Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan makes its Segerstrom Center for the Arts debut performing the West Coast premiere of its new work “Formosa,” with concept and choreography by company founder Lin Hwai-min. “Formosa” will have three performances in Segerstrom Hall on March 16, 17, and 18. The music is by Kaija Saariaho, Liang Chun-mei, and Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw. Cloud Gate has been acclaimed as “Asia’s leading contemporary dance theater” and “One of the finest dance companies in the world.”
“Formosa” tells the legend of Portuguese sailors gazing out from the decks of ships off the coast of China during the 16th century. They saw a great green mass, thick with mountains and trees, rising from the sea. “Formosa!” they exclaimed—“beautiful!”—anointing the verdant place that would come to be known to the world as Taiwan. This legend now serves as the inspiration for Lin’s latest one act evening-length work.
Choreographer Lin took that appraisal of “beautiful” as inspiration for their own work of abstract beauty, born from their land and lore. The Cloud Gate language of movement includes diverse Eastern disciplines such as tai chi, meditation, and martial arts mixed with contemporary dance. The lighting design for “Formosa” is by Lulu W.L. Lee, costume design by Apu Jan, projection design by Chou Tung-yen and Very Mainstream Studio, and videography by Chang Hao-jan.
Tickets for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre performing “Formosa” start at $29 and may be purchased online at SCFTA.org, the Box Office at 600 Town Center Dr. in Costa Mesa, or by calling 714-556-2787. For inquiries about group ticket savings for 10 or more, call the Group Services office at 714-755-0236.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan is one of the most important Asian contemporary dance companies that have made a name in the international dance world. Lin leads Cloud Gate as the company’s founder, artistic director, and choreographer. He has moved audiences in Taiwan and major cities of the west through his masterpieces rooted in Asian cultures yet vibrating with contemporary resonance. In 2013, he followed in the footsteps of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Pina Bausch winning the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Dance Festival.
It was recently announced that after 45 years as the company’s leader, Lin will retire from his current position at the end of 2019. Cheng Tsung-lung, artistic director of Cloud Gate 2, will succeed him.
In “Formosa,” using gesture, script, song, and other elements from the island as raw material, Lin and dancers create a lustrous, transfigured sphere in which only the universal remains—a playground of love and life, mediated by tragedy, hope, and rebirth. To a musical score, which includes a performance by award-winning indigenous singer Sangpuy, dancers mingle in intimations of community, making tribal ritual and urban bustle seem as one.
Luminous projected images of Chinese character typefaces, interlocked and overlapped, provide the stunning visual backdrop. Devoid of specific meanings, they merge in teeming thickets to evoke a host of imagery: mountains, rivers, earthquakes, tsunamis, ancient inscriptions, a black sun. They seem to imply writing as a precarious vehicle for memories, which blur and recombine at the whim of history’s wind.
At the work’s end, a blue sea appears amid the characters only to wash them away in the waves. The ocean rages; the dancers exit. The stage turns to a vacuum of white.