More than 60 social advocacy groups from around the nation gathered at the Rose Historic Site (玫瑰古蹟) in Taipei yesterday to mark the launch of this year’s Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Festival (蔡瑞月舞蹈節), commemorating the site’s rich legacy of social activism with a 24-hour relay of performance arts events and public lectures.
Running the night from yesterday to this afternoon, the event took place at a Japanese wooden structure home to the Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Research Institute.
Originally due to be demolished in 1994, the building was saved through a landmark conservation campaign in which three dancers were suspended high above the ground by a crane for 24 hours, in protest against what they said was the government’s disregard for cultural heritage.
This year, representatives from various social advocacy groups dangled 15 stories above the ground in four-hour shifts, paying tribute to the historic campaign, with each shift representing social issues from six categories — labor rights; land and housing rights; sovereignty and human rights; gender issues; environmental conservation; and Aboriginal rights.
Dance troupes and activist musicians stirred up the crowd, and there were speeches from prominent social advocates.
The name of the event, “Hanging High Against Oppression,” was chosen because in Mandarin Chinese, the term for “hanging high,” gao diao (高吊) is pronounced the same as “conspicuous (高調),” signifying that the activists wanted their voices to be heard.
“Twenty years ago, one single building faced impending demolition, but today the very foundations of our nation are threatened,” said Tsai Jui-yueh Foundation chairperson Ondine Hsiao (蕭渥廷), who was among the three dancers who participated in the 1994 campaign.
Participants circled the site three times while holding roses in their hands in memory of Tsai Jui-yueh (蔡瑞月), one of the pioneers of modern dance in Taiwan, and pasted photographs of protests and rallies around the nation from over the past two years onto walls surrounding the building.
Several prominent international artists attended the event, including Australian dancer Elizabeth Dalman, Japanese choreographer Orita Katsuko and US dancer Martial Roumain. Taiwanese poet Lee Min-yung (李敏勇) and historian Su Beng (史明) also made guest appearances.
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