It's nice to know that the Taiwanese spin on theatricalized folk dance won't fall into oblivion.
The most interesting feature of Sunday's performance of the Taipei Physical Education College Dance Troupe at Baird Auditorium was the reassurance that theatricalized folklore is a bona fide subject for university study.
This is not said tongue in cheek. The genre is demanding, requiring both acrobatics and dancing skills. The choreography is set to sophisticated orchestral renditions of folk tunes, and the juggling, whip tricks and balancing acts (set to technolike pop tunes) require years of practice.
As in a number of university dance troupes, however, the male dancers looked as if they had come to dance late in life. They were awkward, but their performance was brave. The women were noticeably better. They smiled beguilingly through the requisite settings of folk dances, lantern festivals, tea picking ceremonies and village flirting scenes.
The acrobats stole the show. One demolished a rose with a whip, barely missing the giggling audience member who held it good-naturedly in her teeth. Another did handstands on impossibly small objects. A third vaulted over several nervous volunteers -- there was little room for a good running start on Baird's small stage.
All in all, it was just good fun. The artistic level was less important to the mainly Taiwanese American audience than connecting with something from the homeland. And the level was less important than the troupe's role as cultural ambassador.
-- Pamela Squires