Taiwan dance troupe to present impromptu moves in Beijing
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.