Dance Chose Me
Choreographer: Po-Cheng Tsai
On the stage are two dancers in white lotus-like skirts. Then, one remains, soaring high. The performance is sometimes cold and piercing and sometimes heated and passionate, with the music drawing out even more emotion…This is Benson Tsai’s work Floating Flowers, which he has dedicated to his late father and his life of dance with no regrets.
The Importance of Discipline
Benson Tsai’s life has long been intertwined with dance. He says, “My mother told me that when she was pregnant with me, she loved to move. After I was born, I was very active. I loved to dance.” In kindergarten, his radiant expression when performing on stage in a duck costume left such a deep impression on his mother that she enrolled him in dance class in the third grade.
At his junior high school, every Wednesday afternoon was club activity time. Tsai says, “The entire class played rock, paper, scissors. Whoever won could choose a club. I ended up being last, so all that was left was the dance club.” He learned traditional dragon dance and lion dance techniques, as well as jazz, street, and folk dance. His teacher, impressed with his talent, mentored him outside of school free of charge.
After being admitted to the dance program at Tsoying Senior High School, he became more disciplined. “The dance program at Tsoying is well known for being rigorous. At first, I was resistant. But, in my junior and senior years, I gradually discovered that discipline is important to an artist. This enabled us, starting from our personal lives, to face our work with a conscientious attitude,” he says.
Planting a Seed
In high school, his teacher required every student to keep a journal and a notebook for yearly planning and viewing the world from different perspectives. Tsai says, “This has inspired me and influenced my life. I have already planned out my work to 2023.” In his senior year of high school, he began studying choreography and was among the top three in a creative competition, earning a scholarship. “At that time, a department chair told me that I have potential and should work toward becoming a choreographer. That planted a seed,” he says.
Upon entering the Department of Dance of Taipei National University of the Arts, Tsai felt that dance had become routine. It no longer brought him joy or a sense of achievement. He says, “Perhaps dance had become too easy. There was no challenge to it. So, I started to teach. I didn’t like to study. I would open a textbook and stare at it for two hours without turning a page, instead choreographing two dance pieces in my head.”
In his sophomore year of college, he presented his first choreographed work. “I shed my identity as a dancer. At the same time, I had to think about lighting, music, costumes, movement, and dancers. I discovered that dance is not just about precise control of movements, but also all aspects…I sat with the audience in the last row. Hearing the applause gave me a great sense of achievement. That allowed me to clearly see my future path.”
Leaping onto the International Stage
In his junior year of college, his father was diagnosed with cancer. His father’s passing deeply affected him. In response, he searched for two dancers and choreographed a short 10-minute piece.
Tsai says, “This work was inspired by floating lanterns released during the Keelung Zhongyuan Festival. My wish was to light a lantern to pray to the heavens and to pray for my father. This work is called Floating Flowers. The movements of two dancers overlap, as if growing taller and able to control matters of this world. But, no matter how tall we are, we cannot exceed the heights of the heavens or the depths of the oceans. The only thing we can do is to try and hold onto a resolute heart.”
Floating Flowers received major international choreography awards in Spain and Germany. It is a discussion of life and death. Through the movements of the dancers, low tones, and percussion beats, the afterworld is imagined and pondered. In just a few short years, this work has been performed more than 100 times throughout Europe.
In June 2020, Tsai was named best new choreographer by the French Critics Association of Theater, Dance, and Music for Rage. He says, “There was a case in 2016 in which an innocent child was murdered. I felt the coldness of the wall between people and wanted to create a work to warm people’s hearts.” During the Avignon Festival in France, Rage was presented 10 times, each time leaving many of the audience members in tears, as they were both moved and comforted.
Unique Creative Platform
In 2015, he founded B.DANCE. Different from other dance companies, Tsai defines a “creative team” like a brand. There is a strategy to their work. In this unique model the only fixed members are Tsai as artistic director and choreographer, a company manager, and two dancers. Whenever a work is to be created, 14 dancers, lighting engineer, photographer, videographer, composer, and website designer, all of whom collaborate on a regular basis, come together to form a production company.
In the past few years, B.DANCE has completed more than 60 performances in Taiwan and more than 230 performances worldwide. Tsai pays his dancers well in view of their training over 20 or 30 years. He encourages dancers to choreograph, teach, produce, and conduct rehearsals. This is because “as long as you have talent, you will not fade away.”
Everyone involved in B.DANCE is treated as an equal. “During these past five years, among the more than 30 people, no one has left. Everyone respects one another and there are deep emotional bonds.” He adds, “My mission is to create a good platform for bringing Taiwan to the world and the world to Taiwan!”
Date of birth: July 8, 1987
Education: Department of Dance, Taipei National University of the Arts. While in college, he received a scholarship to Purchase Collage in New York, as an exchange student. After graduation, he studied dance at Broadway Dance Center in New York.
Experience: Artistic Director, B.DANCE
Awards and honors: Named best new choreographer by the French Critics Association of Theater, Dance, and Music in 2020 and one of the world’s most influential young choreographers by German dance magazine Tanz in 2018.
Interests: Listening to music, watching movies, listening to others talk
Persons who have influenced him most: His father and Tsoying Senior High School teacher Chou, Su-ling.
Recommended book: Reformation by Timmy Yip
Copyright © 2016 B.DANCE . All rights reserved.