Back on Cloud 9 for the upcoming dance season

Cloud Gate dance company gears up for Taiwan, international tour

By Trista di Genova
Originally published in The China Post

After rising from the flames of a devastating fire to their Bali rehearsal studio on Feb. 11, Taiwan’s world-class dance company Cloud Gate Dance Theatre provided a poignant glimpse of their upcoming Taiwan and international tour at a press preview on Wednesday.

“Everything was destroyed,” said Lin Hwai-min at the time, one of the troupe’s founders and artistic director. “We lost our costumes, props and production archives tracking back to 1975” after a 2 a.m. electrical short-circuit, he said, vowing Cloud Gate would stage a comeback and “rise from the ashes.”

Cloud Gate has indeed risen like a phoenix after a subsequent outpouring of public sympathy for Taiwan’s “cultural treasure.” Offers and donations poured in from Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (NT$200,000) and former Taichung Mayor Lin Po-jung (NT$50,000), staff at the Juming Museum who donated a day’s salary, and celebrated Taiwan illustrator Limmy Lia, among many others. Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislators such as Chu Feng-chih immediately called on the government to assist Cloud Gate — “the jewel of Taiwan and the pride of its people” — in getting through the crisis.

Cloud Gate’s Lin thanked Taiwan society for “extending a warm hand to us after the fire,” but took the opportunity to lash out at the “pittance” of the country’s annual cultural investment — NT$100 million (US$3 million), cut back from NT$120 million. Council of Cultural Affairs (CCA) Chairman Wang Tuoh met with Lin and promised to push for an increase in arts funding and a disaster relief bill for artists and performance groups.

Cloud Gate secured temporary rehearsal sites through the efforts of Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei at the Taipei National University of the Arts in Guandu, Taipei County, and Taiwan Cement offered its Shiming Hall in Taipei. It was reported that on Feb. 14, Lin told CCA Chairman Wang he had decided to choose the Taiwan Human Rights Memorial Park in Taipei City’s Jingmei district as the troupe’s permanent site.

Meanwhile, rehearsals continued for Cloud Gate’s new dance program, “Song of the Birds,” which promises to be another stunning world tour.

“The quality of the dance has changed; it’s more strong now,” said Cloud Gate choreographer Cheng Tsung-long, 32, to The China Post on the sidelines of the preview.

“At the beginning (after the fire) they didn’t want to try (for their heavy hearts), but then when they danced it was very much different, much more sure, certain.”

When asked by Chinese-language media if they had been afraid, he responded, “Not at all.”

Cheng’s previewed work, “Change,” was also fearless — and highly evocative of the ever-changing destiny, quixotic twists of fate that have tested by fire the premier dance troupe. Cheng, who won third prize in the No Ballet International contemporary Choreography Competition, said his work was influenced by his travels to India, martial arts and taichidao.

Other works previewed included Lo Man-fei’s beautiful “Cocoon,” “Song of the Birds,” a memorable work choreographed by Lin, and the ingenious “Body – Sound,” by 25-year-old choreographer Huang Yi, with striking and unforgettable costumes reminiscent of fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.

The company’s 121 scheduled performances will go on as planned, beginning in Taipei this month from March 26 to April 26, with performances in Taipei, Taichung, Hsinchu and Kaohsiung, then at New York’s Guggenheim Museum on April 3 before embarking on a seven-week European tour.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, known for mixing Asian mythology, folklore and modern aesthetics, was founded in 1973. Cloud Gate 2 was founded for modern dance in 1999, with Lo Man-fei as its first artistic director. After Lo’s passing in 2005, Lin Hwai-min, founder of both Cloud Gate and Cloud Gate 2, took over the directorship.

Performance schedule:
Friends of Cloud Gate: (02) 2712-2102

Photos by Trista di Genova, The China Post

Dancers from Cloud Gate 2, a modern dance group, perform “Song of the Birds” from their new program during a press preview on Tuesday, at Taipei National University of the Arts. Taiwan’s premier dance company has risen from the ashes of a devastating fire at its Bali rehearsal studio and is gearing up for its 121-performance international tour.

Lin Hwai-min, Cloud Gate 2’s founder and artistic director, speaks at a
press conference in Taipei County after the dance company’s preview of their upcoming program, “Song of the Birds” Tuesday.