Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dinosaurs from about 65 million years ago to invade Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei

By Nancy T. Lu

Brace yourself for an invasion of dinosaurs. The fascinating world of dinosaurs will open to excite young and old alike through an exhibit titled “Playing with Dinosaurs” at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei on December 12. Visitors will be admitted to the educational exhibit from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until April 5 next year.

Paleontologists have studied these scary creatures, said to roam the earth 65 million years ago, through fossil remains found on all continents of the world. Birds were believed to have evolved from dinosaurs, known to have nests and eggs.

A total of 250 exhibit items originating from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Morocco, Mexico, China, Mongolia and even the South Pole will help unravel the mysterious world of dinosaurs.

The fossils will include 12 complete dinosaurs, teeth, and claw. The biggest fossil measures 12 meters long and 6 meters high. A rare Ice Age fossil was excavated in the South Pole. A part of the left leg of a dinosaur was unearthed in Mongolia. This fossil piece measures 180 centimeters.

The interesting showcase will also feature 11 animated dinosaurs. These will be programmed to move, cry out, and even speak in Mandarin to visitors at the exhibition.

Entrance tickets to the exhibition can be bought in advance at a discount until December 11 at 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Life convenience stores. Buy two tickets and get a third ticket for free. Each ticket costs NT$200. The discounted ticket is available at NT$180. The price per ticket for groups of at least 30 persons is NT$160.

The Hayashibara Museum of Natural Sciences in Japan is lending a big part of the collection to be put on educational display.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tiny Ho Kuan-wei stands tall and shines in the Vienna Boys' Choir in eyes of Taiwan public

By Nancy T. Lu

Taiwan has been full of choir singers for many years. But it has taken over 500 years for the voice of a Taiwanese child to be heard in the touring Vienna Boys' Choir. This has come about after years of traditional voice training for this particular boy until he has been deemed fit to be a soloist.

When the singers of the Vienna Boys' Choir ranging from 10 to 12 in age file into the stage limelight at the National Concert Hall in Taipei on October 28, the audience consisting primarily of local residents will be watching out for the eyeglass-wearing Ho Kuan-wei.

Ho, only 10, is the first Taiwanese boy to join the world-famous touring choir from the music capital of Vienna. As the tiniest and perhaps the cutest kid in the visiting Wiener Saengerknaben, he undoubtedly stands out also because the choir is on Taiwan soil.

The little boy moved to Vienna with his parents when he was only four months old. Edward Ho, his father, has been posted as manager of EVA Airways in Vienna since then. At the age of six, the boy with a love for singing visited the school for training very young singers and managed to get admitted as student.

Ho finally got recruited into one of the four touring choirs this year, joining two Japanese and a Filipino in lending their Asian faces to an increasingly international performing group from Austria.

Edward Ho’s concern over little Ho’s ability to cope with a hectic touring schedule has driven him to intermittently take time off from work and to literally track down the Vienna Boys Choir, starting in Mexico from August 25 to September 16, then moving to China starting on October 6 and then on to Macau and finally Taiwan. Singapore will be covered in the final leg of the Asian tour to conclude on November 10. But in November and December, the boys will be singing in places around Germany.

Ho Kuan-wei's paternal and maternal grandparents will be in the audience at the Taipei concert on Wednesday, little Ho candidly revealed. They will all be there to listen to his singing of classic fare, folk songs, and even numbers attributed to Abba and Queen.

Of his life with the Vienna Boys Choir, little Ho said that he has had to deal with the hard work and discipline. In fact, he complained to his Dad that singing practices and rehearsals could last from six to eight hours daily. While on the road for a long stretch, he has been homesick sometimes, missing his parents and older sister. Fortunately the face of his loving and proud father has been poppinng up from time to time.

Conductor Andy Icochea Icochea observed that Ho has been one of the better-behaved boys in the choir. Ho has helped in getting the other young singers to pronounce properly the Chinese lyrics of a song about the jasmine in Puccini’s “Turandot” and included in the program.

The Vienna Boys' Choir will also let their angelic voices ring out at the Life Aesthetics Hall in Tainan on October 31, the Chih Te Hall in Kaohsiung on November 1, the National Concert Hall in Taipei on November 3, and the Yuanlin Performance Hall in Changhua on November 4.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dance Forum Taipei presenting “Flashing Lucidity” as 20th anniversary offering

By Nancy T. Lu

Dance Forum Taipei is marking a 20-year milestone and celebration has kicked off with the company founded by Ping Heng touring and captivating dance audiences around Taiwan with “Flashing Lucidity” before heading for Europe.

