Giselle Ruzany
BY GISELLE RUZANY MA LPC, Adjunct professor at the Dance Department at GWU
July 13, 2017

Traveling to Taiwan was an incredible experience. I already knew Marlee and Hana from choreographing a piece last semester, and I knew I was in for a treat. Not only are these dancers beautiful as dancers but also as people with humor, intelligence, and smiling in the face of any challenge or discovery. When I was presented with the dates to go, I held my breath because it was my 18th wedding anniversary, so in order to remediate that Jon came with us for the first 3 days. Jon and I met Marlee and Hana at the Gate on June 29th around 7 am, and we were all excited and exhausted, ready to go to sleep in the plane. The plane ride to San Francisco was good, but just a warm up for the 13 hour trip that was about to occur two hours later towards Taipei. We all got food and began to know each other. We shared sibling order, origins and stories about how each of us ended up at GWU and about our dreams for the future. It was clear that our little group was a good match with no conflicts or misunderstandings easily triggered. As we got to Taipei, we exchanged some money and went to the long line of immigration. That is when we discovered that Taipei has mastered long lines that move quickly and efficiently, so very quickly we were on the other side and met Annie Tai. She took us to the hotel whereto we were welcomed with bubble tea given to us by I-Fen and Jeff, the dance exchange artist and the artistic director of Anarchy Dance Company.

On the next day, we discovered that we were in XingBetou, a hot spring area where a lot of people come after surgery to recover in its healing waters. We were one block from the metro, restaurants, supermarket, great coffee shops, and parks. Very quick it was easy to navigate with the metro to different attractions in Taipei, where we felt super safe, with friendly faces and welcoming interactions. On the first day we took a tour bus and got a feel for the city. We also went to see our first show by a local artist called teatime with me, myself and I. We saw two versions of the work that involved projections, use of iPhone Instagram app, and two performers. The first performance was done by a Japanese and a Korean dancer that met that week, and the second one was done by two Taiwanese actors that were familiar with the work. The conversation and interaction that mostly happened online and not physically in the same space was very well done and well executed. The professionalism and use of a small space was impressive.

Very early in the morning, I went to the park and joined a group of tai chi students. Marlee and Hana spent the day with the Anarchy Dance company taking classes and rehearsing. Jon and I got a train with Annie to National Chu-Pei Senior High School in Hsinchu. The school was incredible, with track and field courts, swimming pool, basketball courts, and huge dance studios with a theater and lots of musical instruments that Jon played for my class. That included drums, keyboards and percussion instruments. I taught two classes to about thirty-five 16 and 17 year olds (very talented ballet trained dancers) with a technical post modern dance warm up and an improvisation score afterwards. They were very open minded, respectful, and risk takers. It was a pleasure to see such talented dancers taking in each comment and immediately shifting into an improved performance. After that we rushed to see a performance by a New Zealand performance group that presented a video/program that had three amazing dancers floating around the construct while the programmer responded to it with his own native instruments that involved percussion and flutes. We returned home late at night to ate a quick dinner before crashing.

This morning I woke up earlier in order to find my Taichi teacher and she taught me the 5 forms of the white crane: eating, flying, walking, singing…and the fifth, I am not sure what she said. I took this day to recover while Marlee and Hana took a train to visit a town two hours away. In the afternoon, Jon and I went to Ximending near Ximen station. The metro system in Taipei is fantastic, taking you right to the center of anywhere you might wish to go. This place was incredible, with lots of stores and entertainment, but since I was still feeling very exhausted we walked away from the buzz and ended up at a Japanese memorial where Jon and I had a 2-hour traditional Japanese teatime with very strange food, including a rice dish that you poured tea on top of. The place was so beautiful with lots of space and perfect architecture and energy flow. Outside this peaceful plaza there was a huge busy street with benches for pedestrians, a bike path, and four-car lane Avenue. Perfect place to sit and see the city in its busy buzz while being in a calm and safe area.

Next morning my white crane teacher gave me a sword to do the sword form with her. She used the sheath of it and it was amazing. I felt extremely lucky and honored. Wednesday, Jon left early to go back home and Marlee, Hana and I went to take class with a Taiwanese dancer from the Bill T Jones Company. It was a lovely class that began with walking across the floor, gradually getting lower and lower until you were on fours, and then three, and then twos. There were then lots of sequences that felt like a mixture of warm up and choreography. Really fun and easy going, but we still were quite tired by the end, especially Marlee and Hana who went directly into rehearsal and worked really hard in developing solos from random words written on the paper that they later had to speak out as they moved through their choreographic creation.

Thursday was another touring day. We went to see memorials, markets and temples, each place full of history and cultural awakening. At night we went to see a show called Shakespeare ghosts created by a Russian group that involved lots of shadows and manipulation of cloth, plastic and masks. There were 6 performers and lots of recorded musical scores blended with the voices of performers and recorded sound. I particularly enjoyed the experimental theatrical aspect of this piece and it achieved its goal of being very entertaining and giving another yet very different rendition of Hamlet.

Friday, I taught a class to the Anarchy Dance Company and some other dancers from the companies that resided at the Xingbeitou Art Space 71, an elementary school converted into an art space for dance companies. To have the space, I was told you must apply to the government and if you are chosen you get an office and a space to rehearse for a cheap price. The class I taught was very well received and I was pleased with the feedback. After that we were invited to watch their new work that is going to be performed in September in the same place I learned to fly with the white crane master. The piece we watched was about how time is relative and in every minute it can change how it feels. This was my favorite piece we saw while there. I could really feel how, every minute, time changed inside me. In emptiness, it felt long, in contact it felt short, in a lift it felt magical. I believe it is going to be extremely successful. This was a rainy day so I stayed in to rest while Hana, Marlee went to see one last show and went to visit a famous Night Market. The next morning we all were ready to go home and integrate all we learned and experienced into our lives.