Cloud Gate Presser with Lin Hwai-min

Cloud Gate dancer WU Chun-hsien in "Songs of the Wanderers". Photo by YU Hui-hung.

Tuesday I attended a Press/VIP launch for the upcoming 2014 Chicago performances of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, their sixth appearance in Chicago. The event was held on stage at the iconic Auditorium Theatre (fantastic views!) mostly for members of the Chicago Asian Pacific American Press, but RB and fellow dance writer Lauren Warnecke* (artintercepts.org) claimed seats in the back row and listened in. Many thanks to Jill Chukerman for the invite.

Actor Marc Rita served as Emcee and introduced an array of presenter/speakers before getting to the main purpose of the presser – hearing Founder and Artistic Director of Cloud Gate Lin Hwai-min speak. Lin, a small and quiet man, began by saying he sometimes thinks being a dancer/choreographer is a wrong choice and that, as the creator of work, if people like it, you are “punished” by having to watch it over and over. He went on to say that Songs of the Wanderers (the work being presented next March) is the exception – even after 19 years. “I’ve seen it thousands of times,” said Lin. “I love to see it, not every night, but it’s special.”

The work has a global flavor being inspired by Asian religions, German writing, set to Georgian folk music and performed in/with 3.5 tons of golden Taiwanese rice. “These performing rice are very seasoned,” quipped Lin. He also told of a trip he took where he saw people drinking water downstream from where cremated bodies were being thrown in – “Isn’t that life itself?” – and finding peace in a sunbeam under a tree. The trip changed his life and inspired the work, which is about meditation. “The work, it came out of me like a river.”

Lin said his dancers were mad when he told them the new work was about meditation. “I forced them to sit with their eyes closed,” he said. “The want to jump and turn.” He says if you look close when they are performing Songs, you can see that most of the time, their eyes are closed “drawing the audience onto the stage instead of projecting out”. The dancers must meditate before going on stage. “Meditation is the key. You have to be there.”

I had to run to work, so missed the lunch catered by Vora. I heard it was delicious.

*Read Warnecke’s take on the event here.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan performs Songs of the Wanderers presented by The Dance Center of Columbia College, The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and The Joffrey Ballet, Friday, March 14, 2014 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 3 pm. Tickets are $25-$68; call 800-982-2787 or visit www.auditoriumtheatre.org.

Auditorium Theatre 2013-2014 Highlights

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in "Songs of the Wanderer". Photo by YU ui-hung.

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University (ATRU) just announced its 2013-2014 season. Here are a few things I’m excited about:

Ballet West – former Joffrey Ballet dancer Adam Sklute’s company will be presenting Sleeping Beauty (classic, long, but beautiful w/ gorgeous music) and Val Caniparoli’s The Lottery. Caniparoli created Incantations for Joffrey in 2012 and has received great reviews for the premiere of The Lottery which has a unique twist where the audience finds out the “secret” before the dancers (who don’t know who will perform the final solo until it happens live!). Cool beans.

Houston Ballet – In another local connection, Joffrey premiered Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony in 2012. His company brings the storybook ballet Aladdin to town in March of 2014.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – The New York-based company returns for another two-week run featuring a mixed rep and the showstopper Revelations. Yay.

River North Dance Chicago – Local favorite Rivno takes the stage in April 2014 will a new world premiere. Always a good show – expect lots of abs and speedy turns.

Paul Taylor Dance Company – I’m reading Paul Taylor’s new book Facts and Fancies right now, so the timing is perfect! My only regret is never getting to see my friend Julie Tice perform with the company live during her ten years there :(

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre – Co-presented with the Dance Center of Columbia College and the Joffrey Ballet, this troupe from Taiwan always amazes with their imagery and Butoh-esque stamina/control.

Chick Corea and Béla Fleck – Non-dancy, but my brother (a musician) listened to Corea ALL the time when we were growing up and a bazillion years ago I performed a piece with the above mentioned Tice to a Beatles cover by Fleck (and the Flecktones). Good times.

So there you have it. Oh plus, the yearly tradition of the Joffrey’s The Nutcracker and any chance to see ATRU E.D. Brett Batterson and you can see why I’m stoked.

For more information, visit auditoriumtheatre.org.

Happy Halloween!

RB as the Evil Queen in "Snow White".

Dance this weekend:  Check out Lucky Plush Productions at the MCA tonight or Saturday, Could Gate Dance Theatre at the Harris this weekend, Synapse Arts tonight at Holstein Park or Ailey II tonight at Governors State University.  I’m going to Cloud Gate tonight and  the Zombie Revolution at House of Blues tomorrow.  Merde to my zombie dancers!  Have a fun and safe weekend!