Taiwanese choreographer Enru Lin believes that dance is a universal art form.
“This is really important to me,” Lin tells Pancouver in Mandarin at Granville Island. “Everyone can dance. You are able to dance. It is a thing in your life and not some faraway intimidating skill.”
This is at the core of six free New Dragon Dance Workshops that Lin will lead as part of LunarFest Vancouver to bring in the Year of the Dragon. Everyone is welcome to dance in these workshops, regardless of age, gender or background.
“My idea is this dance starts with one person,” says Lin, founder of Bourrée Studio in Taipei. “My goal is that starting from one person, you can connect to the second person and it becomes a group dance. You’re going to use clothing or garments you have on your bodies to help. Use them as props. It’s going to be something that’s very everyday, very familiar, and comfortable.”
The New Dragon Dance Workshops will take place at Ocean Artworks on Granville Island at 11 a.m. on Saturday (February 10) and Sunday (February 11). Then Lin will return to the same location for more workshops on following Saturday (February 17), Sunday (February 18), and Monday (February 19), and finally, on Saturday (February 24).
Lin breaks free from traditions
Most people in Vancouver are familiar with traditional Lunar New Year lion dances. Common at parades, these performers mimic a lion’s movement underneath a lion costume.
Lin’s dragon dance, on the other hand, is far less confining. People can move in ways that they like, mirroring LunarFest Vancouver’s theme of Born to Be Free.
“Through this dance, I’m saying that if it’s just one person, you are truly free,” Lin says. “You’re just dancing on your own. But once you connect with others in this dance, your movements become a little restricted because of the other person. True freedom comes where you’re working with someone else.”
Her definition of freedom does not entail inadvertently hurting other people or harming the environment.
“That’s not true freedom,” she insists. “You have to be cognizant of what’s around you and take care of others. That’s what true freedom is.”
Lin’s passion for dance led her to complete a master’s degree in the dance department in Taipei National University of the Arts. Through a scholarship, she also spent time as an exchange student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
She went on to perform for several dance companies. They include Legend Lin Dance Theatre, Trend Education Foundation, Jade Dance Theatre, Seed Dance Company, and Lan Yang Dance Troupe. In addition to running her own studio, she also works with Ku & Dancers.
Couple advocates for equal rights
Lin takes the notion of freedom extremely seriously. She is in Vancouver with her wife, Ssu-Hsuan Wu. They wed in 2019—the same year that Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.
This followed a Taiwan Constitutional Court decision declaring that the ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. According to government figures, there were 3,500 same-sex marriages in Taiwan in the first year after the law took effect.
Wu tells Pancouver that two of their friends were the very first same-sex couple to legally marry. Taiwan’s LGBTQ community campaigned for many years for this right, encountering many obstacles along the way.
“But then, when Tsai Ing-wen became the president, we passed this law,” Wu says.
As a result, many in the LGBTQ community are “Ing-wen fans”, according to the couple. Wu and Lin are thrilled that her vice-president, Lai Ching-te (William Lai), won the recent presidential election. He will be sworn in as president in May.
However, Wu and Lin are disappointed that his Democratic Progressive Party did not capture a majority of seats in the Legislative Yuan.
“We really love the life in Taiwan and we don’t want to change this life,” Wu declares. “It’s very diverse. Everyone can be themselves—born to be free.”
LunarFest Vancouver workshops and artist talks will take place at Granville Island every weekend in February. See the schedule of events on the LunarFest Vancouver website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.
Vancouver artist and children’s book author Ann Fu translated Enru Lin’s comments in Mandarin into English. Lin also spoke English in the interview, as did Ssu-Hsuan Wu.