Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) is keeping its combined fingers crossed for good weather as it prepares for two weekends of outdoor programs, starting tomorrow in Banciao at the Taipei County Sports Stadium.
The company’s annual free, open-air performances have become a midsummer ritual for thousands of its fans around the nation. Ever since the company’s inception, founder and artistic director Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) has believed that audiences outside of Taipei deserve to see live performances as much as the capital’s denizens do and he has made the effort to take his shows on the road.
While Taipei has been lucky for the last three summers to have either the main troupe or Cloud Gate 2 perform at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial square over the summer, this year it is Banciao’s turn (for the first time in four years), tomorrow night at 7:30pm. The company will also perform in Changhua the following Saturday evening to make up for a summer show two years ago that was cancelled because of a typhoon.
Like last year, the company will be presenting a mixed program, titled Unforgettable Moments of Cloud Gate, comprising Tale of the White Serpent (白蛇傳,1975) and excerpts from Cursive 2 (行草貳, 2002), Wild Cursive (狂草, 2005) and Moon Water (水月,1998). Then, like last year, the troupe will finish the evening by performing the lovely and colorful first half of Whispers of Flowers (花語, 2008).
A snake in disguise
The company revived Tale of the White Serpent in 2006. It literally had to start from scratch again for this year’s shows because Yilan-born sculptor Yang Ying-feng’s
(楊英風) deceptively simple props for the snake’s nest and bamboo room, as well as the costumes for the piece, were destroyed in a fire that consumed the company’s Bali Township (八里) warehouse and studio complex in February 2008. Since Yang wasn’t available to recreate his work (he died in 1997), Lin and his technical team had to create a model of the nest based on surviving photographs and video footage. It took weeks to find the right materials, but they found the right kind of rattan in Changhua for the nest and then they had to shape it into the sinuous curves that had made Yang’s creation so memorable.
Once again, Chou Chang-ning (周章佞) will star in Lin’s interpretation of the Chinese folktale about a scholar who falls in love with a beautiful woman only to discover his love is actually a snake in disguise.
Last year’s performance of the incandescent Whispers of Flowers, set to a Yo-yo Ma (馬友友) recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for solo cello, proved a huge hit with audiences as thousands of pink flower petals filled the air and drifted off the stage. A lucky few audience members were able to climb onto the stage afterwards to play with the petals and it was the older “youngsters” — like the nimble gray-haired man who must have been at least 70 — who delighted those who stayed around to watch. The company is offering the same opportunity again this year at both performances.
Cloud Gate’s annual summertime performances, like its dance-extension programs, have been sponsored for many years by Cathay Financial Holding Co. Cathay also uses the summertime shows to promote family activities by staging a combination free child health check-up and dance/stretch movement class for children the evening before the outdoor performances. Cathay General Hospital staff provide the check-ups while teachers from Cloud Gate’s dance schools lead the exercises. While admission to the Family Health Day is free, families interested in attending the programs are asked to make an online booking through Cathay Financial Holding’s Web site (www.cathayholdings.com.tw).
The Family Health Day program tonight in Banciao begins at 7:30pm, the one on July 23 in Changhua starts
WHAT: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, Cathay Life Arts Festival
WHEN: Tomorrow at 7:30pm (Banciao) and July 24 (Changhua) at 7:30pm
WHERE: Taipei County Sports Stadium (台北縣板橋體育場), 278 Hansheng E Rd, Banciao City (台北縣板橋市漢生東路278號) and Changhua Municipal Stadium (彰化縣立體育場),
1 Jiansing Rd, Changhua City (彰化市健興路1號)
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