), dean of Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA) School of Dance, was asked to be the chief production director for the Games.

Asked how long it took to pull the show together, Wang laughed and said the process began in January last year, when the storyline was finalized and she could start to invite choreographers, schools and dancers.

Three directors were chosen for the three cultural program segments of the ceremony: Anarchy Dance Theatre founder Jeff Hsieh (謝杰樺), theater director Liao Ruo-han (廖若涵) and visual artist Lin Kun-ying (林昆穎).

Wang said she wanted young, mid-career professionals as choreographers and designers because she wanted to promote youth, and she also wanted to highlight the nation’s wealth of professional dancers, as well as its dance students.

About 100 modern dancers and more than 900 dance students are taking part in the ceremony, Wang said.

National Taiwan University of Sport, the National Taiwan College of Performing Arts, TNUA, Hwa Kang Arts School, the Aboriginal divisions and dance divisions at five municipal senior-high schools and four junior-high schools in New Taipei City and Taipei are contributing performers.

Many of the choreographers have their own companies, which meant they had to set aside their own work to help — such as Horse cofounder Su Wei-chia (蘇威嘉); Formosa Aboriginal Song and Dance Troupe director Fangas Nayaw; and Benson Tsai (蔡博丞) of B.DANCE.

Others are freelancers, such as Tung I-fen (董怡芬) and Shen Yi-wen.

Wang also wanted to get Taiwanese expatriates involved, so she recruited Martha Graham Dance Company principal dancer Chien Pei-ju (簡珮如) and Billy Chang Yi-chun (張逸軍), a former soloist with Cirque du Soleil, to perform, and Lin Li-chuan (林立川), who danced with the Atlanta Ballet and other companies, to choreograph.

Some of the choreographers started going to the schools in February to work with the students, but the real training began in April, Wang said.

In the past two weeks everything moved into high gear, with rehearsals at TNUA, the small stadium next to the Taipei Municipal Stadium and at buildings at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport).

The entire cast and production had their first full dress rehearsal on Tuesday night and a second one on Thursday night.

The performers feel they are “performing for the entire nation, to show that Taiwan is not so small a place,” Wang said.

For Chien, the invitation from Wang to join the cast was a welcome chance to come home to perform.

“I didn’t think much about it, just said yes,” she said in a telephone interview yesterday. “It was a dream come true. Living in New York for 10 years, I have wanted to come back to perform and had been planning to come for the last three years, but things didn’t work out before.”

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