by Peggy Hsieh（謝佳蓉）
“No company in the world dances like Cloud Gate. It presents a distinct and mature Chinese choreographic language. The importance of the evolution in Asian dance is no less profound than the impact of Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt on European classical ballet”—Dance Europe.
Before August 3, 2003, I only knew that Cloud Gate Dance Theatre was a famous Taiwanese dance company. However, on that day I learned that it is possible to combine Chinese culture with Western dance, and it was not surprising to me anymore why this group had become worldwide famous. It took my mother, two of her friends, and me one and a half hour to drive from my hometown to the location of their performance. As we got to the stadium park at five o’clock in the afternoon, it started to rain. When we got off the car looking for the outdoor stage, I heard a bright sound of a cello from somewhere beneath the slope. To my surprise, I saw a lawn and a crowd of people sitting in front of the stage down the slope.
As we walked down the slope excitedly, we saw some dancers who were rehearsing on the huge black stage, which was one hundred meters away from us. Of course, we wanted to get the best “seats.” Actually, there were no chairs there, and we had to sit on the lawn. We rushed to the first row. Next to us, there were still five or six backpacks lying on the ground, probably from students of a nearby school. On the stage, the dancers were dressed in their casual dancing suits to rehearse. They practiced several movements on the stage. For example, I saw two men lifting one slim girl, who was called “mosquito,” on her wrists and armpits in the air for three seconds before they put the girl down. Another movement was performed by a young man who would have a solo on the stage. At the same time, I heard a man’s voice speaking both in English and Taiwanese through the microphone. After the solo performer had left the stage, about six to ten dancers performed some Tai-Chi movements. The voice still gave instructions to the dancers. Suddenly, the man showed up behind a long black curtain, wearing a Chinese straw hat, a black T-shirt and a pair of black trousers. He was the Artistic Director of the group—Lin Huai-Min. “Oh, my God,” I said to myself. I couldn’t believe what I just saw because I thought that in such a small county, Master Lin would definitely not come in person. However, it seems that for him this performance was as important as any other one in Taipei, London, or Paris.
After finishing the rehearsal, the lighting team started to build the scaffolds on the stage to adjust the lighting. They tested colors and directions. Simultaneously, three groups of cameramen started to get ready to shoot the live performance: one group set up tracks in front of the stage, and each of the other two groups built high scaffolds to shoot from the left and the right sides of the audience. Finally, four young men mopped the stage floor because the roof of the stage was not waterproof. At the same time, a famous photographer was taking pictures of the four young men while water splashed from the stage.
The rain became heavier and the sky darker, and the four of us had already spent one and a half hours sitting in the rain in yellow rain coats watching “the free extra show.” When the formal show was about to begin, there were one or two thousand people, who came from all over Taiwan, sitting on the lawn to watch this world famous dance theatre of Taiwan. On the stage, the Artistic Director showed up to beg our pardon for changing the program. Because it had rained a lot in the afternoon, they had decided to perform “Moon Water” instead of the originally announced “Legacy.” Some people in the audience sighed with disappointment, but Director Lin said that the performance to be presented now was also highly admired in the world. When he made this heart-warming speech in his simple black T-shirt, I knew that he had never forgotten the people of Taiwan.
The performance was related to the water, the moon, and Tai Chi. During the performance, the dancers breathed so deeply that I could clearly hear them, and see their chests moving up and down. I also noticed that the dancers concentrated on every movement they were doing as if they were not bothered by the dozens of mosquitoes flying around them. What a beautiful scene as they swiftly moved their bodies curling and stretching in different directions.
Having watched this outdoor performance, I think the combination of elements of Tai Chi with Western modern dance shortens the distance between the dancers and their Taiwanese audience. As for Westerners, they can see different interpretations of their modern dance. This makes Cloud Gate so popular in Taiwan and overseas.
Reference of Picture:
I AM DANCING IN THE RAIN