Dance Diversified

By Emma Schenkenberger

Hsin-Yu KaoFor the second time, Colorado State University’s dance program has had the opportunity to partner with Taipei Artist Village Artist-in-Residence Exchange Program (AIR Taipei) in Taiwan. Through a special partnership with Colorado College and CSU’s associate professor of dance, Chung-Fu Chang, this year’s international residency welcomes Mr. Hsin-Yu Kao all the way from Taiwan. Kao began dancing when he was three years old and trained in Taiwan for over ten years in contemporary dance, as well as in kung-fu, yoga, and tai-chi. Kao currently dances with Compagnie Käfig, a hip-hop/street dance company in France.

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During his residency at CSU, he is teaching Intermediate and Advanced Contemporary Technique as well as choreographing an original dance piece for CSU dance majors, and performing a solo for the Spring Dance, taking place on April 10 and 11.

This international organization of which Kao is a part, AIR Taipei, encourages professional artist exchanges between Taiwanese and international artists in order to create intercultural and interdisciplinary dialogues that resonate between communities and individuals. Professor Chang advocates and works to bring guest artists to the CSU dance program in order to increase the diversity of dance to which students are exposed.

“We’re not trying to make students into carbon-copies of other dancers or choreographers,” Chang said. “So a large benefit of having guest artists like Hsin-Yu Kao come to CSU is to expose dancers to the styles, techniques, and traditions of other cultures.”

This is also a goal of AIR Taipei, which, along with the generosity of Colorado College’s Asian Studies Program, is how CSU has the ability to work with dancers from around the world. Chang wants his students to know that there are infinite approaches to dance, and believes that by exposing them to as much diversity as possible allows them the ability to hone their individual styles and prevents them from leaving CSU as a cookie-cutter copy of other dancers.

In the upcoming Spring Dance Concert, Hsin-Yu Kao has choreographed two pieces; one was finished in 2014 that he will perform, and one new, original piece that he has choreographed for nine CSU students. As part of the AIR Taipei mission, the group dance, entitled South Wind, allows students to experience an entirely new style of dance and learn new techniques with the incorporation of elements found in tai chi and kung fu in this contemporary piece. Kao admits that it has been hard work for him and the students to learn so much new material in such a short time period, but he enjoys challenging students to leave their comfort zone and learn about new and diverse cultures though their art.

Chang-colorProfessor Chang also choreographed a piece for the upcoming concert, entitled Labyrinth, which he views as a representation of “seeking light or seeking a way out.” In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure constructed for King Minos of Crete to hold the Minotaur, a creature that was half-man and half-bull, eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. The Labyrinth was designed so cunningly that even its author could barely escape it.

Chang wanted the student performing this solo piece to portray this struggle and the need to escape. As the choreographer and not the performer of this specific dance, Chang views himself as the gardener of this piece. His choreography is there to plant the seed of a specific choreographic idea that has the possibility to grow, and help his dancer take responsibility for the dance itself. In creating this piece, Chang thought a lot about how to best showcase the beauty and passion of his students. He wanted to empower them to have confidence in their performance, to feel the piece as their own, and share a personal story on stage.

During auditions for the Spring Dance Concert, Chang looked for students with a “hunger and passion to learn” for all pieces in the show. He emphasized the importance of dancers having the ability to give everything on stage because “dance is about connecting with your audience” and that can only happen live and in person.

Tickets for the Spring Dance Concert are now available for the three performances. This is a show that is sure to sell out, so to experience 12 pieces about everything from the Israeli-Palestine conflict to how Van Gogh created The Starry Night get your tickets now! This night of cultural diversity is going to be beneficial for performers, choreographers, and audience members long after Hsin-Yu Koa leaves Colorado.

Spring Dance Concert

Friday, April 10, 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 11, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.

$8/CSU students, $8/youth (under 18), $18/public.

Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at 970-491-ARTS (2787), or online at Youth tickets must be purchased in person at the Ticket Office. All tickets are subject to a $1 ticket fee for both online and at-the-door purchases. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended to avoid lines and further at-the-door fees.

This residency at CSU is funded by the Artist-in-Residence Taipei (AIR Taipei) in Taiwan and is made possible through the generosity of Colorado College Asian Studies Program, Professor John Williams; Professor Joan Ericson; Professor Yunyu Wang, who is professor at Colorado College, dean of General Education College at Taipei National University of the Arts, and also president of the World Dance Alliance; and Ms. Amy Huang.