Modern Dance in China has a history of 75 years. Chinese modern dance is influenced by traditional Chinese culture and has its own unique language. Differ from classical Chinese folk dance, Chinese modern dance has get rid of the shackles of the traditional form and been pursuing innovation. On this point it shares the same view with the western modern dance. With the same idea in freedom and innovation, meanwhile, strongly pursuing the nationality of the dance, the spirit of the age and the Chinese elements become the most striking characteristic of Chinese modern dance.
Masters of Chinese Modern Dance
1. Son of Prairie -Jia Zuoguang
Jia Zuoguang was born in a farmer family, in the process of learning dance in Japan, modern dance master Baku Ishii is his teacher. His innate talent and superior hard working soon makes him come to the fore. His works keeps the freedom of modern dance with the concept of innovation and at the same time strongly pursue the nationality of the dance. Refer to his works, people naturally think of the galloping horse and high-sky flying swan goose. His representative works are Stallion and Swan Goose, etc.
2. The Mother of Chinese Modern Dance-Tai Ai-Lien
Tai Ai-Lien is the pioneer and founder of modern Chinese dancing art.Trained in ballet in England, Dai Ailian is one of China's premier dance icons, and extraordinarily impacted art and culture in China by bringing Western dance to the country. In the reception lobby of the Royal Academy of Dance in Britain, there are four sculptures of female dancing artists, and one of them is the bust of Tai Ai-Lien. Tai Ai-Lien once said:”Ballet is my work, while folk dance is my greatest pleasure”.The most representative works of her are Lotus Dance and Flying Apsaras.
3. The Father of Chinese Modern Dance- Wu Xiaobang
Wu XiaoBang is the pioneer of Chinese new dance art during the twentieth century. He was born in a rich family in Jiangsu Province. In early years, he studies in Japan but is not major in dance. One day he watches a performance by chance and then gets greatly shocked by that dance role. And then he resolutely devotes himself to dance. During the Anti-Japanese War period, he has created nearly one hundred works that full of strong spirit of age and artistic charisma, among which the most representative works are the Song of Partisans and the Hungery Fire.
4. Famous dancer and choreographer-Huang Doudou
Huang Doudou, the artistic director of the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble, made his choreographic debut in 1998 with a work titled Spirit of Martial Arts. A graduate of the Beijing Dance Academy, Huang Doudou is considered one of the leading dancers in China. He has created many outstanding works including Soul of the Terracotta Warriors, Drunken Drums and Shining Stars, etc. His solo dance performance was broadcast worldwide during the closing ceremony of the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
5. Founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan-Lin Hwai-min
Founder and Artistic Director of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan and Cloud Gate 2, Lin Hwai-min studied Chinese opera movement in his native Taiwan, modern dance in New York, and classical court dance in Japan and Korea. He founded the company in 1973.
An internationally renowned choreographer, Lin often draws from traditional Asian culture for inspiration to create works with innovative forms and contemporary relevance, which have prompted international critics to acclaim: A two-time winner of the National Award for Arts in Taiwan, Lin Hwai-min has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from five universities in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Among the international honors received by Lin are the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award, New York, the Joyce Award of Chicago, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the so called "Nobel Prize of Aisa," the "Best Choreographer" at Lyon Biennial Festival, and the "Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters" from the France Ministry of Culture. He was celebrated by the Time magazine as one of the "Asia's Heroes" in 2005. In 2009, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Movimentos Dance Prize, Germany.
Lin Hwai-min has been the subject of full-length television documentaries in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and, most recently, in Discovery Channel's "Portraits Taiwan: Lin Hwai-min" and Opus Arte's "Floating on the Ground." Many of his choreographies have been made into DVD. Among them, Cursive II, Moon Water, Bamboo Dream, and Songs of the Wanderers were filmed and produced in Europe.His dance works have been restaged by dance companies and universities in the U.S. and Europe. In 2004, his production Smoke was restaged, for the first time by a classical ballet company, by the Zurich Ballet. In 2006, at the invitation by Sylvie Guillem, he choreographed a solo piece, Sally, for her. Lin's opera direction credits include Rashomon in Austria and Tosca in Taiwan.
