Elemental Matters: Donald Hutera on Cloud Gate Dance Theatre
Something amazing tends to happen to people when they watch Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. The work of this internationally acclaimed troupe from Taiwan is, in essence, based on a fusion of Western techniques and Asian traditions. And yet in the hands of its artistic director, the master choreographer Lin Hwai-min, the company’s unique mingling of styles yields many different and often elemental forms of expression.
On previous UK visits Cloud Gate’s dancers have showered in a non-stop spray of dyed yellow rice, or occupied an onstage bamboo grove. The last time they were in London they transformed themselves into human calligraphy. No matter what they do, the extraordinary discipline and mesmerising dynamics of their movement manages to impact upon a viewer’s perception in a way that probably no other dance company in the world can. In the words of the Chicago Sun-Times, a performance by Cloud Gate has ‘the power to change your metabolism.’
‘That’s what I’ve been working on,’ says Lin, grinning. A cheerful, humble and intense sexagenarian with a huge appetite for culture of all kinds, he founded Cloud Gate in 1973. This was not long after returning to Taipei from America, where he’d studied the methods of modern dance pioneers like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. Lin, too, was a pioneer. Named after an ancient ritual dance, Cloud Gate was the first modern dance company to emerge from a Chinese-speaking community.