Kaleidoscope in Taiwan
by Anna Mansbridge
Assistant Director, Kaleidoscope Dance Company, Seattle.
It has now been over four months since we returned from our incredible trip to Taipei, Taiwan, to attend the 2012 Global daCi/WDA Dance Summit. It really was an unforgettable experience. As I look back through the photos documenting our varied adventures in a culture very different from our own, I reflect on how all the hard work in organizing and preparing for the trip was totally worth it. Would I do it again – YES!
There were 22 of us altogether on the trip: 14 young dancers and 8 adults. After a twelve-hour flight direct from Seattle, we arrived in Taipei at 5:00 am on Friday, July 13. A pre-arranged bus took us to the dorms. It was all very stress-free. Two things struck us all immediately: the heat and also the pretty tassels hanging on the windows of the bus, which turned out to be a cultural feature! We were all so excited to have arrived and looked about eagerly during the one-hour bus ride to the dorms.
Taiwan University of the Arts (TNUA) is situated on a hill looking over Taipei in the distance. It is a very pretty campus. A curiosity was a pair of buffalo grazing in a sculpture garden! The first thing we sorted out was rooms and bedding. Then we turned our attention to finding banks to change money and where to buy food! It turned out there was one store, the OK-Mart near the dorms that sold basics. We also discovered that we had to provide toilet paper, which the OK-Mart did not stock, so a venture off campus was an immediate necessity.
It was nice to have a day free to sort these needs out and to get our bearings. On the second day, Saturday, we had rehearsals for the Young People’s Performances, which were to take place on Sunday evening. This was very well organized, with groups from all over the world presenting very rich and varied pieces. There were plenty of student helpers, called ‘Angels,’ to tell us where to go. I discovered that saying “xie xie,” which means ‘thank you” in Chinese, went a long way to making friends.
The Young People’s Program began on Monday. We all participated in ‘Dance Flavors’ each morning beginning at 8:30 am. These one-hour sessions consisted of experiencing a different dance culture, for example the Little Rolling Rice Ball dance from Japan and Australian Aboriginal Contemporary dance. It was a great way to begin the day. Then the dancers attended a Youth Forum, where they discussed different issues relating to dance with other young people from around the world, which they all found very interesting. One of the most positive experiences for all the dancers was meeting people from other countries, making friends, and experiencing dance from a different perspective.
After the Youth Forum, the dancers were divided into groups according to their age for Creative Meeting Points. In these mixed-cultural groups they created a piece to be shared on the final day of the conference. The older groups danced until 3:00 pm but the younger (age 12 and under) finished at 12:45 pm. There were workshops that the children could attend in the afternoon, or another option was to take a field trip off campus. On one of these afternoon excursions we visited the beautiful Guandu Temple and got caught in a monsoon! The Summit had a good balance between classes and time off for cultural excursions. On our mid-week day off we visited the National Palace Museum of Art where we saw incredible collections of beautiful objects, including the famous cabbage made out of a piece of jade! We stayed one extra day at the end of the Summit and went on a ‘Golden Tour’ arranged with a tour company that took us to the coast, up into the mountains to pan for gold, and for an incredible lunch and tea ceremony overlooking the ocean. Our food experiences in Taiwan were amazing, including visits to the night markets where we experimented with trying the remarkable variety of local cuisine. One of my favorite foods was shrimp in a pink sauce with candy sprinkles!
Every evening featured performances by professional companies and dance academies from the USA, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. The Summit concluded with a Closing Ceremony, which evolved into a fun dance party for all, magically lit by lanterns, with the lights of Taipei twinkling in the distance. Email addresses were exchanged, with promises to keep in touch with our new friends from all parts of the globe. Everyone was tired but happy, thrilled with their adventures in Taiwan!
I asked the dancers what their favorite memory of the trip was and here are some of their responses:
I am so happy to have gotten to go to Taiwan. It was amazing to meet people from all over the world, and learn about so many new dances and cultures. I am still in contact with people I met while in Taiwan, and I am so glad I got to make such strong friendships through dancing.
Caroline Baker, age 13.
One of my favorite memories from Taiwan was when I taught my friend some Japanese phrases to say to Amane, a girl that we met on the trip who lives in Tokyo. When Amane heard my friend say the phrases, she grinned and clapped her hands together, she was so excited.
Viv Daniel, age 13.
I loved going to Taiwan so much! Everything was fun but one of my favorite moments was after we shared our dances from all over the world. Everyone stood up in the theater and did a dance that a group of Finnish dancers taught us. It was so much fun. My friends and I who went to Taiwan still do the dance.
Elena Van Sickel, age 13
While at the conference, I was struck by how small and inter-connected the dance world is despite the geographic distances that may separate us. While participating in a wonderful workshop on Motif Notation taught by Ya-Yun Chen of Taiwan, the music CD she chose to accompany our movement explorations was by Eric Chappelle who just so happens to be the accompanist for my modern class in Seattle! I was thrilled to meet passionate dance educators from all over the world and very happy to reconnect with Finnish friends I had made teaching in Finland. It was a joy every day to see the love of dance and the community it builds shared among so many ages! Terry Goetz, Kaleidoscope Dance Company teacher and chaperone.