Led by internationally acclaimed choreographer Lin Hwai-min, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will return to Hong Kong in August with "Nine Songs", one its greatest works.
Adapted from ancient shamans' hymns, which celebrate life, nature and honourable death, "Nine Songs" is a cycle of poems written by Qu Yuan some 2,300 years ago and considered a pinnacle of classical Chinese literature. In this exotic display of modern dance, Lin goes beyond his interest in rituals to find the ideal setting for his choreography.
In 1986, Lin went to Bali, Indonesia, for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by what he saw - the frangipani flowers falling into the lotus ponds and the local residents' traditional worship in the early morning and evening. During harvest time the villagers celebrated, sang and worshipped the Goddess of Rice. They also placed offerings on their heads and marched to the temples. Accompanied by the music of the gamelan and fire, a priest would start the ceremony, while masked shaman girls shouted and ran wildly. Here Lin found his inspiration.
What is the significance of "Nine Songs" to people nowadays? In the late '80s Lin saw the riots and chaos in the world and they became key to how he would interpret Qu's poems: that everyone would worship continuously, yet the Gods would never come.
Lin then travelled extensively around Southeast Asia. The music behind "Nine Songs" symbolises his journey, with music from India, Java, Tibet, Japan and the indigenous tribes of Taiwan. He also found the origin of masked shamans among the rock art at Mount Ho-lan in China's Ningxia Autonomous Region. In contrast, the dances are interspersed with appearances of people in contemporary dress - a man in a modern-day suit with luggage calmly crosses the stage.
Echoing the rich metaphors of flowers and foliage in Qu's verses, set designer Lee Ming-cho uses the lotus - a symbol of reincarnation in Chinese culture - as his main motif. Against the backdrop of the enlarged detail of a lotus painting by Taiwanese artist Lin Yu-shan, lotus blossoms and opulent leaves emerge from a pond built in the orchestra pit.
Drawing on ancient imagery and sensibilities, Lin Hwai-min creates a thoroughly contemporary ritual, in which distant and recent pasts collide. East and West, past and present give rise to an aesthetic that has won "Nine Songs" the accolade of "a perfect choreographic paradigm for a true intercultural dance form". Since its premiere in 1993, "Nine Songs" has become one of theatre's most popular works.
"Nine Songs" is presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. It will be held at 8.15pm on August 2, 3 and 4 (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and at 3pm on August 5 (Sunday) at the Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Tickets ranging from $160 to $460 are now available at URBTIX outlets, on the Internet and by credit card telephone booking. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and their minders, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients (limited tickets for full-time students and CSSA recipients available on a first-come, first-served basis). A maximum discount of 20 per cent is offered for the group booking package.
For programme enquiries, please call 2268 7323 or visit www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/Programme/en/dance/000003df.html. Ticketing enquiries can be made on 2734 9009 and credit card telephone booking on 2111 5999. Tickets can also be booked online at www.urbtix.hk.
Ends/Thursday, June 14, 2012