Taiwan: Studio hopping on a Friday night

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.

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11 thoughts on “Taiwan: Studio hopping on a Friday night

  1. Hey! I had no idea how to email you, so I hope it’s okay that I’m posting a comment totally unrelated to your post…but I think it’s so cool how you have a blog dedicated to “street dance” in Taipei!

    I’ve never done any sort of hiphop/breakdancing/street dancing before (but have done 10+ years’ worth of ballet classes) and was wondering if you knew which studios in Taipei offered beginner-beginner-beginner classes…most seemed geared towards people who already knew how to dance.

    (as for location, preferably around the ShiDa/NTNU area…probably TaiDa/NTU area would be the max distance away? Or maybe even the Ximending area?)

    Thanks so much, and I hope you keep on blogging and keep up the great work!

    1. Hello! Thanks for reading! Your comment is completely relevant, and I appreciate your kind words. Ah, I also started with ballet and I’m thankful for it because it’s a great foundation for other styles.

      As for learning hip hop, I think the best way is to just dive right in. The studios I visited offer a wide variety of styles so you might find one easier to pick up (like jazz) than others and then branch out from there. It’s easy to feel intimidated at first, but public classes are meant for self-improvement, and most importantly, having fun, so there’s no need to worry about whether or not you have or look like you have the experience. With your ballet background, I’m sure choreography won’t be too much of a problem, and getting the style just comes with consistent practice.

      In Ximen, you’ll find IP Dance Skool, known for its locking instructors. True Fitness gym is near the Guting station and it offers a hip hop class every Saturday as well as ballroom and other group fitness classes. I took the hip hop class my first week in Taipei (day 6 if you want to check out my experience), but a monthly membership fee usually applies to all users.

      From what I experienced, most of the notorious studios are located in the East District (Zhongxiao Xinsheng to Sun Yat-Sen stations). HRC Dance Academy, Lumi Dance School, and Merry Monarc are all located near Sun Yat-Sen, First Place near Zhongxiao Dunhua, and No Limit near Zhongxiao Xinsheng. However, you’ll find students casually practicing at MRT stops like Ximen and Taipei Main Station, and I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you other places closer to the Shida area.

      I found HRC and Lumi through this forum, so you might want to take a look at it yourself –> http://www.forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=71300

      For now, my posts are about marketing for street dance in Taipei because this is what I researched during my stay there. I also blog about my involvement in dance back in the U.S. so feel free to browse those topics as well.

      Hope this helps you get started! Keep me updated on what you find!

      P.S. Can I ask how you came across my site?

      1. Hey! Thanks for responding!

        That’s so funny how dancers practice at MRT stations–I never knew that! Haha but probably that’s because I only use the MRT stations during really odd hours, like at 10 am.

        You gave a really great answer…thanks so much for that! As for how I came across your site…I think I was googling True Fitness reviews, and found this site. I actually wasn’t expecting it to be about street dance, so that was a really pleasant surprise ^_^

        I’d love to talk more; you can see my email address, right? (Since you’re the blog owner) I’d love to email with you! (I just try to minimize the personal information I put up in public online; I’m paranoid haha).

        1. You’re most welcome!

          Yeah, every time I used the MRT it was either too early or too late, but I’ve heard from many friends that weeknights and weekends have students lined up against the walls to practice. Oh, and you’ll want to check out memorials and public parks, especially since summer break is coming up.

          I’d be happy to email with you! It’s great to know you’re interested in this topic as well :)

  2. Whats up are using WordPress for your blog platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own.
    Do you need any html coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

    1. Hello and thanks for reading!

      Apologies for the delayed reply, but yes I am using WordPress with custom design for my blog, meaning I used a basic theme from WP and customized the CSS for various design options.

      With WP, all you really need to know is how to post your content, publish, and add media if you wish. You do not need any prior knowledge in html coding for WP because there are pre-made themes that you can choose from for your own blog. However, if you want to modify the look of an existing theme WP has help forums and there’s a lot of content on the web to help you out.

      If you’re looking for a professional platform that is easy to navigate, I would highly recommend WordPress :) Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions!

  3. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog
    and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
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    1. Thank you for your kind words! Yes, I’ll definitely post soon. Once I settle into my new environment I’ll be coming back to talk about past travel experiences. I’ll pop up on your feed soon!

  4. Aw, this was a very nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate a really good
    article… but what can I say… I put things off a
    whole lot and don’t manage to get anything done.

    1. Thanks! I’ve been swamped recently so I haven’t updated too much, but I’m glad you enjoy my post! Hope you come back and visit!

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