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."

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