This piece was originally published in Dance Spirit magazine.
Touring Taiwan: One Dancer’s Diary
Touring with a competition and convention company isn’t the only way to dance and travel at the same time. Tamara Warta, a 24-year-old dancer from Santa Clara, CA, looks back on her summer in Taiwan touring and performing with Youth with a Mission Montana Summer of Dance program.
I’ve been dancing since I was 4, but it wasn’t until last August, when I was halfway across the world, that I realized I couldn’t live without dance.
In March 2004, I was accepted into Youth with a Mission Montana Summer of Dance program, a two-month performing arts camp for Christian dancers from the U.S. Not long after being accepted, I realized there was no way I’d be able to raise the $4,000 needed to pay for airfare, room and board. So, I wrote letters to friends and family asking them to help sponsor my trip. About a week before the program’s start, I received enough donations to pay my way.
I packed my bags and flew to Lakeside, MT, to join the team’s eight other dancers from all over the country. In three grueling weeks of intensive training, we created and rehearsed a 90-minute show with jazz, hip hop, modern, lyrical, tap and swing dance.
With our minds crammed with choreography, we landed in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, on July 10. We toured the country for six weeks, visiting cities such as Tamshui, Pingtung, Chiayi and Keelung. Wherever we went, we danced, performing our show an average of three times a day—sometimes at an hour’s notice—at theaters, festivals, orphanages, schools, hospitals and nursing homes. At first, I was nervous to dance at the nursing homes, but it was there that I met the most wonderful, wise people. Using dance to reach out to them was the highlight of the trip.
At times, the trip was so physically challenging that I didn’t think I was capable of making it to the end. The heat was unrelenting, and we were constantly dumping bottles of water on ourselves, trying to stay cool and able to perform. Our living quarters were cramped—all nine of us shared a room at some points—but it humbled me. I have so much compared to a country where poverty is prevalent and the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. It seemed to me that people either didn’t have a lot, or they had so much that they lost grip on what’s important.
Youth with a Mission Montana accepts applications for its summer excursion every spring, and the destination varies from Asia to Africa to South America each year. For more info, visit ywammt.org.