Following are Jonathan Hollander's personal notes from the April 27 – May 2 2008 Battery Dance trip to Taiwan which included intensive workshops for four days with local dancers, one gala performance, one professional artists’ dialogue, and eight master classes.
Nothing takes the place of familiarity and thorough planning
In the case of Taiwan, we were familiar with the Country, its extremely accomplished professional dance scene (and Taiwanese dancers who had performed with Battery Dance Company in New York and on tour), and with our partners at the American Institute in Taiwan and Taipei Artists Village.
The Taiwan program, which in retrospect seems more program-heavy than I could have imagined, was only possible because we had worked with Nick Papp in Taiwan in a previous tour (see 2006 report) and as a result, he knew our capacity, we had easy and very direct communication, and we spent a great deal of time on the phone, SKYPE and e-mail leading up to the project, working very much as a harmonious team.
For the past two days, we've been on a magic carpet ride here in Taiwan, with a dozen activities accomplished over 48 hours in two cities! The miraculous part is that each event, from a press conference to a Dancing to Connect workshop, has seemed beautifully planned, expertly executed and utterly gratifying! Nick Papp is the Ali Baba who has kept the carpet afloat. He's the CAO here, and with leadership of PAO Thomas Hodges and supported by a bevy of dynamic staff members, he has envisioned a full-on program that will surely have memorable impact in Taipei and Taichung alike. On Monday, in Taipei, the highlight was a "Professional Dialogue in Arts Management" at the illustrious Taipei Artist Village, moderated by Yao-Hua Su, TAV's brilliant Executive Director. My fellow panelists were equally brilliant: Becky Cho, Executive Director of the Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture and Wen-wen Yeh, Executive of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. For two hours, we shared our experiences and visions with an audience that included a sparkling array of interested people from the arts, corporate, government and foundation sectors. I like to think that the artists who attended were given some helpful guidance as they pursue the uphill path of attracting support for their work and making the most of what resources they have. Another two 12-hour days replete with inspiration and testing of limits.
We continued on four parallel tracks, Mayuna and Tadej journeyed out to two schools in the Taichung region, teaching modern dance master classes. Today, they were surprised by the presence of 50 "observers" in addition to the 20 active participants and delighted by the request that they tack on a professional development session for a group of teachers following the class.
Robin and Sean and I took the High Speed Rail with Nick and Su Lee to Kaohsiung. After a drive up into the mountains, we arrived at the Indigenous Peoples' Park to see a brilliant performance of music and dance representative of the 14 tribes of Aboriginal Taiwanese. After a great lunch of Aboriginal specialties, Robin and Sean taught a master class for the same dancers who had performed for us (and 1,000 tourists who had elicited absolutely no response to the phenomenal performance...?!) It was deeply touching to experience the exchange of cultures amongst us throughout the day. Carmen and Bafana spent a total of 16 hours working with 20 junior high school students at the Szu Chen school. I was lucky to attend the beginning of their Dancing to Connect workshop, and to witness the end of it this evening. All of us were astonished and moved by the creativity of the students and can't wait to hear the audience's response tomorrow night when we will all perform together on the huge and beautiful stage at the Chung Shan Hall. 1,600 tickets have already been claimed and we are expecting an overflow crowd.
Today in Taichung, we had a three-fold program: a well-attended press conference including a performance for the TV and print media cameras by Sean and Robin; a full-day workshop with twenty talented students at Szu Chen Junior High School led by Carmen and Bafana; and a master class at Wen-Hua Senior High School by Tadej and Mayuna kept the Company busy as they fanned out across the City.
Fifteen-hundred or more people filled the Chung Shan Hall this evening. They were drawn to the theater to welcome a dance company that had traveled all the way from New York; but they were also there to celebrate their own: 20 junior high school students from Aboriginal Tribes of Taiwan whose stunning performances brought many tears to eyes (including mine). Performers can feel an audience -- and the Battery Dancers outdid themselves this evening as did the students.
I found myself sitting in the theater in amazement, asking myself, "how could they be so self-assured after such a short period of rehearsal?" As moving was the performance, the scene backstage after the concert was even more-so: the students were so pumped up after the show that they didn't want the evening to end. In traditional Aboriginal style, they grabbed the hands of the exhausted Battery Dancers, and we all continued dancing and chanting for another 5 or 10 minutes after the curtain went down. In my 33 years in the theater, this was a first! And I hope it isn't the last!