Who Are We?

Over the past few months, as I dug into archives regarding Taiwanese dance history during Japanese colonial days and the development of modern dance in Taiwan, I began to reshape my research question in attempts to examine how Taiwanese cultural identity is reflected in dance throughout the last 100 years. 

Research Question

As a Han Taiwanese, I am interested in how social changes catalyzed the development of professional concert dance among Han Taiwanese during Japanese colonization. I also want to look into how Taiwanese identity has evolved from the post colonial era into the millennial reflecting in dance styles. Specifically, I will analyze pieces made by iconic modern dance choreographers from the late 1940s to present. 


In order to analyze and describe dance, I draw knowledge and skills from one of my current classes— Dance Literacy. Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) was a dance theorist and teacher whose studies of human motion provided the intellectual foundations for the development of central European modern dance. Laban also developed Labanotation, a widely used movement-notation system (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Three major systems of movement classification constitute his framework:

1. Kinetography Laban or Labanotation, objective movement analysis anddescription

2. Eukinetics and Effort, the theory dealing with the dynamic structure of movement


3. Choreutics, or Space Harmony, the theory investigating spatial relationships of movement and dance


Laban’s famous pupil, Irmgard Bartenieff furthered Laban’s concepts and developed the  movement techniques called Bartenieff Fundamentals. “The work of Irmgard Bartenieff and her many collaborators and pupils is the very greatest importance in research on mother-infant relationships, the social behavior of primitive people, choreometric styles around the world, work with psychiatric patients, studies of animal behavior,” said Margaret Mead. Bartenieff Fundamentals include the following principles:

  1. Total body connectivity
  2. Breath support
  3. Grounding 
  4. Developmental progression
  5. Intent 
  6. Complexity
  7. Inner-Outer
  8. Function-Expression
  9. Stability-Mobility
  10. Exertion-Recuperation
  11. Phrasing
  12. Personal uniqueness


Over the spring break I analyzed 14 dance pieces done by 4 iconic Taiwanese modern dance choreographers and compiled my notes into charts based on criteria like body, space, shape, and effort. I will be organizing the notes to find patterns in dance styles of each choreographer and look into the influences of social changes during their developmental years that may be reflected in their dance pieces. Also, I will take into account of how these choreographers inspire and influence each other’s styles. Here is my raw data:

Jui-Yueh Tsai (1921-2005)— the mother of Taiwanese modern dance

Productions Shape— pin-pointed, wall, ball, spiral Effort—weight (light/strong), time(quick/sustained), flow(free/bound), space(direct/indirect) Space— vertical, horizontal, sagittal (1D, 2D, 3D) Body— initiation of movement, sequential/simultaneous, breath support
Bones of Brave Warriors (1953) pin point and more wall, few ball bound, indirect and more direct, more quick and some sustained, light more 2D than 3D, more sagittal and some horizontal, sequential, more structured, shape orientated
We love our Taiwan (1946) wall, ball, more pin point direct, quick, bound, light and few strong more 2D, sagittal, sequential and some simultaneous, shape orientated
Chase (1949) wall, some spiral light, sustained, indirect, free sagittal, diagonal, more 2D and some 3D pelvis, sequential, shape orientated, structured
Puppet (1953) wall, some ball direct, bound flow, more quick than sustained, more light than strong sagittal, more 2D and some 3D, horizontal sequential, more literal than abstract (narrative), spine initiation

Henry Yu (1941-)— the father of Taiwanese modern dance

Productions Shape— pin-pointed, wall, ball, spiral Effort—weight (light/strong), time(quick/sustained), flow(free/bound), space(direct/indirect) Space— vertical, horizontal, sagittal (1D, 2D, 3D) Body— initiation of movement, sequential/simultaneous, breath support
Black Angel (1979) wall, a few spiral, ball (back) direct, strong, quick, bound (mostly) horizontal, sagittal, mostly 2D and some 3D peripheral (hand & leg) initiation, more simultaneous

Hwai-Min Lin (1947-)— the founder of first Taiwanese modern dance company “Cloud Gate Dance Theater”

Productions Shape— pin-pointed, wall, ball, spiral Effort—weight (light/strong), time(quick/sustained), flow(free/bound), space(direct/indirect) Space— vertical, horizontal, sagittal (1D, 2D, 3D) Body— initiation of movement, sequential/simultaneous, breath support
Formosa (2017) predominantly spiral, some wall, little ball, and no pin-point both light and strong (more), both quick and sustained (more), both bound and free (more), mostly indirect Mostly 3D and some 2D (plane), more vertical and sagittal (forward) use breath to move like qigong, simultaneous,
Dust (2014) mostly wall and some spiral, architectural(shape orientated) bound, both quick and sustained,strong, direct mostly 2D (vertical + sagittal) and some 3D, mostly vertical sequential, head-tail connection, breathe to jerk
White Water (2014) mostly spiral and wall, few pin-point, and little ball, architectural(shape orientated) mostly indirect, light, free, both quick and sustained (more) vertical stress with some horizontal and sagittal, 2D and 3D arms, legs, and spine to initiate movement
Rice (2013) mostly wall and spiral, some ball both quick and sustained (more), bound flow, indirect, strong 3D and few 2D, sagittal and horizontal both sequential and simultaneous, breath for flow
Pine Smoke (2003) spiral and some wall, architectural(shape orientated) both quick and sustained (more), indirect, free and some bound, both strong and light (more) diagonal, 3D and 2D, mostly horizontal, some sagittal breath to move suddenly and evenly, both sequential and simultaneous

