Sunday, October 20, 2013

Taiwan Kinaesthetics: Cloud Gate Dance Theater

Cursive
When I lived in Taipei in 1979-80, I spent an awful lot of time memorizing characters and repeating sentences in Chinese that I listened to in the language lab. But once in a while I got out and lived a little.

One of my favorite discoveries about Taipei of that time was Cloud Gate Dance Theater. The way I looked at it, they had three big things going for them:
(1) Cloud Gate combined the best of Martha Graham technique with all manner of Chinese and other referents - from movement, music, and the visual arts. Cloud Gate made particularly inventive use of fabric - great billowing sheets, representing clouds, ocean waves, etc.

(2) Many of the dances Cloud Gate created explored themes in Taiwan (and Chinese) history and culture.

(3) The company founder and director, Lin Hwai-min (pinyin: Lin Huaimin), in addition to his role in the dance world, was a leading light of the Taiwan literary scene. (You can read more about Lin here.)
And the fourth thing they had going for them was that they operated a dance school. (This seemed marvelous to me at the time -- babe in the woods that I was -- though now I guess I understand that that's de rigeur for a dance company.) Invited/challenged by some of my (female) classmates to come check it out, I rode the bus up to the Cloud Gate studio northeast corner of Taipei, and thus began my short-lived career as a student of modern dance.

Unfortunately no photos of me in that dance class survive, but try to imagine a line of about a dozen petite, lithe, adorable Chinese dancers in leotards, and in their midst, one disjointed, oddball American standing out.

Below are some pictures of Cloud Gate dances - enjoy!

Wind Shadow

Legend of the White Snake


More about Taipei c. 1979 . . . .


Related posts


Part of what I loved about Du Hai was the way it used large pieces of fabric to convey the sensation of being in a boat among billowing waves, and the multiple uses to which they put the fabric - sea, clouds, sail, and more. Even a newcomer to modern dance, such as myself, could grasp what was going on.

(See The 21st Century U.S. Vocation: Extending hospitality to the next wave of immigrants coming to our country )



 So as I watched Ziggy for the first time last night, I asked myself, "What is it? What is it? What is the frisson that one feels? It's part charisma, part sexuality, partly the thrill of gender-bending, partly adolescent rebellion . . . . But what is it that Ziggy did (and does) for so many people?" (It can't be a single thing, can it?)

(See "You're NOT alone!" (Ziggy the Subversive) )


Years later, in the days when I traveled frequently to China and brought home picture books for my children depicting the adventures of Monkey battling all manner of demons, I began to take seriously the importance of demons and demon-quelling as a metaphor. (And that includes here and now in our own culture.)

(See Channeling Zhong Kui (the Demon Queller))









Eventually, in large part due to Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the United States was converted from a country in which a small number of people thought slavery needed to be ended into a country determined to act to end slavery. This literary work took the movement wide, and it took it deep.

Why is a novel an important tool for creative resistance?


(See Creative Resistance 101: Uncle Tom's Cabin )