Imagine a stage covered in rice paper where the dancers’ movement paints the page like free-flowing lines of ink. Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan has the power to create this image, turning a traditional stage into a much more stylized, curvy, tangible experience.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m.
Tonight and tomorrow, the company will perform its work “Water Stains on the Wall,” which takes the static image of calligraphy and makes it come alive through the art of dance.
In 1973, choreographer Lin Hwai-min established Cloud Gate, which would become the premier contemporary dance establishment in Taiwan. The company is composed of 24 dancers who receive a multidisciplinary range of dance training, including meditation, martial arts, modern dance and Tai Chi. By combining these different forms of movement, the company emotes an intricate style where the dancers’ energy emanates even when not moving at all.
In its early days, Cloud Gate brought historical Asian stories and legends to the stage. Tzy-wen Gong, a Taiwanese native who has seen several of Cloud Gate’s early performances, listed several examples. One performance told the story of the Chinese Han people crossing the Taiwan Strait to mainland Taiwan. The dancers brought this event to life when they depicted countrymen of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
More recently, however, Cloud Gate has delved into abstract themes. In the company’s latest work, “Water Stains on the Wall,” choreographer Lin Hwai-min brings to life the idea of visual art as a dynamic discipline full of movement and emotion.
Lin Hwai-min combines his training from American choreographer Martha Graham and other Western influences with his Eastern heritage to create a hybrid style. In “Water Stains,” he portrays the elegance of calligraphy through the smooth and fluid movements of the dancers.
As an important component of Asian culture and art history, calligraphy remains a critical discipline in Taiwanese schools. The dancers in Cloud Gate took lessons from calligraphy masters before they learned the actual dance moves. This gave them a keener understanding of what they intended to create through the language of movement.
“A line is no longer a line,” Gong said. “It is about the twist and the waves of the brush. You see the water drips and the pauses and how the ink stains the white fabric. But it is not just a tool for writing, it is an art that reflects a person’s personality.”
The synergy of these two art forms creates an innovative work in which Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan boldly signs its name as it dances across the stage.