“Interest in the design of the human body” gave birth to “Grace,” one of two pieces of choreography featured in the touring "Flashing Lucidity" program, explained Toru Shimazaki, the choreographer who used to dance with the Goh Ballet Company in Vancouver, Canada.

Yang Ming-lung’s “Eastern Wind, Too” is the other dance in focus. This has been a reconstruction of a 2002 dance creation inspired by glove puppet theater and belonging to the trilogy titled “Eastern Current.”

In creating a dance, Shimazaki usually finds inspiration and point of departure first in music. “Grace” has been no exception. In fact, he began by “living with the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, listening to it while driving, eating dinner at home and so on.”

Then came the minimalist image of a Japanese garden covered with white pebbles. He saw mechanical metal bonsai moving and crisscrossing, resulting in a complex picture. He then went to work on a choreography, which evolved to give a similar feeling.

The 20-minute piece entailed “creating something from scratch,” he said. This modern dance was unlike ballet, which ordinarily involved putting classic steps with names together. The moves done to the music of Sakamoto in “Grace” did not have names, according to him.

The use of masks in “Grace” has been intended to enable spectators to see and concentrate on the evolving design. The idea is to forget about the human presence. At one point, however, the dancers must remove their masks.

Meanwhile Shimazaki also got the costume designer to turn to Japanese origami or paper art to change the shape of the human body “to enlighten, inspire and move” spectators as human beings.

Shimazaki made three trips to Taipei to create the choreography on the bodies of the hardworking Taiwanese dancers. Each working visit was for a period of about one week, revealed Ping Heng.

Yang Ming-long, a choreographer who danced with the Trisha Brown Company for five years from 1994 to 1999, confessed his fascination with glove puppet theater and particularly the puppeteer in control of everything during a performance since his childhood. This resulted in his getting ideas for dances from the particular theater art form.

“And so I tossed a string to the dancers for them to freely play with and to derive pleasure from the exercise,” said Yang, who first created the piece while serving over a three-year period as artistic director of Dance Forum Taipei. “I managed to do a two-hour video recording of the improvisational dancing. After a while, the dancers seemed to hit a wall in their show of creativity, simply repeating their earlier moves. The wall must then be torn down to pave the way for more possibilities.”

He went on: “Two weeks were originally spent on such exercises. The time to edit the taped dance footage finally came. The interesting portions were put together. It became incumbent upon the dancers to duplicate the improvisational dance moves in the edited footage. And the dancers must figure out how they originally arrived at the dance moves.”

New dancers except for one have replaced the nine original performers of the piece created seven years ago, according to Yang. He has polished the choreography and added parts to the latest version.

As for the music of choice, Yang thought Chen Young’s work as “great music” but a break with it must be made at a certain point in the choreography, rendering the visual aspect different from the audio part.

Dance Forum Taipei will present “Flashing Lucidity” at the Novel Hall for Performing Arts in Taipei at 7:30 p.m. on October 23 and 24.

The Zuiderpershuis in Belgium, the KIT Royal Tropical Theater and RASA Theater in the Netherlands as well as the Teatro Libero in Italy are waiting for the dancers in late October and early November.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mexican children artists reach out to warm Taiwanese hearts at TIWC monthly meeting

By Nancy T. Lu

Mexican art went on view at the monthly meeting of the Taipei International Women’s Club (TIWC) on October 20, opening a window on the brightly-colored world of the gifted children, aged 10 or younger, from Colima on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico.

The mini-exhibit of 26 "masterpieces" shed light on the warmth of the people from a state of natural beauty close to the Mexican coast. The young artists from whose ranks could one day probably come another celebrated Frida Kahlo donated their works of art to reach out and raise money to help the Taiwanese children from an area hardest hit recently by the destructive typhoon Morakot. Some of the boys and girls had previously been in Taiwan to compete in an art competition.

The TIWC members bought some of the paintings unpacked by Mayumi Hu, Lily Assana and Peck Hee Lee for on-the-spot display.

