Post courtesy of IU Newsroom intern Laura Ellsworth:
The dance studio in the School of Public Health building looks ordinary and multi-purpose — padded floors, mirrors along one wall and various chairs scattered to the side. But the angles of the normal dance studio scenery draw a sharp contrast to the students moving fluidly back and forth, among and with each other.
This is no ordinary dance rehearsal. This week, the 22 students of Focus Dance Group from Taipei National University of the Arts have been rehearsing and collaborating with IU contemporary dance students in preparation for their joint performance Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. This performance is part of the IU Arts and Humanities Council’s “China Remixed” festival.
Sydney Sizemore, a senior contemporary dance major, served as a guide for a visiting student from Focus Dance Group in the week leading up to their performance. As a part of the visit, students from both schools have been collaborating on a performance piece to add to their individual pieces.
“They’re really talented and intelligent dancers,” Sizemore said of the visiting students. “They know a lot and remember a lot and are intuitive in their dancing.”
Sizemore said students have been breaking into small groups to improvise and collaborate, then coming back together to teach each other their creations, though there has been a language barrier. She added that, despite speaking different languages, they did manage to find common ground in talking about Beyoncé and Ariana Grande.
“Talking about dance is sometimes easier to do through movement than through words,” Sizemore said.
“Dance is truly a way of communicating that supersedes language,” added Liz Shea, director of contemporary dance at IU. “Watching the students who are working on the collaboration project has been particularly rewarding – they are really getting to know each other, and ask each other questions about their lives.”
In addition to rehearsing and collaborating during the week, both IU students and Taiwanese students participated in technique classes, trading teachers to get to learn from the expertise of different instructors.
One such class was an Argentine Tango workshop led by Bloomington tango instructor Thuy Bogart. Argentine Tango combo band “Cuarteto Tanguero” provided live music as students learned the basics of tango with a partner from their opposite school.
Sizemore also had the chance to participate in a contemporary dance technique class taught by Mei-Rong Yang, the director of Focus Dance Group, and she was surprised by the similarities between what she learned from Yang and what she’d been taught by IU professors.
“Dance is kind of its own culture,” Sizemore said. “When you walk into a studio in Italy or Taiwan or even here, there’s the same rules and respect for not only the teacher but the other students.”
Sizemore is in the process of auditioning for performance jobs following her graduation from IU, but she says that the experience learning from and with others different from her is lasting.
“If you don’t know how other people live, there’s a certain ignorance that you don’t mean to have just because you don’t know,” Sizemore said. “It’s just a realization that people live differently than you, but are still a part of the dance community.”
“This has been an extraordinary experience,” said Shea, “so great for both groups of students to realize they have more in common than they do differences.”
Tickets for the combined performance are still available at the Buskirk-Chumley box office and online. More information about other performances, lectures and exhibits offered as a part of “China Remixed” can be found via the Arts and Humanities Council website.