Fri, Nov 23, 2001 - Page 7 News List

Talking through the inner self

For Cloud Gate Dance Theatre'sworld-renowned choreographerLin Huai-ming, creating dance of the highest caliber is simplya matter of letting it happen

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, top, rehearse the troupe's new piece, Cursive. Choreographer Lin Huai-min, right, is philosophical about about the nature of his craft.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Since it was established in 1973, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) has become the undisputed doyen of Taiwan's performing arts world. In addition to garnering extensive international engagements, the group was invited to be one of only four foreign groups to perform at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, which brought Taiwan's achievements in the arts before a wider audience than ever before.

Cloud Gate is the creation of Lin Huai-min (林懷民). Watching him rehearse dancers for his upcoming show at the company's studio in Pali, Taipei County, Lin seems quiet, retiring, but absolutely in control of everything around him. The new work, to premiere in Taipei on Dec. 1, is entitled Cursive, and is a celebration of movement. Lin abjures the term abstract to describe the work, "because everyone uses `abstract,' they think it is inscrutable," preferring to call it lyrical, a work of "pure dance."

Lin's background is unusual for a dancer. First making his name as a writer of short fiction, he went on to study politics and creative writing before finally finding his career in dance. Now aged 54, he remains quintessentially a dancer. His voice is gentle, but working with his dancers, clearly insistent and demanding, looking for beauty in the movement of bodies, constantly pushing for more precision and power.

His early work was known for its strong narrative and political elements, most notably in Songs of the Wanderers (家族合唱), but it has been taking an increasingly abstract turn since the early 1990s. While some work has been firmly rooted in Taiwan's own unique historical experience, Lin has never been shy of drawing on a larger Chinese tradition, as was the case with Nine Songs (九歌), based on poems from China's Warring States period.

Performance Notes:

What: CursiveWho: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre When & Where: National Theater, Taipei 7:45pm Dec. 1, Dec. 3 to Dec. 8; 4pm Dec. 2; 2:45pm Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 Chungshan Hall, Taichung 7:30pm Dec. 14, 15 Yuanlin Arts Hall, Changhwa County 7:30pm Dec. 21, 22 Chih Teh Hall, Kaohsiung 7:30pm Dec. 28 to 29 Tickets: NT$400 to NT$1,800 (Taipei); NT$300 to NT$1500 (other locations). Call Cloud Gate at tel (02) 2712-2102 for bookings or download a booking form from http://www.cloudgate.org.tw/docs/download.doc


Although Lin's new work is based on a more personal philosophy, it is still deeply rooted in Chinese tradition. Lin explains: "As I grow older I think less is more. I really think audiences should not expect themselves to understand a work. They should enjoy the work, interpret the work, they should take off into their own fantasy." He talks about watching the water flow along the Tamsui river near his home "Watching the water, it tells you a lot of things, but it doesn't say anything. It is so complicated, so intricate to see the ripples and the flow, full of expression but it doesn't pretend to tell you anything," Lin said.

To this end, Lin, Taiwan's foremost choreographer, makes the ironic comment: "down with choreography, present the dancers." He has left behind narrative altogether, which is an "obstacle between their [the dancers'] being and the audience. ... When I watch them, I think their bodies and their movement is sufficient already, you don't have to add anything.

"What I care about is the communication between the stage and the audience, and the best communication is pure interaction of energy," Lin said. The fluid movements of Cursive, with its rushes of speed inter-cut with slow surges of power, has a mystical quality, and Lin tells of people who have seen a performance of Moon Water who had later come up to him in tears to thank him for the almost miraculous effects of watching the dance.

"There was a lady who had practiced tai chi for 10 years, but had never got it through. The chi did not flow. But after watching Moon Water, the chi in her body was all moving. It opened up the passages for the chi. It sounds tacky maybe, but its not, because things really vibrate. It's energy. When we rehearse in a small room, I cannot sit still, because I get so much energy running through me," Lin said.

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