Tsung-Lung Cheng (1976-)— the artistic director of “Cloud Gate 2”

Productions Shape— pin-pointed, wall, ball, spiral Effort—weight (light/strong), time(quick/sustained), flow(free/bound), space(direct/indirect) Space— vertical, horizontal, sagittal (1D, 2D, 3D) Body— initiation of movement, sequential/simultaneous, breath support
13 tongues (2016) mostly spiral and some ball and wall sustained, indirect, more free and some bound, strong 3D and some 2D, more sagittal and horizontal, diagonal core initiation, sequential and more simultaneous,
Beckoning (2015) spiral, more wall and some ball, indirect, bound flow, sustained, light diagonal, sagittal, horizontal, circular pathway grounded, sequential, head and pelvis initiation
Blue hour (2013) mostly wall and some spiral both quick and sustained, both strong and light, more indirect, bound 3D, improvisational breath for abrupt movement, simultaneous

Links to dance pieces:





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PezHlV2xxH8 (full performance)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU1RrvSSozQ (from beginning to 35 seconds)









To Dance Is Female?


In the past few weeks, I have participated in the process of choreographing a piece which will be performed in early March 2018. In the process, I learned how choreographers put their ideas into physical movements. I also learned the moon phrase and did a movement profolio that I narrates how my female family members shape my gender identity while dancing. During the rehearsals, I observed how my dance mentor organized a movement phrase based on the use of space, as well as how another choreographer helped produce a phrase of two women dancers of color with a huge red band to tell the stories of women of color in the United States. Additionally, I and other dancers and choreographers played a guessing word game which is similar to the game TV show “Password Plus” in the 80’s. The idea of giving clues to another person and the receiver required to guess the word based on the association of the clue was incorporated into the dance piece to invoke audience’ association of clues regarding female, body and movement.

Analysis and Interpretation on Research Literature

After rehearsals, I was assigned a reading on “Where feminism has not disappeared” by Gwendolyn Alker. Since “feminism inherently uncovers and then mirrors the struggles of identity formation, or performing oneself to others,” then “the intersection of gender and performance allows for theoretical discussions to be mapped coherently and intellectually onto the bodies.” After some other discussions on relative daily experiences or exposure to gender and body issues, my mentor asked me to form my own research question that is related to her research question.

Future Plan

I am thinking about doing my research on what cultural and historical aspects that shape the gender expression through body and movement among Taiwanese indigenous people and Han Taiwanese. I plan to investigate histories of both Taiwanese indigenous people and Han Taiwanese and identify cultural factors that impact how gender identity forms and how gender is expressed through behaviors, body images, and movements.


1. Alker, Gwendolyn. “Where feminism has not disappeared.” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, vol. 14, no. 2, 2005, pp. 39-41.

Gender and Dance

Research Topic

My research is on gender identity and dance. I am currently working with dance professor Lori Teague to explore gender identity exemplified by body and movements.

Background— Readings

I have been assigned some readings regarding gender and dance, and the first of them is Critical Gestures by Ann Daly. In her book, Daly points out a concept that “to dance is “female”” and yet in classical dance world like classical ballet men are still “in control” of women like tossing her around like a doll in choreography. This reading is a great entry to my research because it explicitly states that “dance is an ideal laboratory for the study of gender because its medium—the body—is where sex and gender are to originate… [and] where the discourses of the “natural” and the “cultural”” intersect. Another reading called In-Between Bodies: Sexual Difference, Race, and Sexuality also provides an important perspective on gender identity by stating that “rather than being considered given and and natural, bodies have been conceived as produced by social/cultural/historical influences while being resistant to those very process of production.” Therefore, gender is a constant evolving ideology that is contributed by “in-between mind (culture) and body (nature).”

Discussion— Expectations and Stories

In the first several meetings with professor Lori, we discussed about the readings, expectations for doing this research, and personal stories related to gender identity. Since I am taking two classes, dance pedagogy and improvisation, with professor Lori, some of my class assignments are tailored to relate to my research. During the meetings, professor Lori also asked me some questions to help me reflect on my personal experiences as a Taiwanese woman living in the United States and deepen my understanding of reading materials.

Future Plan

Future assigned readings will mostly come from articles included in dance conference so I can learn how to write about dance research for academia. We are planning to present the research on some of the dance conferences and this research partnership will likely continue after Research Partners Program. In the upcoming week, there will be a dance intensive held by professor Lori for me and other dancers/choreographers to do the actual dance for this research, so I will be able to participate in the process of creating a dance piece which will have its debut in early March.


  1. Bloodsworth-Lugo, Mary K.. In-Between Bodies: Sexual Difference, Race, and Sexuality. Edited by Tina Chantor, State University of New York Press, 2007.
  2. Daly, Ann. Critical Gestures: Writings on Dance and Culture. Wesleyan University Press, 2002.