Nine Songs by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan

2012-08-02 20:15 - 2012-08-05 17:30

Nine Songs by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan

When: 2-4 Aug 2012 20:15; 5 Aug 2012 15:00
Where: Hong Kong Cultural Centre - Grand Theatre

Nine Songs by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan Poster


And yet the gods have never come. Nine Songs, a cycle of poems written by Qu Yuan some 2,300 years ago, is considered a pinnacle of classical Chinese literature.  Drawing on the ancient imagery and sensibilities, Lin Hwai-min creates a thoroughly contemporary ritual, in which distant and recent pasts collide.

Masked shamans, playing the roles of Gods and Goddesses, enact otherworldly rites to music from India, Tibet, Java, Japan and indigenous tribes of Taiwan.  Their dances are interspersed with appearances of people in contemporary dress: a man in a modern-day suite with luggage calmly crosses the stage; a young man on bicycle dashes through the crowd; scores of protesters scurry for cover from blazing searchlights.

The East and the West, the Past and the Present, give rise to an aesthetic that has won Nine Songs the accolade of “a perfect choreographic paradigm for a true intercultural dance form.” Received to great acclaim at the Vienna International Dance Festival, the Next Wave Festival in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival, and major cities in Germany, Canada and the United States, Nine Songs was hailed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as “one of the most important dance works of our time.”

Qu Yuan’s poems are an adaptation from ancient shamans’ hymns, which celebrate life, nature and honourable death.  The shamans praise the deities with songs and dance in the manner of lovers, and lament that the deities often fail to appear, or, even if they do, only too briefly.

Like the poems, the dance reflects the cycles of nature.  The first half moves from day to night, from the bright and powerful Sun God to the dark gods of Fate who bring deceit and abuse to the human world.  The second half of the work follows the seasons.  Spring arrives with the Goddess of the Xiang River awaiting her beloved in vain and gradually becoming a symbol of wasted youth.  Summer is represented by the God of Clouds, who ‘dances in air’ by bearing down on two mortal carriers throughout the eight-minute section. Autumn sees the Mountain Spirit wandering in solitude; his mouth wide open, as if foretelling an impending catastrophe with his soundless cries.

Finally, Winter brings death and destruction.  In 'Homage to the Fallen,' dancers in black pants fall one after another as the names of those who sacrificed their lives for fellow humans, in ancient China and in recent history of Taiwan, are recited in Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka dialect, and Atayal.The man in black suit with a large suitcase enters for the last time, crossing the stage scattered with fallen bodies...

Echoing the rich metaphors of flowers and foliage in Qu Yuan’s verses, set designer Ming Cho Lee uses the lotus, a symbol of reincarnation in Chinese culture, as his main motif.  Against the backdrop of an enlarged detail of a lotus painting by the Taiwanese artist Lin Yu-San, lotus blossoms and opulent leaves emerge from a pond built in the orchestra pit. In the shimmering reflection of ripples, dancers place candles on the stage to ‘Honour the Dead,’ creating a winding river of flickering lights with hundreds of candles stretching into a starry sky and thus bringing the ritual to a full circle. The magnificent set of Nine Songs won Ming Cho Lee a Bessie Award in New York in 1996.


Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
The virtuosity of Cloud Gate dancers has made critics ask: “when has one ever seen a company with such magical and beautiful bodies?” and confess that they “possess a control and articulation that verge on the superhuman.  These are performers who can make stillness every bit as eloquent as animation.  In fact, they have the power to change your metabolism.”

Cloud Gate is the name of the oldest known dance in China.  In 1973, choreographer Lin Hwai-min adopted this classical name for the first contemporary dance company in any Chinese speaking community. Its 24 dancers receive trainings of meditation, Qi Gong, an ancient form of breathing exercise, internal martial arts, modern dance, ballet, and calligraphy.  Through Lin Hwai-min’s choreographies the company transforms ancient aesthetics into thrilling modern celebration of motion.

Cloud Gate has toured extensively with frequent engagements at the Next Wave Festival in New York, the Sadler's Wells Theatre and Barbican Centre in London, the Moscow Chekhov International Theatre Festival, and the Internationales Tanzfest NRW directed by Pina Bausch.


Lin Hwai-min
Honouring Lin Hwai-min with a Lifetime Achievement Award, the jury of the International Movimentos Dance Prize, Germany, calls Lin “a foremost innovator of dance” and that “Lin Hwai-min ranks amongst artists of the century such as William Forsythe, George Balanchine, Birgit Cullberg….” A writer-turned choreographer, Lin has published books of fiction and essay, and holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Writer’s Workshop, University of Iowa.  Lin Hwai-min studied dance in Taiwan and New York. In 1973, he founded Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, and Cloud Gate 2 in 1999.

Heralded as “the most important choreographer in Asia,” Lin often draws his inspiration from traditional Asian culture and aesthetics to create original works with contemporary resonance, which have made Dance Europe acclaim: “No company in the world dances like Cloud Gate.  It presents a distinct and mature Chinese choreographic language.  The importance of this evolution in Asian dance is no less profound than the impact of Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt on European classical ballet.”

Among the honours Lin received are honorary doctorates from five universities in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Taiwan National Award for Arts, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award, the award for 'Best Choreographer' at the Lyon Biennial Festival and the 'Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters' from the French Ministry of Culture.  In 2005, he was celebrated by Time Magazine as one of the “Asia’s Heroes.”

Lin has been invited by the "Rolex Mentor and Protégée Initiative” to serve as the mentor of dance for 2012/2013. He will mentor a young choreographer selected from candidates recommended by a panel of dance experts around the world.

Lee Ming-cho

Lee is one of the foremost set designers in America today.  He is now a professor of design at Yale University, and is co-chair of the design department of the Yale School of Drama.  He has worked with several leading dance companies, including Martha Graham Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Eliot Feld Ballet, José Limón and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Lee has designed sets for several opera companies and for theater groups.  His design works with Cloud Gate include, Nine Songs (1993), which certified him with a Bessie Award in 1996, and Portrait of the Families (1997).  In 1999, he came across continents to design Cloud Gate’s millennium dance work, Burning the Juniper Branches.


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