By Tsai Wen-Ting
Translated by Jonathan Barnard
Photos courtesy of Chang Chao-Tang
New York Debut Kumble Theater Traveling all the way from Taiwan’s distant shores, the Dance Works troupe will debut its one-of-akind East-meets-West tap dance performance for New York audiences at the Kumble Theater this July. The team, which has already made international appearances in the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Macau in its 12-year history, is sure to charm New Yorkers with this new fusion of Eastern elements and traditional tap performance.
Dance Works’ Creative Soul
“The idea behind Dance Works was to re-think dance through the combination of several different elements and unleash limitless creative possibilities,” said Dance Works founder Jia- Long Hao. Hao, who was born into the dance profession, met current Dance Works artistic director Cheng-You Peng, in their University, where Peng was studying Chinese Opera. The pair continued to develop a deep friendship, ultimately founding Dance Works based on their mutual passion and devotion to create their own work. Initially making its mark as Child Theater and Modern Dance troupe, Dance Works’ production was selected by the National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center’s “New Idea Dance Showcase” very early in its history, and has continued to thrive thanks to its youthful members’ unceasing determination.
In 2002, Taiwan was hit with the Irish dance fever. At the time, Taiwan’s dance industry lacked a professional team devoted to rhythm and beats, which was perfect timing and an opportunity for Hao and Peng to find a new position for Dance Works, and a vision to introduce its members—and all of Taiwan—to the free and uninhibited style of tap.
Dance Works members today are mostly professional dancers whose backgrounds feature a specialty in everything from music and dance, to traditional opera and street dance, but who all share a passion for tap. It is this abundant source of different elements that allows Dance Works to continue creating fresh and unforgettable performances.
Fusion of the Mystical East with the Sound of American Tap Peng, who has choreographed several of Dance Works’ most important performances, was attracted to the freestyle nature of tap dance after studying Chinese Opera for 12 years, since the tender age of ten. Immediately enthralled, Peng received a scholarship from the Taiwanese government in 2008 to go to New York to study this dance technique.
It was Peng’s unique art performance background—a juxtaposition of traditional Chinese dance, kung fu, Shuixiu (water sleeves), and music, with modern American tap—which ultimately led to the multi-layered and abundant sensory experience audiences enjoy today in a Dance Works performance. “Though Chinese Opera is a confined and independent style, tap has an all-encompassing nature that easily lends to additions of Chinese Opera elements,” said Peng. “However, it is still a challenge to brainstorm new ways to fuse the two styles: how to combine fluid body movements with music and rhythm to create an entirely unique and stimulating experience.”
From a Small Town to the International Arena. In addition to devoting countless hours to their art, Dance Works members also pool their money together to invest in international training and cultural exchange with famous tap dancers in Tokyo and New York, which allows them to continue creating, performing, and raising the standard of tap dance in Taiwan. Starting out in schoolyards and community centers, and graduating to national performances, the team even launched an annual “Taipei Tap Festival” in 2005, inviting famous tap teachers like Derick K. Grant, Jason Samuels Smith, Chloe’ Arnold, and Yukiko Smilie, to come together and turn Taiwan into a new hub for Asia’s tap culture. In recent years, Dance Works has also leaped onto the international stage, having performed at Tap City in New York, Japan International Tap Art Fest, D.C. Tap Festival, LA Tap Fest, and Hong Kong Tap Festival.
Daydreamer+ A Feast for the Senses Celebrating tap as not only a dance but also a symphony of sounds, Dance Works is proud to unleash Daydreamer+, a performance that took over two years to complete, and features collaboration with several international musicians. Marked as Sound Creation Series No. 2, Daydreamer+ will give audiences a new kind of concert experience, combining the rhythm of tap with live musical performance featuring soft Chinese instruments, such as the alto fiddle, lute, and reed pipe, combined with instruments from around the world, like the cajon, konga, bongo, Indian tabula, African berimbau, and the Greek zither, to create an abundant cross-cultural musical atmosphere.
Daydreamer+ embarks from the confession of a daydream and brings forth several different images, taking the audience on a personal dream journey through tap dance. Aside from rhythmic music and beat of tap, projected images and laser effects add to the unbounded extension of the dancer’s limbs, creating a moving visual that is sure to touch every member of the audience. Daydreamer+ has gotten rave reviews at every performance so far, and New York is sure to be no exception.
Join Dance Works as they share a charming daydream in the Big Apple at Kumble Theater, July 12-15. For ticket information, please visit kumbletheater.tix.com, or call (718) 488-1624.