Taiwan: Spontaneity at its best

Day 7 highlights: moon guitar festival, dancers at Sun Yat-Sen and Datong High School

Another gorgeous day!

I met with Dr. Heylen for the first time today to see her friend Ben Hlavaty who played a comical act for the moon guitar festival at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall.  According to Dr. Heylen, the moon guitar festival is held every three or so months to showcase students and different cultural groups who play the moon guitar.  They also bring in guest performers and renowned instructors like Mr. Hlavaty and Zhu Ding Shun.  Here is a segment of Ben’s song:

While waiting for the festival to finish, Dr. Heylen and I walked through the art galleries and on the grounds of the memorial.  There were a lot of families and friends spending the day together and enjoying the nice weather.  We were just walking out the front of the memorial when I saw a peek of dancers practicing off to the side of the entrance.  I literally jumped with excitement to see dancers practicing in public like I’ve been hearing about all week.  We stopped and watched them for a while as I was trying to figure out if they were just dancing for fun or if they were practicing for a show.  Taking a few steps over, I was in shock – the whole hall was filled with at least 20-some different dance teams all for various reasons (self-improvement, competitions, showcases, and class).

Dr. Heylen helped me start my interviews by approaching a group of popping boys who were preparing for the Metro Street Dance Competition.  So far, everyone I have asked whether or not they know about this competition have indicated that they were either participating or were aware of it.  Throughout the week, I have also seen ads on the MRT TV screens for the train line timers and inside the trains.

The teacher for this dance group was coming at a later time, so Dr. Heylen and I went out to lunch with Mr. Hlavaty and explored the district around Sun Yat-Sen.  We stopped by a Hunan-style restaurant for some dumplings and chicken wings:

When we returned to the memorial, the grounds were covered with colorful costumes for the lion dance festival:

I returned to the hall where students were still rigorously dancing, each group with its own mini stereo and invisible boundaries for their respective teams.  I was surprised at how everyone was so courteous to each other in terms of space and music volume.  I asked a few students if they ever battle at such locations and they said they’re usually planned, otherwise everyone sticks to his or her own group.

I chatted with Ji Long Han, the instructor for the popping group we met with earlier, about his influences and training background (I will have a featured post on him soon).  Here are some of his students freestyling:

This group of friends formed the team their first year in high school and requested Long Han from Merry Monarc, a studio near the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial, to be their long-term instructor and coach.  One of the teammates, Liu Zhi Xu, a 2nd year in high school and a dancer for one year, says he practices one to two hours everyday with Long Han and his team to work on his own technique.  Most of the time they practice at school, but on weekends they will go to other locations such as the Sun Yat-Sen or Chiang Kai-Shek.  From time to time they will also ask groups of other styles to teach them new moves, but like said before, the groups are pretty exclusive.  There seem to be a lot of teams in each school so students tend to find one style to focus on rather than multiple styles at once.

After conversing with Long Han and his crew, I walked around to other parts of the hall, where I met Xiao Hei, also from Merry Monarc, whose specialty is hip hop dancing.  While interviewing him about his background, he informed me of a dance showcase tonight for Datong High School’s seniors which he would be performing at.  Conveniently I had no set plans for tonight and felt on a roll after finding so much dance in one day, I decided to check out what kind of talent a Taiwanese high school could bring to the table.  I missed the first half but I caught the second act, along with Amy, which had mainly locking and female dance teams.

Here is a video of lockers who take lessons from IP studio, a center that specializes in locking:

At the end of the showcase, a video played showing candid memories from the different teams and congratulatory messages to all the seniors.  If I were one of them I would have totally cried because everyone was so sweet and supportive of each other.  It was nice to see that even though there were so many different groups, the dancers encouraged each other to give it all they got throughout the night.

I think for this showcase, most of the advertising was done at Datong high school and at the studios that the students take classes from.  In the messages, a lot of the instructors were apologizing for missing the show because they were either traveling or teaching that night.  I did like that the show was open to anyone who was interested in coming which helps publicize the event, such as Xiao Hei simply mentioning it to me in person and spreading it by word of mouth to other friends.  I was surprised that the showcase was at a city hall auditorium instead of the high school, but this is their 18th year to hold such an event so it seems like an established tradition and they probably put a lot of effort into this annual production.  There were multiple posters such as this one posted on the walls of the auditorium:

To end the night, Amy and I walked around Taipei Main Station to browse the underground markets and souvenir shops.  The trinkets and “stuff” here are so little and cute!  I feel like it’s so easy to waste time here in Taiwan, just go to a street market and look at all the unique little toys and accessories.

I was so happy and surprised that everything worked out so well today.  I had no expectations of finding so many dancers at the memorial let alone going to a dance performance in one day.  Everything else this week just comes to me even more naturally than I anticipated.  Day 8 coming soon!

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