After four decades on dance stage, Lin Hwai-min to bow out

2017/11/22 22:15:04 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Lin Hwai-min (林懷民)/CNA file photo

Lin Hwai-min (林懷民)/CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 22 (CNA) Lin Hwai-min (林懷民), Taiwan's founding father of modern dance, established the country's first professional dance company - the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre - in 1973.

Over the next four decades, the troupe would go on to create 90 dance productions and earn a reputation as one of the most acclaimed contemporary dance companies in the world.

At the end of 2019, the 70-year-old Lin will step down from his position as Cloud Gate's artistic director, handing over to Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍), currently the artistic director of Cloud Gate 2, the troupe announced Wednesday.

Lin was born into a political family in Chiayi County's Xingang Township. His father Lin Chin-sheng (林金生) was the first magistrate of Chiayi and had hoped that his son would follow in his footsteps.

Lin Hwai-min, however, decided to study journalism and later obtained a master's degree from the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.

After returning to Taiwan, he founded Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in 1973, even though he had no choreography experience and there were no professional dance companies in Taiwan at the time.

"I grew up in the 1960s," Lin said in a TED talk in 2013. "The 60s were an age of the youth. The Beatles and the Hippie culture were from that time. Young people were against war and Martin Luther King said 'I Have a Dream.' The 60s taught us that young people have a responsibility and an ability to change society and the world."

After returning to Taiwan, Lin said, he met some women who loved to dance and they decided to form their own dance troupe.

"At the time, we were not thinking about performing in New York, London, Paris or Moscow, we were hoping to establish a troupe of around a dozen people and performing in schools for students or in communities for the public," Lin said.

Since its inception, the troupe has produced numerous works, including celebrated productions such as "Legacy," "Songs of the Wanderers," "Moon Water," "Bamboo Dream" and "Rice."

Cloud Gate has been called "Asia's leading contemporary dance theatre" by the Times of London. Its production "Moon Water" was selected by the New York Times as the best dance of 2003.

It has toured extensively overseas and regularly invites students from rural areas of Taiwan to attend its shows free of cost.

Lin is known for fusing Eastern and Western aesthetics in his work and for integrating different art forms, such as Buddhist meditation, martial arts, aboriginal dance, ballet and traditional Chinese opera.

In 2005, the choreographer was celebrated by Time magazine as one of "Asia's Heroes," and in 2009, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Movimentos Dance Prize in Germany.

The jury of the prize said Lin was "a foremost innovator of dance" and that he ranked "amongst artists of the century such as William Forsythe, George Balanchine, Birgit Cullberg ..."

In 2013, Lin received the prestigious Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement - the first dancer outside the U.S. or Europe to do so. Previous awardees included legendary dancers Martha Graham and Pina Bausch.

"Mr. Lin's fearless zeal for the art form has established him as one of the most dynamic and innovative choreographers today," according to the festival. "While his works often draw inspiration from traditional elements of Asian culture and aesthetics, his choreographic brilliance continue to push boundaries and redefine the art form."

Lin was also a recipient of the Taiwan National Award for Arts and the Chevalier de l' Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture.

In recent years, Lin has been talking more and more about retiring.

"I am just a machine, a screw," he said recently. "Every day, everything I do has been well planned ahead. I am also a mascot. If someone visits Cloud Gate, I would be pushed out there to greet them."

Lin sustained a bone fracture in a car accident late last year - an experience that he said convinced him to slow down.

Lin's latest production "Formosa" will premiere at the National Theater Hall on Nov. 24 then go on tour to Taichung, Kaohsiung and Chiayi.

In February next year, "Formosa" will begin a world tour to Britain, the United States, France, Germany and Russia.

(By Christie Chen)
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