In due time, the entire art collection by talents from a Mexican school famous for producing award-winning young artists will go on exhibit at the new office of the Mexican Trade Services in Taipei, revealed Martin Munoz Ledo Villegas, head of the Oficina de Enlace de Mexico en Taiwan. Despite his busy schedule, he joined his wife, Cecilia Munoz Ledo, in attending the event.

Daniel Guerrero, 9, titled his colorful yarn work “Welcome to My Home!” Veronica Vila Fermin, used crayon to color a floral picture titled “Blooming.” Pablo Neri Fermin, 7, drew “Nogueras Scenery” in a simple style.

Juan Jose Fermin’s “My Volcanoes” saw the use of defined black lines to call attention to a land in a belt of fire. Victor Bautista’s “Colima Volcano” likewise focused on a local mountain which could eject molten rock and steam. Mariana Guerreiro, 9, offered a different and refreshing insight through “The Volcano Is Our Grandfather.”

As for Ramon Preciado, 10, his artistic interest in “The Virgin of Guadalupe” gave the impression of Mexico as a predominantly Catholic country. Marcelino Preciado showed his Christian faith in “Jesus, When He Was Young and Happy.”

The October meeting served, too, as an opportunity to display the plate paintings done by the TIWC members on two occasions.

The TIWC members paused to remember Laura Headly, an American who returned to her homeland with fond memories of her participation in the TIWC activities during her stay in Taipei.

News of Headly’s passing led to a collection of condolence money from her friends in the TIWC. The total amount of NT$25,000 was later turned over to the Friends of the TIWC Fund. Doug Headly, the visiting husband of the late Laura Headly, as a special guest at the TIWC’s October meeting, matched this amount in his cash donation during the program. Connie Pong, the TIWC president, received the crisp New Taiwan dollar bills on behalf of the club (see picture above). The Headly couple left Taiwan nine years ago.

As wife of Petrus Meyer, the leaving representative of the Liaison Office of South Africa, Ida Meyer was also invited to be a special guest at the TIWC monthly gathering. Meyer (shown applauding in one of the pictures above) said that the warm friendship of the people in Taiwan would be what she would miss most upon her return to Cape Town, South Africa. She has been in Taiwan for four years. Packing up has been physically and emotionally a most difficult task, according to her.

An aboriginal fashion parade featured the colorful ethnic looks of the Amis from Taitung and Hualien, the Tsou tribe from Kaohsiung, the Thao minority from Sun Moon Lake and the Atayal group from Nantou County.

The costumed cultural performers invited everyone to join the traditional aboriginal festive dancing to upbeat music in the function room of the Taipei Garden Hotel before the end of the afternoon tea.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nostalgic trio creating “Dancing Portrait of Taiwan” for Taipei Folk Dance Theater

By Nancy T. Lu

Three male choreographers in their fifties, forties and thirties respectively will have dancers of the Taipei Folk Dance Theater tell life stories with nostalgia and flesh out “Dancing Portrait of Taiwan” at the Metropolitan Hall in Taipei on November 6, 7 and 8 as well as at the Chiayi County Performing Arts Center on November 14.

Hu Ming-shan, Kuo Jui-lin and Lin Wen-chung are tapping Taiwanese traditional and folk materials as well as applying modern choreography approach to create a new and colorful dance repertoire. They are set to change the public’s visual impression of Taiwanese folk dance, giving it a new face and a broader dimension.

Hu in “Tales of Marvels About Po Jieh” seeks to give theatrical rebirth to elegance and style in traditional and classic dance moves traced to temple rites. The choreographer brings in “po jieh,” the mask-wearing legendary female attendants flanking the folk deity worshipped by devotees seeking divine intervention in pregnancy and childbirth in a Taoist temple. Originally 36 such figures or statues found their places in a Taoist temple. The number has been reduced to 12 though.

Familiar to many is the emergence of an entourage of 12 “po jieh” from the temple on festive occasions. Each one wears a mask and holds an umbrella in her left hand and a fan in her right hand to ward off evil.

Kuo Jui-lin’s “Community Bulletin” focuses on the observation that body-related activities like qigong and yoga are becoming quite popular in many communities. Such classes are offered alongside those to promote adult literacy, English proficiency, female fitness through aerobics, male muscular buildup and artistic talents. The community leader tries to stop the alarming population exodus by trotting out a whole range of programs and activities. Oldies from Platterville like sultry songstress Bai Guang’s classic “I Am Waiting for Your Return” is the music of choice to fan nostalgia for the good old days during the presentation of the choreography.

