Writing and dance have always been connected for choreographer Lin Hwai-min. The founder and artistic director of Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre began his professional career as a writer, and his dancers study calligraphy because the two art forms share a core philosophy of releasing and controlling energy to create. “A writer does this with a brush, a dancer with the core of the body,” says Lin.
As he approaches retirement in 2019, Lin returns to his writer’s roots with Formosa, a tribute to the land and people of Taiwan. The piece’s conception began with Lin collecting Taiwanese poems and essays for inspiration, and words play an even bigger role in the design of the production. Projected Chinese characters are readable at first, but then they warp and become the raw material for an abstract landscape of the world, shifting as disorder takes over the dance.
“‘Formosa’ is not only the name of an island, it’s a metaphor,” says Lin. “A beautiful place with harmonious community that turns into chaos and rivalry and devastation.” Foreign viewers have responded to the piece by projecting their own country’s problems onto it. UK audiences see Brexit reflected in the cracking and dissolution; Americans see what’s currently happening in the White House.
“The most exciting part of dance is ambiguity,” says Lin. “It opens to all kinds of interpretation. It took me almost 20 years to erase the words of my mind. After all these years, what did I do? Words, but in a contradictory way from when I started. I completed my journey.”
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan. Fri 3/2-Sat 3/3, 7:30 PM, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, 312-334-7777, colum.edu, $22-$65, $15 students.