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November 20, 2009

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Dancing with character

DANCERS and calligraphers might appear -- superficially -- to be quite different in their art, but both deal with line, motion and creativity.

To internationally renowned choreographer, Lin Hwai-min, the two share much in common. Both require disciplined bursts of energy, fluidity and imagination.

Lin's much-acclaimed work "Cursive Trilogy" features three episodes of modern dance inspired exactly by traditional Chinese calligraphy.

The first, "Cursive" (2000) will be staged by the Taiwan-based Cloud Gate Dance Theater in Shanghai Oriental Art Center for two nights, tomorrow and Sunday.

"I am always fascinated by the way ink flows on rice paper," Lin says. "Tender and fluid, it creates rich shades, from intense black to misty white."

One of the most prominent innovators of contemporary dance, Lin conveys the rich dynamics of the writing process and the serene and intense power of the calligrapher's inner mind, through dancers' fluid and powerful movements.

The second parts of the trilogy are "Cursive II" (2003) and "Wild Cursive" (2005).

Cloud Gate dancers regularly practice Chinese calligraphy, together with other traditional Chinese physical disciplines, including meditation, martial arts and tai chi.

All these disciplines help to capture the "soul" of the calligraphy arts so the dancers use their bodies as brush pens to "write" on the stage.

Most of performances are spontaneous improvization, which is combined with impressive backdrops of gigantic brush characters and special lighting effects. The effects are unexpected and illuminating.

"I don't like to ?rule' the dancers and I ask them to express themselves freely on the stage," Lin says. "They are not dancing for certain characters of a story but for themselves. They are very cool."

As the artistic director of Cloud Gate, Lin founded the company in 1973. Ever since then, he has been creating works with a unique "East-meets-West" character, drawing inspirations from various kinds of traditional Asian cultures to come up with innovative art works with contemporary features.

Cloud Gate has toured extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, North America and South America, and New York's Next Wave Festival, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival, Lyon Biennale De La Danse and Melbourne International Arts Festival.

The Times once described the company as "Asia's leading contemporary dance theater," and the Sydney Morning Herald called it "Best of the Best."

Back in Taiwan, Cloud Gate also enjoys high acclaim and popularity. It performs throughout Taiwan, in venues ranging from the lavish Taipei theater to high-school auditoriums in remote villages. The company also gives free outdoor performances on a regular basis.

Many people find contemporary dance difficult to understand, Lin thinks differently.

"We draw thousands of hundreds of spectators every time when we perform outdoors," Lin says. "Among them there are farmers and construction workers. Do you expect them to ?understand' what is going on?

"To me, to ?feel' is the most important part of the whole experience. Every one has a different reaction toward even a slightest move of the dancer. Dancing is all about expressing yourself in a natural way."

Date: November 21-22, 7:15pm

Address: 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 100-880 yuan

Tel: 6854-1234


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