FOLLOWING its sold-out, thought-provoking dance ritual “Nine Songs” a year ago in Shanghai, the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan is returning next month with “Pine Smoke,” which celebrates calligraphy in a delicate and lyrical fashion.
Lin Hwai-min, founder and artistic director of Cloud Gate, is an internationally celebrated choreographer who received the 2013 American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement, among his numerous honors.
In 2001, Lin explored ways to apply movement with traditional art of calligraphy and created “Cursive.” Two years later “Cursive II” premiered, followed by “Wild Cursive” in 2005. Lin renamed “Cursive II” in 2012, calling it “Pine Smoke.”
The stage design of “Pine Smoke” projects shimmering images of the crackled traces of Song Dynasty (960-1279) porcelain to fill the stage backdrop, and as the dancers perform, the color of the image gradually changes from shinning white to different shades.
What’s unique about this dance production is that Lin uses the music of American composer John Cage, whose experimental compositions were among the most influential in the 20th century.
Lin says this music broke the rules and led a revolution. His choreography uses Asian elements such as calligraphy, Peking Opera, fresco painting, historical stories and legends, and he is always looking for new forms of expression. His dancers not only practice dance, but also study martial arts, tai chi, meditation and calligraphy.
“The dance of Cloud Gate blends perfectly with Cage’s music,” says Lin. “Some of his compositions had East Asian influences.”
The choreographer himself is a foremost innovator. Born in 1947 in Taiwan, Lin had a promising career as a writer, including a stint in journalism, returned to literary writing and took a modern dance class, which struck a chord.
He graduated with a fine arts degree in literary writing from the University of Iowa, studied for several months at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York and at the Merce Cunningham Studio.
In 1973, he founded what would become Taiwan’s internationally known Cloud Gate Dance Theatre.
“Pine Smoke” will stage four performances at Shanghai Oriental Art Center from October 16-19.
Date: October 16-18, 7:15pm; October 19, 2:30pm
Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong