an identity | Rock
around the clock
group of Taiwanese dance instructors on campus for a year, a leg-up in
the Far East dance world calls for a master's -- and a lot of fancy footwork
-- on this side of the globe.
the click of a remote control, cultures quietly converged in a sweltering
upper room of the Ballet Building this summer: Three Australian aborigines
stomped out a centuries-old ritual on a television monitor. The screen
split and European ballerinas leapt toward them with classical grace.
in this dance studio, nine Taiwanese students, still sweating from a vigorous
workout, frantically toke notes in Chinese while their translator, a Taiwanese
native who lives and teaches in Denton, explained the gist of the juxtaposition
for Kerry Kreiman, their English-speaking instructor.
ended and the group dragged to their feet. Start with flick and slash,
Kreiman said as the music began to blare. Arms and legs cut forcefully
through the air. A finger brushed away a drop of imaginary sweat, another
picked off a pretend bit of dust with great aplomb as the group gyrated
love, it's an international language. No words needed to make profound
Kreiman may not speak their language, and few of them hers, through daily
contact she's come to know quite a bit about these dancers who think a
TCU master's degree is worth a year away from home.
courage, dedication, ambition, determination and bravery drop from the
lips of Kreiman and others who are teaching these professional dancers,
all of whom are over the age of 30.
not just lip service: They've left behind families, homes and secure positions
in Taiwan to study and dance 18 hours a day in a language they've barely
spoken and in a place they've never seen. Factor in, too, they'll be paying
for a year's room and board with no guarantee of a job upon their return.
brave?" queried ballet and modern dance chair Ellen Garrison. "It's a
special group that has the guts and motivation to go back to school for
an advanced degree in a new country."
faculty members knew of the slim chance teachers in Taiwan had to earn
a master's degree, so they developed a special program last year, originally
to be taught mostly in Taiwan, and in the students' own tongue. But Taiwanese
government officials required that the students come to the United States
to complete the coursework.
was revised and arrived stateside to include translators and special language
concessions in assignments. The students' theses will be written in Chinese
and then translated, for example. The modified degree, said Modern Dance
Assistant Prof. Susan Douglas Roberts, allows the students to focus on
the knowledge in the degree rather than on the language.
Liu, one of the students, owns a dance studio in Taipei which someone
is running while she's gone. She's 38, but getting her MFA is a priority.
are waiting for me," she said, admitting to serious homesickness three
weeks into her stay. "I will learn a lot of new things about professional
dance that I can take back to them. And hopefully I can improve myself
so I can give more to my students."
in broken but understandable English; she spent two years in Hong Kong
earning a bachelor's degree, honing her English in the process. But most
in the group have studied only a little English in junior high; the campus'
Intensive English classes are helping, but not quickly enough, Liu said.
is very heavy," she said. "The first week we almost did not sleep." The
research methods class that began when they arrived required daily assignments
that had to be researched in the library -- all in English. The translating
computers they brought helped, but the work is still tedious.
is not the only barrier. In Taiwan, the teacher talks, the students listen,
said Yuh-Ching Lin, 35, one of the two men in the group and an assistant
dance teacher at a university. He says, through his classmate Liu, that
in Taiwan everything students need to know comes from the lectures. No
class discussions or questions. "You just sit and listen," he said, moving
his body into the submissive stance of an attentive student.
teachers. They pose questions. Expect questions in return. Demand you
find answers in the library. "You must think how to do it," Yeh said with
an exasperated look. "Everything is think, think, think." Or dance, dance,
dance. Either way, the sacrifice will be worth it for these students who
haven't been to school for at least a decade.
are the cream; they are from major, important organizations in their country
and will go back and share what they've learned," said Garrison, adding
that the Taiwanese will likely take part in public performances later
this year. "It's just a giant, consciousness-raising experience."