Taiwanese troupe performs on campus

by Nancy Ngoand

Students in Coffman Memorial Union Thursday afternoon caught an impromptu performance of acrobatic tumbling and dancing by the Chinese Youth Goodwill Mission.
The group was at the University to stage a performance of traditional Chinese dance and music.That night, the group put on its official performance at Ted Mann Concert Hall on the West Bank. The performance was attended by about 600 people.
The event depicted over 1,000 years of Chinese culture, art and music.
The evening started with an exchange of presents between University President Nils Hasselmo and Margaret Li, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago, which co-sponsored the event.
“I look very forward to continuing to cement our relationship,” Hasselmo said of the University’s relationship with colleges and universities in Taiwan. Hasselmo will visit Taipei in November.
In addition to gifts, the group from Taipei, Taiwan, displayed the Chinese culture’s aesthetic legacy in other forms.
Performers took the stage with colored masks, with different colors indicating human characteristics ranging from bravery to the wisdom of age.
The use of wood pieces and brass cymbals displayed the various instruments used to create rhythms during China’s Tang dynasty (618 to 906 A.D.). The group used dance, colorful costumes and other props to further characterize the art that thrived during this period.
Cheng Shao-Tung, the director of the Mission, said that the students pay for their own meals, traveling and lodging on the tour.
The tour visits several college campuses in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
“Since (the Taiwanese Dancers) are all college students, we try to do performances in college for interaction with (American) college students,” Shao-Tung said.
In total, there are 18 dancers, ranging in age from 17 to 25. The dancers joined the goodwill mission from several different Taiwanese universities.
The training for the tour is very difficult.
“We practiced 16 hours a day for two months,” said team captain Ma Maio-Song. “We get four to five hours of sleep. We do many push-ups each morning.”
Maio-Song said performing in front of crowds makes the work worthwhile.
Not all the students are studying dance in college. Lin Giang-Hong said he majors in martial arts and uses it in the performance.
“Part of the performance includes Chinese kung fu,” Giang-Hong said. “You need the background to perform it.”
The students said the great amount of travel time is exhausting, but they do have some time for fun as well. They went to a Six Flags amusement park in Texas earlier on the tour, and will spend Friday at the Mall of America.
The Taiwanese students said that they are not really different from American students.
“We have many western traditions,” said dancer Cicely Chih-Yun. “We listen to pop music and wear blue jeans.”
Chi-Yun said Taiwanese citizens are free to travel to other nations. She does not think reforms in China will have much effect on Taiwan.
While one of their last music and dance numbers, called “Ethnic Groups United,” focused on a global spirit among the Chinese, this performance also emphasized the acceptance of diverse individual viewpoints.
“I think that it is impossible for us to change and be like China,” Chi-Yun said.