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Artist Profile: Daniel Chen, Dancer | 藝術家檔案:舞者 丹尼爾‧陳

April 20, 2017

Artist Profile: Daniel Chen, Dancer

 

Every Sunday afternoon, Daniel Chen dashes into a ninth floor dance studio on Dunhua Road where an eager gaggle of gay students awaits, and his presence immediately doubles the already boisterous energy-level. In this classroom, we are grateful to find a place to be our flamboyant, silly gay selves, and Daniel provides us with a never-ending supply of queer cheer.  As soon as his iPhone is hooked up to the speakers, we know that the familiar and comforting sonic vibrations of Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Lady Gaga will (often literally) kick-start us through the week's new routine. Our class comprises a mix of foreign and local twenty-somethings, all taking a break from wondering, “What is life?” to forget ourselves for 90 minutes as we giggle, sweat, and twerk. One day after class, I sat down with Daniel to find out more about his time as a hip-hop dance instructor.

 

Daniel, a native to Taipei, first started dancing in his early teens, being dragged along by some friends to a hip hop class. He took to it quickly, realizing his dormant talent, and by the time he turned 18, a studio had signed him to teach full-time. After a year at the studio, he moved to teaching freelance classes at studios and gyms around Taipei. His dance credits have included big-name tours around Taiwan, even as a dancer for the legendary Taiwanese pop star, A-mei.

 

But freelance life can be taxing, I found out. My post-practice dinner with Daniel was his first bite of the day. A later teaching schedule often means he rises late,teaches late,  and can never seem to figure out what meal he is eating. While lots of gay men have body issues, the topic is even more ubiquitous to dancers. Daniel calls himself a “plus-sized dancer”, and notes that this has limited his job opportunities. At auditions for tours, the adjudicators may mention that the male dancers need to be shirtless, meaning plus-sized dancers without cheese-grater eight-packs and mermaid lines need not apply. On top of worrying about nutrition, there is the risk of injury. Our class was cancelled one week because Daniel's knee suddenly gave out from overexertion. Although we mocked him relentlessly for having sore knees and the sexual innuendos implied therein, it was also a too-obvious reminder of how precarious a freelance life can be when it relies on maintaining physical health.

 

A few months ago, a dozen or so of us were drinking at one of the outdoor bars in Ximen. We were a mix of local and foreign gay twenty-somethings who all had some friend in common, but more importantly, the thing we really had in common was the need to drink, relax, and celebrate making it through another work week. Possibly he pitied us after seeing our moves at the monthly WERK party at Triangle. Possibly he realized we would jump at the chance and he could a little more pocket money. More probably, he just says random things when drunk. Whatever the reason, we latched onto the idea and the all-gay dance class tradition (plus the occasional straight girl)  was begun.

 

I asked Daniel how his sexuality has affected his career. He shrugged and said that the dance world is pretty accepting. The only discrimination comes in the form of personal style. Daniel dances hip-hop and jazz, but he admits that if the choreo calls for macho old-school hip-hop, he probably isn't the guy for the job. Daniel's style is less hard-hitting and more flowing. As he frequently shouts during class: “THINK HAIROGRAPHY!”

 

Like many of his fellow Taiwanese friends, Daniel has been wondering if he should stay in Taiwan or try for a change of scenery.  Issues of visas, gay rights, and job opportunities often come up and for Daniel these are issues he is currently weighing. Taiwanese pop stars' Asian tours are a big opportunity he has been eyeing. And he's even been entertaining offers to teach outside of Taiwan. The mainland has opportunities to teach choreography to dancers in nightclubs. He has thought recently of accepting a job offer in northern China, adjacent to Mongolia,  teaching dancers (read: strippers?) for a few months in a nightclub, but rumors of artist abuse and dubious contracts have made Daniel hesitate. He also is unsure what kind of romantic prospects would be available in the Mainland. During water breaks, the topic of our love lives is always an entertaining, drama-filled way both to catch up and to catch our breath.

 

 

For the trifecta of culture, career, and romance, it seems his ideal place is Los Angeles. When Daniel talks about his previous trip to L.A., his eyes get wistful and he involuntarily grins. Currently,the freelance hip-hopper is saving up for a trip back to the city, where he will suss out opportunities later this year. Meanwhile, while Daniel ponders a move to another city in another country, our class dances on, an ephemeral (in my case emphasis on the ‘femme’) hodgepodge of young queers who each week are allowed a place and time to be our fabulous selves, thanks to Daniel.

