The collaboration between World Dance Alliance (WDA) and dance and the Child international (daCi) produced one of the biggest global dance festivals ever held—Dance, Young People and Change. Hosted by the Taiwan National University of the Arts (TNUA) in Taipei, the event attracted young people from North and South America, Europe, the UK and most Asia-Pacific nations.
The festival/conference was a multi-layered event that included keynote addresses, ‘dance flavour’ taster classes, workshops, forums and paper presentations. It brought together young people, their parents, mentors and educators from across the world to reflect on key issues and future directions for dance in young people’s lives.
There was also a wonderful range of performances by young people, a festival of international dance academies, and an amazing program of Taiwanese dance performed by Taiwan’s professional companies and groups, including Cloud Gate 2 and Dance Forum. Teachers attended masterclasses and paper presentations and exchanged ideas about approaches to dance learning, teaching and curriculum for young people.
Opening and closing ceremonies
How exciting to see the parade of young people carrying their countries’ flags, often in traditional dress, as they entered the arena and then massed on the stairs to watch the show. We had beautiful performances—dragon dances, giant puppets and fan dances, and welcoming speeches by WDA and daCi Presidents, and the President of TNUA Tzong-Ching Ju.
There was a presentation each morning by a keynote speaker especially chosen for his or her international vision about the power of dance. Among the outstanding presenters were Christopher Scott, a 21-year-old from London who gave an inspirational speech about the ways in which dance had changed his life; Martin Blake, who presented evidence about the power of movement to influence the way people think, behave and recover from illness; Hui-wen (Kate) Wen, founding director of Cloud Gate Dance School of Children, and Chung-shiuan Chang, who introduced the outstanding Taiwanese dance education system.
Every day young people from around the world performed in a professional environment and presented their own work to packed houses. As Australians we were so proud of QL2 Dance (Canberra) and STEPS Youth Dance Company (Perth), who combined to present Scratch the Surface, a work inspired and co-created by the artistic director of QL2, Ruth Osborne, with the 20 young dancers from both companies who performed the work. James O’Hara, Ruth Osborne and Alice Lee Holland produced a shorter version that was performed earlier in the week. Young people from many other countries also performed in wonderfully imaginative and creative programs each day.
Taiwan professional dance night
When did you last see a program of contemporary dance that you wanted to go on forever? In two programs by the best of Taiwan’s contemporary dance companies, audiences were challenged, excited and on their feet in one of the most dynamic and stunningly performed programs ever seen at a WDA event.
From Cloud Gate 2’s Wickid Fish and MeimageDance's Monologue of Barbie to the wonderful Warriors choreographed by Bulareyaung Pagarlava, the program showcased the best of Taiwanese contemporary dance and training. There was a sense that every movement had meaning, and that while the technique was clean and beautiful, it was a means to an artistic end.
In both programs audiences were engaged and delighted, and the presence of the legendary Lin Hwai Min, the founding director of Cloud Gate, was an added bonus. He is obviously the major inspirational force in Taiwanese dance and dance education, and it’s safe to say that there are now few countries in the world that can match this country’s depth of choreographic talent.
International festival of dance academies
This was a four-night program that showcased some of the world’s best dance training institutions, including Australia’s Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
In a diverse program we saw works also performed by the USA’s Purchase College, the Beijing Dance Academy, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Japan’s Kobe College, the University of Auckland, and of course, TNUA. Choreographers included Bill T. Jones, Zhang Xiao-Xiong, Ming-Lung Yang, Pei-Jung Lee, John Utans, Justin Rutzou, Jeff Hsieh, Lar Lubovitch and Stephen Petronio.
The five conference themes were:
- Dance and social justice
- Teaching dance
- Dance learning
- Education of dance teachers and artists
In each stream there was a range of papers, project dialogues and panel discussions by presenters from all over the world. The program was very well organised in excellent spaces with great technical support. We’re looking forward to publishing the papers in the next few months so they can be shared more widely.
World Dance Alliance held a series of meetings—the WDA Asia Pacific, WDA global Network meetings, and a well-attended Global Assembly. The Global Executive also met several times to confirm policies and procedures, and to start making plans for the next Global Assembly in 2014. daCi also held its international meetings during the week.
It was exciting to welcome Laurent Van Kote, the Director of Dance at the French Ministry of Culture, who gave an excellent presentation about dance support in France, participated in all the WDA events and attended much of the performance program. A new network, Support & Development, was also formed at the meeting, with many people volunteering to work on this vital aspect of WDA’s work.
The success of the week was largely due to four people: Ralph Buck (NZ), Jeff Meiners (Australia), Yunyu Wang (Taiwan) and Ann Kipling Brown (Canada). They were well supported by many others in both WDA and daCi, but their attention to detail and vision for the overall event was exceptional, as was the amazing TNUA team, especially Jeff Hsieh, who were so professional and friendly throughout the festival. A big thank you to all!