Nearly 20 years and counting

By Chen Na ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-08-03 09:04:03

Nearly 20 years and counting

Taiwan dancer Chou Chang-ning performs in an earlier version of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre's Moon Water. The dance will make its debut at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Aug 25.[Photo by Teng Hui-En/ for China Daily]

Moon Water, a modern exploration of tai chi, makes its Beijing debut later in the month.Chen Nan reports.

On a stage with white stripes painted on a black floor, resembling ripples created by water, dancers in loose white pants seem to make their bodies flow. They rise and fall as if mimicking breathing, which seems as if the audience and the dancers are breathing in unison.

A wall of mirrors reflects the dancers' moves on water, which quietly floods the stage. The sound of flowing water resonates with Bach's Six Suites for Solo Cello.

This is a scene from the critically acclaimed contemporary dance piece Moon Water by Taiwan-based choreographer Lin Hwai-min performed by dancers of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, which Lin founded in 1973.

Since its premiere in 1998, Moon Water, a contemporary exploration of tai chi, an ancient Chinese physical and breathing exercise, has been staged nearly 200 times across the world.

Later this month, it will make its debut at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

"Like many of my works, this one also came out of nowhere," says the 69-year-old Lin. "I never planned it and never had a script."

It all started in the 1990s when Lin decided to make some changes in his dancers' daily training schedule. He told the dancers to sit, close their eyes, breathe and meditate using tai chi techniques.

"Since all my dancers were trained in classical ballet, folk dance and contemporary dance, they wanted to move and they hated my idea. So, I had to choreograph something for them to practice, which worked like a carrot for a horse," says Lin.

One day during a tour in Munich, Lin walked around with his colleague, set designer Austine Wang, and he saw a long stretch of mirrors on a street.

"Why don't we have mirrors onstage?" Lin asked the set designer.

That night, while taking a shower in his hotel, the splashing of the water inspired Lin.

"Wouldn't it be great to have water onstage?" he thought.

Lin discussed the idea with Wang, who was next door.

With the support of Wang, who realized Lin's vision onstage, the choreographer combined the principles and moves of tai chi, such as slowly squatting, standing up and breathing with contemporary dance, which gave birth to Moon Water.

"When things click, they go to the place as we want them," says Lin, who borrowed the well-known Chinese saying, "flowers in the mirror and the moon on the water are both illusory" as the title for the piece, meaning that everything in life is illusory, while delivering the message of tai chi that "energy flows like water while the spirit shines like the moon".

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