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 Post subject: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:08 am 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
‘White’
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London; November 9, 2011


David Mead

Attachment:
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in White. Photo Liu Chen-hsiang.jpg
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in White. Photo Liu Chen-hsiang.jpg [ 34.16 KiB | Viewed 3117 times ]

The opening section of Lin Hwai-min’s “White” was made back in 1998 for the Taipei Crossover Dance Company, a troupe founded by four former Cloud Gate dancers in their early 40s. As the programme notes, they were not too keen on running and jumping, and “White I”, as it is known, is indeed full of the slow, sustained tai-qi influenced dance London audiences have come to expect from him. Vertical scrolls of white fabric rise and fall. Three women move among, and sometimes behind them, appearing as shadows, all the time their fluid bodies contrasting with the straight edges of the fabric. The sense of mystery is enhanced as a bare-chested male dancer enters the scene playing a Chinese flute that too acts as a contrast, this time with Stephen Scott’s rumbling electronic score.

The remaining two sections, “white II” and “White III” were created in 2006 when Lin decided to extend the original and stage the whole with his own company. “White I” is all about white on white; white costumes, white scrolls and bright lights. “White II” is much more about black and white. The curtain opens to reveal a forest of lighting booms almost right down on the stage floor, creating a very different atmosphere. After the lights are lifted, the black cloth covering the floor is similarly raised to form a dark cloud that hangs over proceedings, blocking out any light from above. In the shadows the dancers mostly appear as ghostly silhouettes, what light there was glinting on their exquisite bodies. At one point they divide into two groups of four, the two quartets imitating each other with such perfect timing it was quite remarkable. More memorable images were to come as the dancers transformed the stage once more, lifting the tape holding the floor together, pulling it taut to create impressive black and white abstract pictures as the strips of the dance floor itself were pulled off or slowly and very deliberately rolled up.

Cloud Gate has never only been about beautiful but slow, extended Tai-chi inspired dance. Even so, “White III” probably came as something as a surprise to most of the audience. Spurred on by Atsuhiko Gondai’s driving, tension-filled score full of explosive sounds that rolled through the theatre like waves crashing on a beach, the dancers exploded into a ferment of dynamic, unpredictable dance. It is easy to see why this section is occasionally danced as a stand-alone work. On a bare stage, with even the wings taken away, Lin’s choreography is now about the body pure and simple. The martial arts and qi gong influence is still there, but it’s all much harder edged. It never gets to the point where it could be called European, but the cross-fertilisation of Western and Eastern movement and aesthetics is much more apparent. The surprises keep coming, though, as in amongst the impressive leaps and turns appear some graceful lifts that would not be out of place in classical ballet. Talking of which, such is Cloud Gate’s draw that present and future Royal Ballet directors Monica Mason and Kevin O’Hare, and a number of Covent Garden dancers were in the audience. The dance gets ever more frantic, until so suddenly you don’t notice it until it has happened, everyone has gone. Peace reigns, leaving a host of varied and wonderful memories.


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 Post subject: Re: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:20 am 
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Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 711
Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
More views on "White"...

Mark Monahan in the Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Clement Crisp in the Financial Times
Financial Times

Sanjt Roy in The Guardian
The Guardian

Neil Norman in The Stage
The Stage


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 Post subject: Re: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:45 am 
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Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 711
Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
Nine Songs (九歌)
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集)
National Theater, Taipei; September 15 & 21, 2012

David Mead

Attachment:
Huang Pei-hua as the Shaman in Nine Songs. Photo Liu Chen-hsiang.JPG
Huang Pei-hua as the Shaman in Nine Songs. Photo Liu Chen-hsiang.JPG [ 31.53 KiB | Viewed 2342 times ]

Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) has said twice that “Nine Songs” would never be returning, first in 2001, then again in 2007. When almost all the costumes and sets were destroyed in the fire at the company studios in 2008, it really did seem that maybe that was it. But this Cloud Gate classic refused to die. The sets, costumes and soundtrack have been recreated, and like a phoenix rising it is reborn, and many hurrahs for that.

“Nine Songs” is a cycle of poems written by Qu Yuang some 2,300 years ago. It’s considered a pinnacle of Chinese literature. Drawing on the ancient imagery and sensibilities therein, and Taiwan’s sometimes turbulent history, Lin Hwai-min’s work is a journey through life and death that brings together distant and recent pasts. A shaman calls up the Gods, who enact otherworldly rites to music from India, Tibet, Java, Japan, and the indigenous tribes of Taiwan. Always, though, there are reminders that we are not in one time, and that the past and present inform each other. The ancient images are interspursed and interrupted by people in modern dress. A Magritte-like bowler-hatted and dark suited traveller carrying a suitcase frequently passes through scenes. Later, men and women on bicycles dash through the crowds, and there’s a man on rollerskates; all, maybe, metaphors for ourselves.

“Nine Songs” is packed with arresting images, but it’s beautiful even before the curtain rises. Ripples of light and sound come from a lotus pond that stretches the whole width of the forestage. For those near the stage in this Taipei season, an extra bonus was the smell, for these were real flowers. Once the piece starts, the stage appears in all its glory. Designer Ming Cho Lee (李名覺) treats the audience to a golden scene of giant lotus flowers, actually detail derived from Lin Yu-san’s (林玉山) Lotus Pond (蓮池) painting, that fills the side flats, ceiling and back panels. Those same panels later open to reveal a blackness, an enormous golden moon and, for the finale, a star-filled sky.

