Cloud Gate founder and choreographer Lin Hwai-min talks
Carmelo Zapparrata meets the artist on the eve of "Rice" in Modena
TAIPEI Crossing up and down Europe, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan is going to perform only just for a date at Teatro Comunale of Modena in Italy. On 22nd May unmissable occasion to admire this prestigious Asian ensemble in the fascinating title about life cycles, Rice, conceived by its founder and leading choreographer Lin Hwai-min at the occasion of 40th company anniversary in 2013.
From writing to choreography, Lin Hwai-min tells us about his journey through the arts, responsibility as forerunner creator in Asian scene and his announced retirement.
Lin Hwai-min, this year Cloud Gate Dance Theatre celebrates , 45th anniversary. How could you summarise this so long-last experience?
It's amazing that Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan has been dancing for 45 years.I was a writer, with books of fiction published to acclaims in late 1960s, and had not taken regular dance classes until I was 23. I founded Cloud Gate, in 1973, without any professional experience.
Cloud Gate was the first professional dance company in Taiwan, also the first contemporary dance company in all Chinese-speaking communities. We had to do everything from zero and I had to teach myself how to choreograph.
From the very beginning we wanted to create works rooted in our culture, not imitations of western modern dance.In addition to ballet and modern dance techniques, Cloud Gate dancers have trained in meditation, Internal Martial Arts and Qigong, an ancient form of breathing exercise.
Through choreography I draw from the bodies trained in multiple disciplines from the East and West, trying to create a unique language and reinterpret folktales, traditional theater, classical literature and calligraphy.
It has been gratifying to see my works loved by audience in Taiwan and abroad, as Cloud Gate tours for about 150 days every year, with frequent engagements in cities like New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, Beijing and Sydney.
Growing up in the 60s, I feel it is a privilege to serve the society and set the goal of performing for grassroots audience. I am very happy that, despite tight touring schedule, we are still visiting communities and, in the past 23 years, we have been able to present free outdoor performances in different cities every summer, with a minimum of thirty thousand people attending each show.
Cloud Gate is much loved by people in Taiwan. After our rented rehearsal space was destroyed by a blaze in 2008, more than four thousand corporates and individuals sent in their donations to enable us to build our new home (Editor's note: Cloud Gate Theater at Tamsui district opened in 2015) which includes a theater, studios, offices, a technical workshop and a public park in the outskirt of Taipei. It has been a journey of hard work and joy of fulfillment. I feel very much blessed.
Being a forerunner hub for contemporary dance in Asia, what duties do you think are connected with this so important position?
It is a tremendous responsibility to take good care of the members of Cloud Gate family, financially and artistically, and to live up to expectations of our audience. In the end, the most important task is to face my own creation, hoping each is different and better than the last, and leaving no time to think I am holding an "important position".
About "Rice", can you explain us how was going on its creative process and what is the seed of this creation?
Several years ago I visited Chishang, a village renowned for its "Emperor's rice". I was moved by the beauty of rice paddies and by the farmers who engage in organic farming. I decided to create a work to honor them and to address the crisis of ravaging the earth.
To prepare for the creation I took the dancers to harvest the rice with farmers. It was an unforgettable experience. We suffered from backaches, yet it was such a touching feeling to have breeze drying our sweat from labor. From that harvest I was inspired to cooperate elements of nature into the creation: soil, wind, pollen, sunlight, grain, fire and water. I asked a videographer friend to document the life cycle of a chosen rice paddy and edited the footage for the projection in performances. In front of the projection dancers enact the life cycle of humans in parallel with that of rice.
One of the most treasured memories about our performances is the preview of Rice taking place in Chishang. We danced on a stage built in rice paddies with two thousand seats for audience on terraces above. Hundreds of acres of waving golden rice and mountains topped with white clouds served as the background. The farmers were overjoyed, so were the audiences in many overseas cities where the works toured in the past three years.
What are your upcoming and future projects?
After 45 years, Cloud Gate remains the only full-time dance company in Taiwan, I want it to continue striving. I announced my retirement plan last year that I will step down from my position as the artistic director of Cloud Gate at the end of 2019, allowing two years' time for transition. Cheng Tsung-lung, artistic director of Cloud Gate 2, will succeed me. Although my works will be kept in the repertory, I would love to see talented young choreographers' works communicating with the young audience of the internet era. At present I am working with Cheng Tsung-lung to make the transition smooth.
foto Barry Lam
Cloud Gate in "Rice"
Cloud Gate in "Rice"
Cloud Gate in "Rice"