Scenes of yesteryear are fascinating, such as the Japanese-style dormitory buildings in the Minquan neighborhood that underwent renovation by the Taitung County Government this year. Their tranquility within a bustling city makes them very inviting. These Japanese occupation era houses have been restored. Perhaps, by recapturing their former elegance, they reveal a new side or essence to this city. For the younger generations, they are fresh and new.
The main venue for the 2019 Taitung Old Street Festival was the large grass-covered area in front of these renovated dormitories. In the afternoon, with the arrival of autumn breezes, visitors sampled foods popular in the past and watched modern dance performances. All of this was set against the backdrop of these Japanese-style buildings. Strolling along lanes and alleys, visitors heard the stories of these historic buildings and explored this city “behind the scenes” and from the hipster perspective.
The Taitung Old Street Festival kicked off with a performance by the ST Garden Group, comprised of children participating in an after-school program at ST Garden. About a dozen dancers wore brightly decorated traditional rain hats as they provided a lively interpretation of “the third prince” of folk religious beliefs. Through their rhythmic movements, they combined Western street dance and Eastern traditional art. The smiles on their faces made it clear that to them traditions are not just something of the past. Old streets can take on a new look and traditional art can take on new life.
This was followed by a performance by Taitung-based modern dance group Dancing Skyful. Accompanied on the piano by eastern Taiwan’s musical genius, Chou Mei-Chun, this group created sparks of artistic friction between modern dance and classical music. This performance had a romantic and poetic quality, enhanced by the historic buildings in the background. It blended old and new, as it wove together different eras.
A lone male dancer walked forward, followed by several female dancers. Accompanied by poetic music, they extended their necks, relaxed their arms, bent at the waist and then lowered their heads and lifted or lowered different parts of their bodies. Their limbs created irregular forms and their movements inspired imagination and thought on the resonating memories of old streets.
Those in attendance were encouraged to dress up as hipsters by the Taitung County Government, creating a party atmosphere. Under the guidance of dance instructor Smile’s group, audience members moved and jumped, in the spirit of street dance. As they attempted to replicate the dance moves of those on stage, their laughter reverberated among lanes and alleys. This was a humorous finale and brought a fun energy to a historic area.
Surrounding the event site was a market area, with vendors selling foods from the past to create a unique atmosphere. There were pinball boxes, herbal grass tea, and sweet mung bean soup. Other highlights included guided tours and gathering points marked on maps. Children had fun and adults experienced the warmth of the old days. They could enjoy sweet mung bean soup as they strolled along old streets, listening to a guide telling stories of the old dormitory buildings. Experiencing the simple pleasures of old streets is like traveling through a time tunnel or being immersed in nostalgia.