Lin Wen-chung, at 35 the youngest among the three featured choreographers, is contributing an abstract piece, “Reflections on the Lake.” By his own admission, this piece is his first attempt at folk dance creation. He tries to get his dancers to move on a white space, using lighting to create poetic images like falling leaves and ripple of water on a lake. His unique choreography is exact and precise to the split second. Cai Xiao-yue’s “nanguan” singing of “Drifting Winds Upon the Chinese Parasol” in her beautiful voice lends itself to enhance the contemporary dance approach and use of modern dance idiom to capture the artistic concept and connotation of folk dance.

Lin spent seven years dancing with the company of outstanding American choreographer Bill T. Jones. He returned to Taiwan only two years ago. Tsai Li-hua, founder and artistic director of the Taipei Folk Dance Theater, suffered a stroke last year. It became incumbent upon her gifted dancer son to take over this year in leading the folk dance company with a history dating back to 1988. Lin has his own modern dance company.

Photos courtesy of Taipei Folk Dance Theater give glimpses of Hu Ming-shan’s “Tales of Marvels About Po Jieh”and Kuo Jui-lin's "Community Bulletin."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hantang Yuefu working with French ensemble to stage painting-inspired "nanguan" production

Denis Raisin Dadre, a French flutist specializing in Renaissance music, has brought to Taipei the Ensemble Doulce Memoire for costume fitting with Academy Award-winning designer Yip Kam Tim of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” fame in preparation for the staging of “Memoire des vents du sud” with the “nanguan” group Han Tang Yuefu Music and Dance Ensemble. Yip will also be in charge of the set design.

“Memoire des vents du sud” will breathe life to two famous Tang dynasty paintings devoted to the subject of traditional “nanguan (southern pipe or wind). “Tang Dynasty Musicians Performing in the Imperial Palace” is in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei while “Tang Dynasty Musicians at Rehearsal” belongs to the Boston Museum.

Buddhist and Taoist music from the Tang Dynasty will blend with sacred western music dating from the 9th to the 14th century in the collaboration work. Dance moves traced to Tang dynasty operatic circle as well as to ancient French palace court will be incorporated.

A preview of the much-awaited cross-cultural production will be held at the Weiwuying in the premises of the National Theater and Concert Hall in southern Taiwan on October 17 and 18. The Taipei run will be at the National Palace Museum on October 30 and 31.

The Han Tang Yuefu led by Chen Mei-o worked with La Peniche Opera in Paris to realize “Le Jardin des Delices” in 1999.

Move over, Cirque du Soleil, for truly dazzling Shanghai acrobats are coming in to perform

By Nancy T. Lu
Move over, Cirque du Soleil. The young Chinese performers from the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe are coming in.

When either Cai Yong or Jing Ying of the visiting Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe takes to the spotlight to do a solo acrobatic act, onlookers cannot help gasping at the beauty of the slowly unfolding and changing body lines. Every painstakingly studied, well-balanced move especially in a handstand performance gets executed gracefully under full physical control.

The award-winning Cai gets to demonstrate his breathtaking spinning feat while standing on his head for several minutes. As explained by him, he must stay focused and he must remain firm at his waist to keep up his dazzling act.

Cai, only 17 but looking years younger off-stage, started training as a gymnast when he was eight. Jing, 15, began taking lessons in acrobatics when she was only six. Sheer interest led them to the Shanghai School for Acrobats. And there was no turning back.

Both know the hardships and challenges on the road to nearly flawless showmanship. Trainings in the early years lasted as long as seven hours a day, according to Jing. Cai now puts in about three hours of workout daily.

Injuries like pulled muscles and sprains have been inevitable. The two have likewise learned the importance of a life of discipline to make possible shining, even glorious moments. Even their diets must be watched closely for them to stay fit as well as to keep away unwanted flab.

Performances by the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe at the Taipei Zhongshan Hall on October 13 and 14 are kicking off the Shanghai Culture Week in Taipei. The program will also feature the traditional multiple loop acrobatic act, plate-spinning and a number using hula hoops. For ticket information, call tel. (02)25772568.