Thu, Nov 09, 2017 - Page 13 News List

A history of Formosa in dance and words

Thirty-nine years after Lin Hwai-min’s groundbreaking “Legacy” told the story of Taiwan’s early Chinese settlers, he has created a new work that celebrates the multistoried, multicultural history of the island itself

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

“The characters expand... into rivers of words, then become a landscape, they drop like rocks, like bombs on the floor, they become a monster, kill people,” he said using his usual rapid-fire delivery. “We did a wonderful ‘bang, bang, bang, bang onto floor.’”

Then from out of the darkness come stars, each one made of a character, he said.

“They are like glowing diamonds onto the dancers... Some stars are amplified, drift into space,” he said. “A lot of words gradually break. Wo ai ni (“I love you,” 我愛你) starts at center stage, then the heart fades away, love without a heart. It is like seeking wrecks of spaceships floating away.”

The projection design was done by Chou Tung-yen (周東彥) and Very Mainstream Studio, while Howell Chang Hao-jan (張皓然) did the videography.

For the score, Lin used percussive music by Paris-based Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, Taiwanese musician Liang Chun-mei (粱春美) — who worked with Lin on "Cursive 3" (Wild Cursive, 狂草) — and Puyuma singer Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw.

However, it is Sangpuy as his fans have never heard him; as even the musician had never heard himself. He becomes the voice of nature for the show.

Lin said Sangpuy agreed to work on the production only if several demands were met, including not singing Aboriginal songs or his own works.

“We dragged him, pushed him, finally locked him in the studio where he howled, screamed, murmured,” Lin said. “At end of three [recording] sessions of his voice, our music director patched it together,” he added, but almost deafened himself in the process.

Formosa, which the company has been billing as three years in the making, premieres on Nov. 24 at the National Theater as part of the National Theater Concert Hall’s Dancing in Autumn series, but only because Lin wanted to have the premiere in Taiwan.

The show was originally scheduled to premiere last year at the opening of the Taipei Performing Arts Center in Shilin District (士林), but when construction on the center was stopped temporarily, the company had to come up with Plan B, and that was this month at the National Theater since the show was coproduced with the NTCH.

Other coproducers include the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (another project that is years behind schedule), Sadler’s Wells in London, the Theatre de la Ville in Paris and the Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, meaning that the show has already been booked for tours to the US, the UK and France starting early next year.

Performances are also set for Germany, Portugal, Russia that will keep the company busy touring the show next year and into 2019.

But first there is Taiwan itself and Cloud Gate’s loyal fanbase. After 10 performances at the National Theater, Cloud Gate will take the show to Taichung, Kaohsiung and Lin’s hometown of Chiayi.

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