Fri, Mar 23, 2007 - Page 14 News List

Death comes to all

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER

British choreographer Akram Khan's Lost Shadows will be the first time Cloud Gate performs without one of Lin Hwai-ming's creations.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CLOUD GATE

Life and death. You cannot have one without the other. Both are on the program of Cloud Gate Dance Theater's (雲門舞集) spring program, which begins next Friday at the National Theater.

The beginnings of spring, the sudden bursting of cherry blossoms, are vivid reminders of life. Cloud Gate's performances will make you think about the joy of life, but also how ephemeral life is and about death.

Artistic director and founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) has put together a show that is very unlike any of the company's previous offerings. Its the first time Cloud Gate will be performing without one of Lin's creations, the first time that Cloud Gate 2 dancers will be performing at the National Theater, the first time that a non-Taiwanese has choreographed a work especially for Cloud Gate.

For the first half of the program, the women of Cloud Gate Dance Theater will be performing in the world premiere of British choreographer Akram Khan's Lost Shadows. The second half will be Wu Kuo-chu's (伍國柱) 70-minute masterpiece, Oculus, performed by Cloud Gate 2.

Khan and Wu are young choreographers whose careers Lin has followed almost from the beginning. He said he wanted a different perspective this year: "Akram and Wu, they are really dealing with everyday life, speaking from a young person's point of view."

He had first asked Khan to do something for the company back in 2002, while Wu had choreographed On the Heights for the company in 2004, as well as several pieces for Cloud Gate 2.

Khan said Lin had told him "just do whatever you want."

He said he sketched out four or five plans: "Something based on a museum, on Lin Hwai-min's paintings … [I was] testing out ideas in workshops in other countries. The concept of death — how different people are with death."

Performance notes:

What: Cloud Gate Dance Theater, Lost Shadows and Oculus

When: March 30 to April 4, April 6 and April 7 (all performances at 7:45pm except Sunday March 1 at 2:45pm)

Where: The National Theater, Taipei

Tickets: From N$400 to NT$2,000


He was looking for a story that would be both personal and universal. He said he had been influenced by the movie The Da Vinci Code — the power of the female, which is why he is only using women in the piece. British government advertisements against drunk driving were another source of inspiration.

"The story is based on one person who does not want to accept death but she is seeing her own body — she's in between heaven and earth — she's trying to figure out how she came to be in this crash, this accident," Khan said. "While she tries to replay what happened just before her death, she sees a friend who died. A car hit her — she didn't want to die, it was chosen for her — but she reminisces about her friend who committed suicide by running in front of train in childhood."

"She was running toward death, not knowing she was going to have an accident but her friend was running away from life," he said.

Khan said he frequently thinks about death — there's a lot of it in the world right now with the war in Iraq, bombings, other conflicts — but he's not morbid about it.

"For me it's a life, a form of therapy to create a piece of work — a way of dealing with what's happening in the rest of the world," he said. "In order to understand death you have to understand life. In order to understand life you have to understand death."

Death's shadow also hangs over the second work on the program, Oculus, but it the shadow of a life ended far too soon. Wu died in Taipei in January 2006 at age 36 after a 16-month battle with leukemia. He had taken the European dance world by storm in just a few short years. He as diagnosed with the disease just a few months after taking the job as artistic director of the Staatstheater Kassel Dance Company in Germany.

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