I still remember the first time I saw Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, the experience has stayed with me ever since – the distinct way the dancers moved, the dramatic staging and the beautiful story.
Uniquely Cloud Gate dancers are trained in meditation, Qi Gong an ancient breathing exercise, internal martial arts, modern dance, ballet and calligraphy. This combination enables the dancers to perform superbly across Asian and classical boundaries, to pirouette, glide and kick with both grace and controlled power.
I am always intrigued to see how the company continues to blend the deep Asian philosophies with classical ballet and modern dance, creating stunning visual landscapes reflected by mirrors, danced in water, adorned by trees, or set against wind.
This inspired company is the vision of founder and choreographer Lin Hwai-min, who has been hailed as one of the most important dance creators of our time. Cloud Gate was the very first contemporary dance company in the greater Chinese speaking community, which Hwai-min named after the oldest Chinese dance.
Over the last 42 years, Hwai-min has developed his company to international acclaim with dancers that as he describes “not only move well, but have individual personalities in their movements, so that while dancers move in unison there are still difference between individuals.”
Lin Hwai-min was a writer before becoming a dance maker which has no doubt influenced is approach to choreography and story telling. His new piece – Song of the Wanderers – coming to London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre is a spiritual story inspired by Hwai-min’s personal experience of travelling to the place of Buddha’s enlightenment.
There was a deep pull in his heart to travel to the small village, to sit and wonder, feel and contemplate among temple monks. It was an experience that filled Hwai-min with joy and quietude and upon returning to the company’s studios he meditated before creating Song of the Wanderers.
Song of the Wanderers promises a monk sitting on the stage while shimmering rice falls gently upon his shaved head, a stage filled with golden rice transforming into river, hills, and desert as the dancers undertake their spiritual pilgrimage with movement inspired by the religious practices found across Asia.
Hwai-min has an amazing mind, and its beautiful the way he weaves traditional dance with ballet, modern dance with martial arts to create new choreography, “Each work has different fate. Sometimes I am inspired by music. Other times a theme. Whatever the idea comes from, I create the work with the Cloud Gate dancers. Each work is the result of the dialogue amongst us.”
Whilst creating new works to mesmerise world audiences, Hwai-min has also created a new company – Cloud Gate 2 – and rebuilt the Cloud Gate Theatre after a fire tore through the old building. Cloud Gate Theatre, which includes a full-equipped theatre, two studios and an outdoor space that accommodates 1,500 audiences, opened one year ago, “This is not only a home for Cloud Gate and Cloud Gate 2 but we also present other companies and invite talented choreographers to hold residences to create their own works. I hope this place will produce excellent choreographers and brilliant works. Of course, I also continue to create my own works here.”