Tai­wan dance troupe to present im­promptu moves in Bei­jing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By CHEN NAN chen­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In 1988, dancer-chore­og­ra­pher Ku Ming-shen, then a teacher at the Chi­nese Cul­ture Uni­ver­sity in Tai­wan, vis­ited the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois in the United States. There, one evening, she and a group of stu­dents broke into a dance that con­tin­ued well into the night. Ku de­scribes the ex­pe­ri­ence as mag­i­cal and says she just could not stop danc­ing.

“There was a strong en­ergy among the dancers that in­flu­enced me,” re­calls Ku. “My moves hap­pened in re­ac­tion to other dancers.”

Later, Ku found out that the dance was called con­tact im­pro­vi­sa­tion, a form of modern dance, which is usu­ally per­formed by two or more peo­ple, ex­plor­ing the physics of shared weight through con­tact, such as push­ing, lift­ing and rolling off one an­other.

In 1972, US dancer-chore­og­ra­pher Steve Pax­ton first in­tro­duced the con­cept through a se­ries of per­for­mances in New York.

Since her first ex­po­sure to con­tact im­pro­vi­sa­tion, Ku has been fas­ci­nated about it and has been pro­mot­ing it in Tai­wan, where she lives.

Ku will bring her com­pany, Ku&Dancers, to Bei­jing with such per­for­mances later this week, hop­ing to in­tro­duce the dance form to au­di­ences in the cap­i­tal. She staged a week of shows in Shang­hai in early July.

Ti­tled The Day We Are There, the Bei­jing per­for­mance will see five dancers on­stage, who will in­ter­act with the au­di­ence with im­promptu moves. Be­sides the dancers, other el­e­ments of the show, in­clud­ing the mu­sic and light­ing, will also evolve with the sit­u­a­tion.

“Each day, the per­for­mance will be dif­fer­ent. The dancers will turn their daily ex­pe­ri­ence at the show into dance vo­cab­u­lary,” says Ku.

“The au­di­ence will be part of it,” she says, adding that au­di­ence mem­bers can join the dancers to de­cide where the moves are headed.

“Our life, like im­pro­vi­sa­tion in danc­ing, is un­pre­dictable. That’s what at­tracts me most to the con­cept,” says Ku, who is also the dean of the dance school at the Taipei Uni­ver­sity of the Arts.

Born in Tai­wan, Ku started her bal­let train­ing at a young age and grew in­ter­ested in If you go modern dance as a teenager. She grad­u­ated from the Chi­nese Cul­ture Uni­ver­sity and then be­came a dance teacher there. In 1985, she went to the US to fur­ther her study of modern dance, where she ob­tained her mas­ter’s de­gree in it from the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois.

Since she re­turned to Tai­wan in 1991, Ku has been in­volved with the dance form. In 1993, she founded Ku&Dancers, a rare pro­fes­sional dance com­pany in Tai­wan ded­i­cated to re­search and pro­mo­tion of con­tact im­pro­vi­sa­tion.

In the be­gin­ning, Ku only had four or five dancers, but the com­pany now has 11 dancers of dif­fer­ent ages.

Ku has also worked as a soloist, tour­ing around the US and Europe. One of her chore­og­ra­phy works, ti­tled Bam­boo Grove, in­spired by its use in tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, pre­miered in the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois in 1988. In 2011, Ku ini­ti­ated “i-dance”, a bian­nual dance fes­ti­val ded­i­cated to the form with par­tic­i­pants in Ja­pan, South Korea and China.

“We want to of­fer a plat­form to young dancers, chore­og­ra­phers and the au­di­ence to talk and com­mu­ni­cate through danc­ing. You just put your­self in phys­i­cal sit­u­a­tions and be com­fort­able with the moves you like,” Ku says.

“It’s not some­thing mys­te­ri­ous or hard to com­pre­hend. All you need to do is to go im­promptu.”

8 pm, Thurs­day-Satur­day; 3 pm, Sun­day. 77 The­ater, 77 Meishuguan Hou­jie, Dongcheng dis­trict, Bei­jing. 1326-3363-865.


Tai­wan’s Ku&Dancers troupe is tour­ing the main­land with its per­for­mances of modern dance.

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