Day 12 highlights: NTNU meeting, HRC Dance Academy, and Merry Monarc
This morning Amy, Michael, and I met with Dr. Heylen and Professor Zhuang at NTNU for our first official gathering, reflecting on our stay in Taiwan and research progress to date. Of course, I raved about the accessibility of my findings and the overwhelming support I have received from the dance community.
Since my topic is a part of Taiwanese popular culture, the scene may be more exposed in daily life than Michael’s (“influence of Confucianism on the education system,” check out his blog here) and Amy’s (“alcoholism in aborigine tribes”) research. Though, both Dr. Heylen and Professor Zhuang were extremely helpful by suggesting various scholars on my peers’ topics.
We followed Meng-Chia, Dr. Heylen’s graduate assistant, to NTNU’s library so we could familiarize ourselves with the catalog services and layout of the building. We found ourselves in the midst of a birthday ceremony for a former well-known Taiwanese artist, if I remember correctly. His daughter was present in his place to express gratitude and appreciation for the attendees. NTNU has an efficient online database, as with many universities, and ample room for students to study in its eight stories of open stacks and private study areas.
Lunch was at a Taiwanese restaurant in the Shida night market, or I guess day market now. There is a set menu for each day, so most of us ordered the chicken recommended by Professor Zhuang. We were served melon soup for our appetizer and milk tea for dessert. Throughout our conversations we discovered that Professor Zhuang was well versed in the boy band culture during her younger years and Amy shared her experience attending an American university versus learning from the Taiwanese education system during her childhood.
Back at the Cat’s PJ’s, I was introduced to two new guests, Conrad and Josiah. Both are from the U.S. but flew from Korea for traveling and teaching English respectively. I am impressed with how many people come to Taiwan by themselves just for leisure. I personally think traveling alone it is one of the best ways to learn about myself – how I manage my own time, what I find interesting, how I interact with people in a new environment, making new friends I may have not if I traveled with other people.
Conrad said he wasn’t sure what his plans were for the next few days, so I suggested checking out the dance battle with me tomorrow. Two minutes later, I had the whole lounge agreeing on a day trip to Kainan University for It’s Battle Time Vol. 3. Honestly, I was skeptical about how enthusiastic everyone was about this event, let alone expressing interest in going. But I guess, how many times can you say you’ve been to a dance battle in Taiwan while on vacation, right?
The excitement for tomorrow motivated me even more to check out the dance classes I planned to take tonight near the Sun Yat-Sen MRT station. First, I went to HRC Dance Academy, one of the studios I found last week. This studio is known for its breakdance classes, but they also offer hip hop, popping, locking, jazz, MV (music video) style, LA style, girl style, reggae, house, and other combinations of jazz and contemporary movement. I decided to sign up for their popping class, hoping for something different but not too difficult to pick up.
The lobby has lockers and a rest area with TV’s promoting their upcoming events and commercial reels. Along the walls are their company merchandise of t-shirts, hats, and pants are neatly displayed hung and folded. On the right I found Studio A, where they just finished up a jazz fusion class. Two more studios and a lounge were located in their basement, Studio B being my popping class:
There were only five of us taking this class today, so the instructor could focus on each of us individually. He was on the calm side, but he explained the concepts of popping very well, even if some terms were beyond my Chinese vocabulary. Since most of us were beginners, we learned a simple routine that introduced us to basics. This style is all about contracting the muscles to create the popping illusion and using your core to make your movements distinct and controlled.
After class, I asked the instructor how to improve in this particular style and his thoughts on dance receiving more popularity in schools. The most experienced dancer in today’s class joined in to listen and pitch in for advice as well (featured post on both of them later).
On June 5, HRC held “The First Step,” their annual spring training showcase where teachers and select students performed dances they have created for the past few months. Here is their preview:
HRC Dance Academy | The First Step video commercial
Check out 1:43! I wanted to go, but I decided to wait it out in case I returned to IBT Vol. 3 (which this teacher’s judging at as well!) on Sunday instead. Nevertheless, it was good to know that as part of their marketing for this event, they used their official website, lobby TV’s, and Facebook as their main sources of advertisement. I believe many dancers involved in the studio training community also know about this through friends, teachers, and other dancers.
The first time I heard of Merry Monarc was when I met Xiao Hei and Ji Long Han last Sunday, but ever since then this studio has been mentioned most frequently out of all studios in my dance conversations in Taipei. It was conveniently a five-minute walk away from HRC so I quickly headed over for a hip hop class.
The class rates here are a little more expensive than Lumi and HRC, but this is where you’ll find more intense training and choreography. Both studios were packed with street jazz and wacking classes just wrapping up; I could tell from their hair and clothes dripping in sweat that I was in for a workout. Merry Monarc is famous for its popping and hip hop instructors, but they also have house, dance hall, locking, freestyle, and the likes.
Out of all the lessons I’ve attended so far, this hip hop class probably contrasts what I do the most. I was struggling midway not with the choreography but understanding the looseness of the instructor’s moves without looking like I was flailing my arms around. The routine definitely felt like hip hop, but the appearance of it reminded me of someone freestyling, which I openly admit I need to work on. Here he is looking light as a feather on his feet:
Merry Monarc | Hip Hop Class
Although this routine looks relaxed, it calls for a lot of footwork and change of direction. I was past exhausted by the end, so I decided to return to the hostel and rest up for tomorrow’s trip. Back at the Cat’s PJ’s I did a little impromptu dance to show what I’ve learned this week, then crashed onto a bean bag for who knows how long.