Ethereal steps | Arts & Culture

Ethereal steps

Ethereal steps

The University Musical Society (UMS) presents the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan on Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22 at 8 p.m. in Ann Arbor’s Power Center for the Performing Arts (121 Fletcher Street).  Trained in tai chi, meditation, Chinese opera movement, modern dance, and ballet, Cloud Gate is renowned for their a rich repertoire with roots in Asian myths, folklore, and aesthetics, all infused with a contemporary perspective.

Under the direction of Lin Hwai-min, Cloud Gate presents Water Stains on the Wall for its UMS debut. In this work, dancers are challenged with the daunting task of dancing on a tilted stage with an eight-degree inclination at a height of about four feet. Covered with white Marley, the entire set looks like a blank piece of rice paper traditionally used by Chinese calligraphers and painters, onto which negative images of drifting clouds in different shades of black are projected.

Accompanied by the renowned contemporary Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa’s Zen-like music using traditional Asian instruments, the dancers appear to be floating, creating the illusion of ephemeral clouds, flowing water, and a choreographer’s free-flowing ink. Luxuriating in the sheer joy of movement, these remarkably fluid performers make stillness every bit as breathtaking as action.

In addition to the two performances, audiences are invited to come to the lobby of the Power Center an hour before each performance to participate in an interactive Chinese calligraphy workshop, from 7-7:45 pm.  After the Friday evening performance, the artists will participate in a question-and-answer session from the stage.

For tickets or additional information, contact the University Musical Society at 734-764-2538 or online at www.ums.org.   Tickets may also be purchased in person at the League Ticket Office (911 North University Avenue).   UMS Ticket Office hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., closed Sunday.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan was founded in 1973 by choreographer Lin Hwai-min. According to Chinese legend, Cloud Gate is the name of the oldest known dance in China, a ritual dance of some 5,000 years ago; Hwai-min adopted this classical name for his dance company, the first to focus exclusively on contemporary dance in China.

Cloud Gate has been on extensive overseas tours throughout the continents of Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America, including engagements at New York’s Next Wave Festival, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival, Lyon Biennale De La Danse, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Adelaide Festival, Berlin Festival, Sadler’s Wells Theatre and Barbican Centre in London, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Kennedy Center, and Internationales Tanzfest NRW directed by Pina Bausch.

In 2003, Cloud Gate opened the Melbourne International Arts Festival with Cursive II, winning both the Age Critics’ Award and the Patrons’ Award; while in New York, Moon Water was named the best dance of the year by The New York Times. IN 2006, Cursive: A Trilogy was chosen as the best dance choreography of the year as a result of critics’ poll by Ballet-Tanz and Theaterheute.

At home, Cloud Gate also enjoys high acclaim and popularity. It performs throughout Taiwan, in venues ranging from the lavish National Theatre in Taipei to mid-sized cultural centers in various cities to high-school auditoriums in remote villages. The company also gives free outdoor performances several times a year, drawing audiences of up to 60,000 per performance.

Lin Hwai-min, the founder and artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, studied Chinese opera movement in his native Taiwan, modern dance in New York, and classical court dance in Japan and Korea. He founded the company in 1973.

A two-time winner of the National Award for Arts in Taiwan, Lin Hwai-min holds honorary doctorates from five universities in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Among the international honors received by Lin are the John D.Rockefeller 3rd Award, New York, the Joyce Award of Chicago, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the so called “Nobel Prize of Asia,” the “Best Choreographer” at Lyon Biennial Festival, and the “Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters” from the France Ministry of Culture. He was celebrated by the Time magazine as one of “Asia’s Heroes” in 2005. In 2009, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Movimentos Dance Prize, Germany. Lin Hwai-min has also been the subject of full-length television documentaries in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and, most recently, in Discovery Channel’s Portraits Taiwan: Lin Hwai-min, Opus Arte’s Floating on the Ground and ARTE/ZDF’s Lin Hwai-min -Interface Between Worlds.

An acclaimed writer, Lin holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Writers’ Workshop, University of Iowa. His novella Cicada from 1969 enjoys a rare longevity in Taiwan, and several of his short stories have been translated into English and published in the United States. His biographies, Legend of Lin Hwai-min and Cloud Gate and Hwai-min as a Young Man, are popular sellers in Chinese speaking communities.

As an educator, Lin founded the Department of Dance at Taipei National University of the Arts in 1983 and served as its chairman for five years. In 1993 and 1994, he was the founding dean of the university’s graduate dance program. In 1999, he gave workshops in Cambodia assisting local dancers to organize teaching materials of Khmer classical dance for children.

In 2003, Lin donated his prize from the Executive Yuan Culture Award, the highest honor of its kind in Taiwan, as the seed money for the Wanderers’ Fund, which supports local young artists to travel in Asia.

Quick Facts

  • Sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. Supported by Rani Kotha and Dr. Howard Hu.
  • Media Partners: Metro Times and Between the Lines.
  • Previous UMS appearances: This marks Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s second UMS performance; the group made their UMS debut in 1979.
  • Additional information: www.cloudgate.org.tw/eng/english/cgdt.html