Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Fire devastates Cloud Gate

By Diane Baker and Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) founder and artistic director Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) vowed yesterday that his company would rise like a phoenix after a fire devastated the troupe's Taipei County rehearsal studio and warehouse complex in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Lin said the fire that torched the nearly 400 ping (661m2) complex was "a test from God."

In a telephone interview with the Taipei Times yesterday evening, Lin said he could guarantee that Cloud Gate would recover.

"God must think Cloud Gate is still very young at 35 and can tackle a new challenge," he said. "We are ready for it."

"The two companies together [Cloud Gate and Cloud Gate 2] have 121 performances here and overseas this year and we will deliver," Lin said. "We will do our best to follow our original schedule."

The fire broke out at the complex in Bali Township (八里), Taipei County, at around 3am yesterday.

Witnesses said the blaze swept rapidly through the warehouse-like structure minutes after firefighters pried open the metal front door. Firefighters pumped water from a nearby creek to extinguish the blaze because there was no fire hydrant nearby.

The fire was contained after an hour, but the majority of the building -- and the props, costumes, scenery and office equipment inside -- was reduced to ashes. A small dance studio was, however, spared.

Lin said it was thought that the fire began in the building's electrical wiring, but the cause of the blaze was under investigation.

The entire Cloud Gate organization was determined that its commitments would be met, Lin said.

"Many dancers rushed to the studio at 4am [after hearing about the fire] and afterwards they said `We are going to dance better than before,'" he said.

Lin spent most of yesterday in meetings with his production teams and staff working out what needed to be done, including finding temporary rehearsal space for the two companies.

The main company is scheduled to begin a seven-week overseas tour with two performances of Images from Wind Shadows at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on April 3, before heading to Madrid for the first of a series of performances in nine European cities. Cloud Gate 2 will open its season at Novel Hall on March 26.

But the Cloud Gate organization, and especially the main company, faces a huge challenge in making the performance dates. The costumes for Lin's groundbreaking collaboration with Chinese visual artist Cai Guoqiang (蔡國強) -- the work Wind Shadows -- as well as those for Lin's work Moon Water were lost in the Bali fire. All costumes will have to be made for both shows, including the massive angel wings worn by some of the male dancers in Wind Shadows. The video footage and projections used in that show will also have to be recreated.

Also lost was technical director Chang Tsan-tao's (張贊桃) extensive notebook collection, with the lighting schematics for each dance and the equipment specifications and stage layout for each theater Cloud Gate has performed in, which were in his office at the Bali studio.

It will be of some help, however, that the company maintains an equipment storage facility in Europe for its shows there.

"We don't have the time to feel sad or be sentimental. We have to move ahead," Lin said.

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