 

(Editing: Cat Jensen)

 

藝術家檔案:舞者 丹尼爾‧陳

每個周日下午,丹尼爾.陳會匆匆忙忙衝進敦化路上一間位於九樓的舞蹈教室,在那兒一群聒噪的男同志們正等著他,丹尼爾的現身讓原本鬧哄哄的氣氛更升溫。我們很感激能在這間教室裡做個花枝亂顫又傻氣的自己,而丹尼爾總帶給我們無止盡的酷兒笑料。

丹尼爾的Iphone一連接到教室音響,我們立時知道,那股熟悉又舒服的音波震動——無論是碧昂絲、雅瑞安娜·格蘭德(Ariana Grande)、女神卡卡,我們即將舒展步伐(通常就如字面所指)邁向這週的新練習。學員組成多元,有外國人也有二十多歲的本國人;在這九十分鐘的課程裡,「生命意義是什麼?」的徬徨先放一旁,我們只想忘情傻笑、流汗、舞動。

某天下課後,我和丹尼爾坐下好好聊天,想知道更多他身為嘻哈老師的生活故事。

 

丹尼爾是個土生土長的台北人,剛開始接觸嘻哈,是青少年時期被朋友拖著一起去上嘻哈舞蹈課。他很快上手,展現驚人天賦,十八歲一到就被一間舞蹈教室簽約當全職教師。一年後,他改為自由教師,在台北各大健身房、教室兼課。他的舞功聞名業界,除參加過大咖演唱會巡迴演出,例如阿妹也曾由他伴舞。

 

但我很快發現自由接課的生活其實很操。我課後和丹尼爾的晚餐是他今天的第一餐。一旦上課上得晚,就表示他隔天多半晚起,接著教課教到深夜,幾乎不知道自己現在吃的是哪一餐。不少男同志可能都對自我身體形象感到焦慮,這對舞者來說,更是無所不在的壓力。丹尼爾稱自己是「大號版舞者」,同時也知道這縮限了他的工作機會。

 

參與巡迴演出的面試時,面試官多會提及男舞者可能需要裸上身,也就是說,沒有線條分明的八塊肌與人魚線的人可以不用參加了。在營養憂慮之外,還有受傷的風險考量。我們課程有一次就因為丹尼爾的膝蓋過度疲勞而取消。雖然我們老愛拿膝蓋痠軟和性行為間的關聯開些曖昧的玩笑,但這毫無疑問暴露了身體健康對自由接課的工作者的有多重要。

 

幾個月前,我們一群二十幾歲的台灣人、外國人,大約十多人在西門外的露天酒吧喝酒。我們並不認得團體裡的每個人,是有些共同朋友將我們凝聚在一起,然而,真正凝聚我們的,應該是對於喝酒、放鬆、歡慶又安渡一週的渴望。丹尼爾或許是同情我們每月在Triangle舉辦的WERK派對中悽慘的舞步,或許他意識到我們會擁抱這機會,而他也可以賺點小錢,但更大的可能是,他只是醉言醉語,隨口亂說。不管原因是什麼,我們為這主意著迷,於是一個全同志(偶爾有些異性戀女孩)的舞蹈教室就這麼誕生了。

 

我問丹尼爾他的性傾向如何影響他的職涯。他聳聳肩說舞蹈世界對此很開放,唯一的歧視來自個人風格。丹尼爾跳嘻哈與爵士,但他坦承如果編舞者追求老式的較男子氣概的嘻哈風格,他大概就不是個理想的人選。丹尼爾的風格偏向流動而非剛硬,就像他常在教室裡大叫的,「想想甩髮的藝術!」

 

就像丹尼爾其他的台灣朋友,他也考慮過是該繼續留在台灣或出國換個環境。舉凡簽證、同志權益、工作機會等是他衡量的主因。台灣流行歌手的亞洲巡迴演出是他垂涎已久的目標,他也陸續接到台灣以外的工作邀約。中國大陸就需要有老師教夜店舞者如何編舞。他最近考慮接受中國北部,一處和蒙古相接的地方的邀約,花幾個月在夜店教舞,但虐待舞者以及合約糾紛的謠言又讓他卻步。他同時不太確定在中國大陸工作有沒有可能衍生額外的浪漫情節。畢竟,在上課休息時間中,我們彼此娛樂性十足、肥皂劇滿盈的愛情生活,不只是閒聊的話題,也讓我們從喘不過氣的現實生活裡鬆口氣。

 

要譜一曲由文化、職涯、羅曼史交織成的三重奏,最適合丹尼爾的理想地點似乎是洛杉磯。當他提及之前的洛杉磯旅行,眼神流露著渴望而且不由自主地發笑。現階段,這位嘻哈自由舞者正存錢準備下半年再度回到那個城市,尋找更多機會。趁丹尼爾還在思考要不要搬到另個城市前,我們班還是會繼續舞動。一群偶然相遇、背景多樣的年輕同志們能每週尋得一個安心之處,縱情展現我們美好的自我,這都得感謝丹尼爾。


(翻譯:Lian Tsai;編輯:LEEWANG Ching)

 

 

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