Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan and Lin Hwai-min, its founder/artistic director, are no strangers to New York dance audiences, having performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Next Wave Festival five times, most recently in October 2011. In February 2012, Lin Hwai-min will return to New York, leading his junior company, Cloud Gate 2, on its US debut tour to New York’s famous dance venue, The Joyce Theater, introducing a roster of award-winning, esteemed choreographers to the United States.
Unlike most “junior” companies, Cloud Gate 2 does not prepare dancers for Cloud Gate, nor does it perform Lin Hwai-min’s choreography. Cloud Gate 2 sprung to life in 1999 when Cloud Gate was touring the world extensively, often times more than 5 months away from its home base each year. Lin felt the time away from the home audience had to be compensated, and even reached out farther to include those not in metropolises. He founded Cloud Gate 2 with the purpose of fostering emerging choreographers and taking dance to where the large company cannot go, including campuses and grass-roots communities.
Dancing in rubble
Back in May 1999, Cloud Gate 2’s first performance was in the earthquake-hit area right after the daunting 921 Nantou Earthquake. Cleared away of the rubble, Lo Man-fei led the company of twelve dancers to dance for the villagers, many of them children of young age rescued from the quake ruins. This marked the first of the company’s efforts toward its mission of bringing dance to people’s doorsteps. Indeed, not only has Cloud Gate 2’s annual Spring Riot, presenting talented choreographer’s works, become one of Taiwan’s most anticipated art events; the company’s appearances on campuses and even hospitals are often standing room only. When the dancers see the eyes of a suffering elder gentleman light up, they are surely gratified by their work.
Losing the heavyweight battle
Wu Kuo-chu, a theater major, found his passion in dance at the age of 24 when he started studying ballet. He was 210 pounds. Wu later travelled to German Dance Theatre’s maestro Pina Bausch’s school, Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, where he transformed from a “210-pound dancing swan” to “himself dancing”. Seven years later, Wu’s distinct style which, according to German press, was “a body language close to heaven,” propelled him to artistic director of the resident dance company at Staatstheater Kassel. Wu choreographed for the company each year until his passing of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 36. Wu’s Tantalus will be on the Joyce program in February.
Aboriginal Taiwan to world stage
Bulareyaung Pagarlava is Cloud Gate’s dashing choreographer with features you can’t quite identify (Taiwanese locals often mistake him for a foreigner; when he travels the globe, some Latinos mistake him for one of their own.) Bulareyaung is an aboriginal of the minority Paiwan tribe tucked away in rural Taitung county on east coast of the island. He was the company’s first resident choreographer. Passage, which is to be featured on the Joyce program, was his first piece for Cloud Gate 2.
Bulareyaung, a natural born dancer, did not start dancing until high school. He had travelled more than 6 hours from his home to the dance auditions in the big city, where Lin Hwai-min was a guest panel judge at the auditions. Intimidated by ballet dancers stretching and whirling next to him, a defeated Bulareyaung gave his best twisting and turning with no apparent “dance” techniques. Nevertheless, Lin Hwai-min saw his potential and invited him to the dance school. In 2009, Bulareyaung was invited by Martha Graham Dance Company to choreograph Lamentations Variations, for which a New York Times critic stated they were, “eager to see more works by this evidently original choreographer.” In 2011, he was once again invited to choreograph by the Martha Graham Dance Company. Jane Eilber, artistic director of Martha Graham Company said of Bulareyaung, “one of the talented, important, new voices in the international dance scene.” This past summer, Bulareyaung was also commissioned by the prestigious American Dance Festival.
Street smarts to meticulously architected dance
Cheng Tsung-lung is the mastermind behind The Wall on Cloud Gate 2’s Joyce program. During junior high school, Cheng was a teenager dabbling in small trouble that finally landed him in the police station. Cheng was under court guidance that normally would have required him to be in detention centers for lectures on weekends. Fortunately, Cheng’s guidance counselor believed he could learn more by volunteering at nursing homes and disability centers. This decision changed Cheng’s perspective toward himself and his life. Having learned to cherish his surroundings, Cheng focused on getting into college and doing what he does best, dancing.
While being an exceptional dancer, Cheng’s penchant for over-analyzing turned out to be an important asset for choreography. After giving up dancing due to back injuries sustained while in the military, Cheng chose the next closest thing to dancing—making dances. Dance critics have described his work as “architectural precision at a frenetic pace.” Dancers often jokingly complain that his extremely fast-paced dances, often in meticulously orchestrated patterns, have “the millions of details that can kill dancers.”
The dotcom generation dreams no less than infinity and beyond.
Cloud Gate 2’s youngest choreographer, Huang Yi, 28, was named by Dance Magazine as one of its “25 to watch” stars in January 2011. Huang Yi grew up watching his parents tango in their home-based dance studio. He also grew up with technology, as most of the dotcom generation did.
In his childhood, with a videocam, Huang shot a stop-motion film of his playthings; during junior high, with his first computer, he started setting up his own website. Creating dances, videos, projections, photography and all technology toys that the dance world views as “crossover” are natural and in his blood. Despite the fascination with exploring technology, Huang knew it was only a means to exploring the boundaries of the body and dance. New Yorkers have the chance to see his homage to dancing bodies and his imagination of office suits in Ta-Ta for Now and Wicked Fish, presented on Cloud Gate 2’s Joyce program.
Cloud Gate 2’s portfolio of work is celebrated around the world as some of the most pioneering and creative contemporary dance to come out of Asia in decades. “We have an extraordinary opportunity to showcase exceptionally talented artists from Taiwan and we are thrilled to be performing in New York City during the company’s first US tour,” said Lin Hwai-min. “Cloud Gate 2 is a very different company from Cloud Gate Dance Theater which is why this occasion to perform in New York is especially important. They are gorgeous dancers who are required to learn, adapt and display remarkable technique through the artistry of a group of equally exceptional and distinct choreographers.”
At the forefront of contemporary dance, Cloud Gate 2 dares to take beautiful risks that produce equally stunning results. New Yorkers will have the opportunity to experience this exquisite, valiant artistry on February 8, 10, 12, 2012 at The Joyce Theater. For performance details, go to joyce.org or call JoyceCharge at 212-242-0800.