The first half moves from day to night. It begins with what appears to be a calm, religious ceremony, the cast all in white robes. The peace is soon shattered, though, by the arrival of a shaman, the paleness of her skin accentuated by her bright red dress. Her presence unsettles all around her. Her dance is trance-like. Both Huang Pei-hua (黃珮華) and Ko Wan-chun (柯宛均) were excellent in the role. Huang was particularly mesmerising as her body shuddered and rocked most violently, her body arcing back and forth in percussive movements.

Eventually, the set opens and the powerful Sun God appears. His dance with the shaman is aggressive, confrontational, and contrasts sharply with the surrounding beauty. Later we meet the Gods of Fate who bring darkness, deceit and abuse to the world. One dance fills the stage with writing bodies as if portending suffering to come.

The second half follows the seasons. Again, the opening is calm. Spring arrives with the Goddess of the Xiang River waiting for her lover. Against a deep blue sky and a huge full moon, the ethereal deity is carried on stage standing motionless on two bamboo poles, trailing the longest of long white veils. As ever, though, there is a sense that all is not well. Sure enough, her dress and her waiting is in vain, and she becomes a symbol for wasted youth.
Attachment:
Yeh Wen-pang  as the God of the Clouds in Nine Songs. Photo Liu Chen-hsiang.JPG
Yeh Wen-pang as the God of the Clouds in Nine Songs. Photo Liu Chen-hsiang.JPG [ 21.94 KiB | Viewed 2342 times ]

The highlight of “Nine Songs” for most audiences is the appearance of the God of the Clouds, who represents summer. It often seems everyone remembers Wu I-fang (吳義芳), who created the role in the original production and reprised it five years ago, as the loin-clothed, shoulder-borne deity. For all of the eight minutes the god is on stage, he never once touches the ground, instead shifting his feet from one man’s shoulder to another, sometimes posing in incredible balances. Almost as precarious is the way a flag bearer on rollerskates who constantly passes through the scene exits in arabesque, presaging the exit of the god himself. Yeh Wen-pang (葉文榜) and Chen Wei-an (陳韋安) were both quite admirable as the God, displaying startling balance, core strength and incredible trust in their two bearers.

Autumn sees the green Mountain Spirit wandering alone, his mouth often wide open in a silent scream, as if foretelling an impending catastrophe. Sure enough, winter brings death and destruction. Now Lin moves to the recent past. He shows us protestors scurrying and people being fired upon. Headlights appear upstage. In a clear reference to the Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing, a man blocks the lights, his arms out in protest. He falls, but is caught by the shaman who takes him to the pond and bathes his wounds. All this is to drumming, composed by Ju Tzong-ching (朱宗慶) and played by Taiwan’s Ju Percussion Group, that seems to push the dancers ever forward. It is stark, blunt, leaves little to the imagination, but is intensely effective.

The most affecting scene has dancers entering in slow single file, wicker baskets over their heads, hands crossed in front of them as if tied. This is the way prisoners were led to execution during Japan’s occupation of Taiwan in the first half of the twentieth-century. A heavy voice begins a methodical recitation of names, real heroes and ordinary people who died under the Japanese and who were executed following the 228 Incident, a 1947 clash between local Taiwanese and newly arrived Chinese Nationalist government forces that resulted in an estimated 20,000 deaths.

Don’t for a moment think you need a deep knowledge of Taiwanese history to comprehend events. Sure, it adds an extra dimension, but the scenes equally well come across as examples of general human suffering and oppression.

All that dramatic action makes the final section, Homage to the Fallen, even more stunning, both visually and emotionally. Against the sound of a ritual song from the Tsou tribe of Taiwan, and in with which snatches of bird song can be heard, the dancers slowly place hundreds of candles on the stage, creating a river of light. When the back flats are raised it seems to stretch for ever. It’s an beautiful final sight to take away.

“Nine Songs” is a captivating ninety minutes or so of richly diverse, often startling, images that make you think. Far from talk of the work being retired, overseas performances are now being scheduled. It will be staged in Moscow in 2013 and London in early 2014, the latter also to include a major new production. Many cheers for that.


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 Post subject: Re: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:44 pm 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
Lin Hwai-min to Receive the 2013 Samuel H. Scripps / American Dance Festival Lifetime Achievement Award

The American Dance Festival has announced that the 2013 Samuel H. Scripps / American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement will go to Cloud Gate Artistic Director Lin Hwai-min. The award celebrates choreographers who have made distinguished contribution to modern dance. Previous awardees include Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Trisha Brown, Pina Bausch and William Forsythe.

The ADF said, “Mr. Lin’s fearless zeal for the art form has established him as one of the most dynamic and innovative choreographers today. While his works often draw inspiration from traditional elements of Asian culture and aesthetics, his choreographic brilliance continues to push boundaries and redefine the art form… Lin Hwai-min’s illustrious career as a choreographer has spanned over four decades and has earned him international praise for his impact on Chinese modern dance.”

Lin Hwai-min is the first Scripps recipient who works outside of the United States and Europe. The award, which includes a prize of US$50,000 and a trophy nicknamed "the Sammy", will be presented this summer at Duke University, North Carolina

Note: Lin's influence over 40 years has actually been on Taiwanese modern dance. One would have hoped the ADF knew the difference. It is significant in more ways than one. Lin has also had a major impact on dance education and training in Taiwan, both for aspiring professionals and young people who dance for fun.


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