Taiwan street dancing hops from basement to stage

Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:00pm EDT
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By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - George Wu, 15, a typically shy, soft-spoken Taipei high school student, goes underground in more ways than one to follow his passion.

But Wu and his friends from school have found over the past couple of years that their shadowy habit of street dancing, basically mass break dancing sometimes with local music, has been taken from subterranean malls upstairs into the limelight.

The Taipei Metro, where dancers such as Wu collect in the margins of stations with battery-operated boom boxes, is holding a four-phase contest this month and next. It has drawn 300 teams of two to eight people, about twice last year's attendance.

"It was underground to start, but it's normal now," said Wu, who has practiced for a year in a cavernous subway station mall. "It's getting to be something for all of us."

Street dancing stayed underground from its start in 2002 until 2006, when the local film "Chocolate Rap" sought to strip away public scorn.

This July, National Geographic debuted the one-hour, government-backed documentary "Hip Hop Nation" covering the same dance style. The government plans in October to release its own street dance documentary for foreign audiences.

"Is it mainstream? No, but it's pop culture that used to be underground," said Miguel Huang, secretary for the Government Information Office's audio-visual materials section. "Taiwan's market gives the underground a lot of chances."

School clubs and Taiwan websites are also pushing the dance.   Continued...

<p>Breakdancer Xiao Pan (C), 16, practices while his friends Xiao You (L), 16, and Xiao Pi watch outside the Sun Yat-sen memorial in Taipei July 29, 2009. REUTERS/Nicky Loh</p>