The Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, Taiwan’s leading modern-dance company, was founded in 1973, about the time that choreographers in Taiwan had begun experimentation in dance. Its founder and artistic director, Lin Hwai-min, followed suit, but named his company after the five-thousand-year-old Chinese ritual dance, Cloud Gate.
From the beginning, Lin Hwai-min has created compositions that seem to flow in combinations of Chinese folk dance, tai chi, chi kung, and ballet. In tai chi and chi kung, one moves very slowly, breathing deeply while meditating. It is a holistic sort of mind/body experience. Under Mr. Lin’s lead, it appears that this practice is done in concert with their inherited tradition of dance and the grace and grandeur of ballet. Many also compare it to Chinese acrobatics, as the twenty lithesome dancers of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre are extreme masters of agility.
Cloud Gate’s performances are enhanced by simple, but effective, special effects and unusual props. Overhead, a sheet of mirrors, oblique-angled to the stage, reflects the dancers in their gossamer silks in what delights the eye as a meditation on the embodiment of music, giving the illusion of ceaseless exhilaration. Water flows onstage, further reflecting a truly unique execution of contemporary dance in the Moon Water presentation, and three and a half tons of yellow rice fill the stage for Songs of the Wanderers. The backdrop patterns of Chinese brush strokes boldly dramatize the intent of each dance’s message in Wild Cursive, which features an extensive display of ricepaper banners creatively infused with ink.
With Taiwan being its home base, The Cloud Gate Dance Theatre is renowned for its international tours which have taken place in Europe, Asia, North America, and South America. In 2003, the City of Taipei, Taiwan honored the Company with "Cloud Gate Day" to celebrate the premier of its thirtieth anniversary season and to recognize them for their importance both locally and abroad. They also, in an unprecedented move, renamed the street of Cloud Gate’s office as Cloud Gate Lane. With the tremendous success and longevity of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, Lin Hwai-min is recognized as one of Asia’s most prominent cultural figures. Common Wealth, Taiwan’s number one magazine, named him one of the country’s most influential people of the last two hundred years. The South China Morning Post joined in, saying that he is "one of the greats of the 20th Century." The man and his achievement are truly the pride of Taiwan.