Thu, Jul 13, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Speaking in tongues

Cloud Gate 2 artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung’s exuberant ‘13 Tongues’ was inspired by his mother’s stories about a legendary street artist in Taipei’s Bangka borough decades ago

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Cloud Gate 2 will give two free outdoor performances of artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung’s 2016 work, 13 Tongues. The first will take place on Saturday night at the Liberty Plaza in Taipei and the second on July 22 at the Tainan Municipal Stadium.

Photo Courtesy of Lee Chia-yeh

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) teamed up with with Cathay Financial Holding in 1996 to present free outdoor performances around Taiwan so that people who might never enter a theater might have a chance to see the nation’s premier performing arts troupe.

Over the past two decades the crowds for the annual summer Cathay Arts Festival have grown exponentially — in Taipei anywhere from 7,000 people and up pack Liberty Plaza between the National Theater and National Concert Hall — and the shows have become a major social event.

This year Cloud Gate 2 (雲門 2) is getting its third chance to perform as part of the festival, with the first show on Saturday at Liberty Plaza, and the second the following Saturday at the Tainan Municipal Stadium.

The troupe will be performing artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung’s (鄭宗龍) first full-evening-length work for the company, 13 Tongues (十三聲), which premiered at the National Theater in March last year as part of Taiwan International Festival of Arts.

Taipei native Cheng was inspired by his mother’s stories about “13 Tongues,” a well-known street artist in the 1960s in Bangka (艋舺, also known as Manka and Monga), an old borough that is now part of Wanhua District (萬華).

“Thirteen Tongues” was famed for being able to portray multiple roles and characters of all ages, male or female, as he told stories about the past and present.

Cheng took his mother’s stories and added his childhood memories of street markets and hawkers’ cries; the movements and sounds of Taoist processions; the hustling of beggars and gangsters; and snippets of folksongs to create a uniquely Taiwanese kaleidoscope of dance and images.

The show starts off in monochromic black as the dancers pound their feet, clap their hands, shout and sing, with movements that mix contemporary dance with martial arts moves and the wide-legged, side-to-side gait and swinging arms of procession deities.

Performance notes

WHAT: Cloud Gate 2 outdoor performance: 13 Tongues

WHEN: Saturday at 7:30pm

WHERE: Liberty Plaza, 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

ADMISSION: Free

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE: Saturday, July 22 at 7:30pm at Tainan Municipal Stadium (台南市立足球場), 10, Tiyu Rd, Tainan City (臺南市體育路10號)


The action is as packed as a Saturday morning wet market, yet Cheng leaves room for quieter solos, pairings and group dances.

Little by little more color is added, in the costumes and lighting, until the stage is ablaze with neon colors reminiscent of the signs that light up Taipei at night, thanks to lighting designer Shen Po-hung (沈柏宏), projection designer Ethan Wang (王奕盛) and costume designer Lin Bing-hao (林秉豪).

Composer Lim Giong (林強) devised a score that combines electronic music, Nakashi tunes of the Japanese colonial era and Hengchun Peninsula folk melodies with swathes of silence that highlight the dancers’ breaths and footfalls.

Given the heat wave currently enveloping Taipei, it is more important than ever to come prepared for Saturday’s show: a ground cloth or pillows to sit on, cool drinks and paper fans — and to show up at least an hour or more ahead of the 7:30pm start time to get a good spot.

Instructors from the Cloud Gate Dance School will lead a warm-up party for kids of all ages at 7pm to get the circulation going for those who have been staking out their spots on the plaza for a while.

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