Having attended the Global daCi/WDA Dance Summit in Taipei, I met up with the Taiwan Chapter Head of the World Dance Alliance, Ms Su-Ling Chou who is the Director of the Dance Division of Kaohsiung Municipal Tsoying (Zuoying) High School. Su-Ling invited me to visit her school and to attend the Carnival in Kaohsiung dance performance at the Weiwuying Arts Centre.
More than 50 dancers from Taiwan, the Philippines and U.S.A. ranging from about 13 years old to adult age featured in 10 different short works. Most impressive of the evening’s line up were the works from the University of the Philippines, including ‘Silhouette’ by Ma. Elena Lanoig-Alvare, ‘Dog Days are Over’ by Ea Torrado and their collaboration with the Zuoying dancers in ‘Class Menu’ also by Ma. Elena Lanoig-Alvare.
Whilst I was visiting the school I taught four workshops with the help of my translator and workshop assistant Taipei National University Student, Ding Wie Guo. He not only helped with the language barrier, he also acted as a role model to young aspiring dancers wanting to follow in his footsteps to attend the elite tertiary dance school in the country’s capital.
Ding Wei and I taught a workshop called ‘Enter & Exit’ to freshman, second and third year level dance students, who at a pre-tertiary level display an impressive technical ability and a shy eagerness to absorb every word and instruction that I threw their way. Many of the dancers commented on how free and relaxed they felt during this class and how they learned to trust each other, devise movement from their own experience of tuning into sensation and something about maintaining an awareness of the space and how to be ‘themselves’ on stage.
I also had the opportunity to teach the freshman (first year level) a Pilates Matt class. All the dancers arrived wearing their ballet slippers, stockings and tights and had the hair tied neatly in a bun – the guys were equally prepared with their immaculate attire. In discovering they knew absolutely nothing about Pilates, I thankfully had the support of ex-Cloud Gate dancer Shen Yi-Wen who very skillfully translated this class which allowed the dancers to gain some of the basic principles of the Pilates technique. To my surprise, the school is fully equipped with a Pilates studio, so I was fortunate to be able to teach an equipment class to a professional dancer, only this time I relied entirely on a shared body language that was without borders.
Photo: Philip Channells