An acclaimed writer, Lin holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Writers' Workshop, University of Iowa. His novella Cicada is a best seller in Taiwan, and several of his short stories have been translated into English and published in the United States. His biographies Legend of Lin Hwai-min and Cloud Gate and Hwai-min as a Young Man are popular sellers in Chinese speaking community.Devoted to the arts and education, Lin founded the Department of Dance at Taiwan's National Taipei University of the Arts in 1983 and served as its Chairman for five years. In 1993 and 1994, he was the founding dean of the university's graduate dance program. In 1999, he gave workshops in Cambodia assisting local dancers to organize teaching materials of Khmer classical dance for children.
Since year 2000, Lin has also been serving as the Artistic Director of "Novel Dance Series," introducing internationally renowned avant-garde groups and artists, one of the latest being Jerome Bel in June 2006, to dance lovers in Taiwan. In 2003, Lin donated his prize from the Executive Yuan Culture Award, the highest honor of its kind in Taiwan, as the seed money for the Wanderers' Fund, which supports local young artists to travel in Asia.
Chinese Modern Dance Company
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan is a modern dance group based in Taiwan(云门舞集). It was founded by choreographer Lin Hwai-min in 1973. The name “Cloud Gate” comes from an ancient Chinese book "The Annals of Lu Buwei ". According to the legend, Cloud Gate is the name of the oldest Chinese dance, which exists in the Yellow Emperor era in about five thousand years ago. The dance steps have been lost, only left with the beautiful name. The dance team of Lin Hwai-min adopted this name aims to reconstruct modern dance with Chinese cultural elements. By far, more than 160 dance works have been performed on Cloud Gate stage which consists of classical literature, folktale and history of Taiwan, etc. The representative works are Nine Songs, Water Stains on the Wall, Songs of the Wanderers, White, Moon Water, etc.
Water Stains on the Wall is the sublime result of Lin Hwai-min’s continual choreographic exploration of the beauty and aesthetics of calligraphy. Projections of perpetually shifting cloud shapes-reminiscent of flowing ink-transform an inclined white platform into something akin to a Chinese landscape painting on a giant sheet of rice paper. The title of the work Water Stains on the Wall is derived from a legendary conversation between two of the most respected Chinese calligraphers of the Tang Dynasty (618-907):”Where do you get inspirations fou your calligraphic style?” asked Yen Chen-ching, whose signature style of Kai script brought the art of Calligraphy to new heights, and has influenced Chinese brushing writing ever since. “I observe summer clouds that resemble mountains with spectacular peaks,” replied Huai Su, the young monk who was later to become the most renowned master of the wild cursive style. “The most exciting parts remind one of birds flying out of woods and snakes slithering into brushed...” “How about water stains on the wall?” asked Yen Chen-ching. “Right on! You old devil!” exclaimed Huai Su. In actual fact, water stains on walls are the result of gradual natural and organic, a process of evolution. The legend of the conversation established”water stains on the wall” as a popular metaphor that represents the highest levels of aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy. Inspired by this metaphor, Lin Hwai-min and the Cloud Gate dancers have created an abstract work of spellbinding beauty and breathtaking technique that stands sublimely on its own.
Nine Songs, a cycle of poems written by Qu Yuan some 2,300years ago, is considered a pinnacle of classical Chinese literature. Drawing on the ancient imagery and sensibilities, Lin Hwai-min creates a thoroughly contemporary ritual, in which distant and recent pasts collide. Qu Yuan’s poems are an adaptation from ancient shamans’ hymns, which celebrate life, nature and honorable death. The shamans praise the deities with songs and dance in the manner of lovers, and lament that the deities often fail to appear, or, even if they do, only too briefly. Like the poems, the dance reflects the cycles of nature. Echoing the rich metaphors of flowers and foliage in Qu Yuan’s verses, set designer uses the lotus, a symbol of reincarnation in Chinese culture, as his main motif. Against the backdrop of an enlarged detail of a lotus painting by the Taiwanese artist Lin Yu-san, lotus blossoms and opulent leaves emerge from a pond built in the orchestra pit.