IU professor gives thoughts on ‘China Remixed’ collaboration with Taipei National University of the Arts students

Guest blog by IU associate professor and director of contemporary dance Elizabeth Shea:

Next week, 22 dance majors from Taipei National University of the Arts will arrive on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus for a week of cultural exchange. IU’s very own contemporary dance majors, housed in the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance, will welcome these talented young artists into their daily lives for an action-packed week of joint master classes, lectures, performances and dance-making. Junior and senior BFA dance majors will serve as “docents,” guiding the visitors around campus, sharing meals and making sure their time here is comfortable.

Focus Dance Company from Taipei National University of the Arts

Focus Dance Company from Taipei National University of the Arts.

The excitement is starting to build as we watch the Taiwanese students dance on video; they are exquisite movers! In addition to their expertise in contemporary dance, they study and beautifully perform traditional dances of Taiwan, and this juxtaposition of moving forward while embracing the past is a lesson for our own field of American modern dance.

Interactions will be plentiful, with each day beginning with two joint technique classes. Director Mei-rong Yang will teach our students, our faculty will teach their students, and there will be no shortage of new movement experiences. In a phone conversation, Director Yang indicated her dancers are particularly excited to study tango, while our majors are especially interested in learning traditional Taiwanese dances.

A very special opportunity for learning and exchange will take place each afternoon for two hours, as both groups work together to create a collaborative dance piece. I am so very excited to watch how the students interact, and to see how worlds collide, with new techniques and ways of moving informing and shaping all the dancers.

Performers from Focus Dance Company

Focus Dance Company members at a previous performance.

The creative process in particular provides fertile ground for communication. Choreographers and performers alike speak to audiences through thinking bodies, engaging participants’ senses with information translated through movement. There is a distinct privilege of immediacy and intimacy in this work, with each unique translational relationship contributing to the dance experience. Indeed, I cannot imagine a better vehicle than the language of dance to facilitate empathy and understanding and broaden the perspectives of all who are fortunate enough to participate and witness the power of movement.

This exciting week of movement exchange will culminate with a joint performance at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24. Focus Dance Company and Indiana University Contemporary Dance Theatre will each present works in their repertory, as well as the collaborative work created by the students during the course of the exchange. It looks to be an absolutely thrilling evening of talent and culture on display, and I know our university and Bloomington audiences will be awed by the commitment and skill of these young artists.

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to travel to China. I remember getting off the plane and taking in all the amazing sights, sounds and smells of a place unknown to me. I truly felt I was halfway around the world. It’s my great wish that our guests from Taipei will experience the same sense of wonderment, and I hope, as it was for me, that this will be a life-changing experience.

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