Welcome to the World of Cloud Gate

Working with gravity, breathing and inner energy, Taiwanese dance company goes with the flow.

Fusing tai chi, meditation, ballet, modern dance and even brush strokes of calligraphy, the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan has been called one of the finest dance companies in the world, and it is heading to Vancouver.

Founding artistic director Lin Hwai-min, who has been heralded by Time magazine as one of “Asia’s heroes,” has received two National Awards for Arts in Taiwan, holds five honorary doctorates and has won numerous prestigious prizes from arts organizations in the United States, France and Germany. He even has a street named after him in the capital of his native country, Taiwan.

Hwai-min uses Eastern philosophies to guide his choreography, which he says doesn’t follow the same dance principles as western dance direction.

“Western dance works against gravity, we work with gravity; Western dance is extraverted, while we concentrate on our inner energy,” he says in a recent documentary about his company. “We don’t dance for an audience, we simply invite an audience to watch us perform and be privy to our movements and our breathing.”

Cloud Gate’s multidisciplinary approach to movement certainly shines in Moon Water, which runs February 5 and 6 as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. The piece’s name refers to the Buddhist proverb, “Flowers in a mirror and moon on the water are both illusory,” and is performed to Bach’s haunting Six Suites for Solo Cello. According to Hwai-min, the movements and patterns in his choreography are designed to illuminate concepts of real and unreal; effort and effortlessness; yin and yang. In this meeting of Eastern and Western cultures, this provides a sublime complement to Bach’s soaring cello score.

Dancers wearing white flowing outfits fluidly move about the stage like waves rushing back and forth along a shoreline, while mirrors suspended in midair catch ethereal glimpses.  By the end of the show, the stage and dancers are soaked with water, which adds to its otherworldly air.

“Cloud Gate is a fabulous, first-class company and they do beautiful work,” says Judith Garay, a professor at Simon Fraser’s school of contemporary arts and founding artistic director of Vancouver dance company dancersdancing.

“When you have their kind of cross-training, which goes beyond the physical and into the metaphysical and the spiritual, I think something remarkable can happen.”

“Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan: Moon Water” runs February 5 and 6 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Hamilton Street at West Georgia; 1-800-842-Tickets (1-800-842-5387); tickets from $30 to $98.

Tickets and more information on “Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan: Moon Water”

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