Dancers find exhilaration in feeling 'blue'

Dancers find exhilaration in feeling 'blue'
The dance Beckoning, by Taiwan dance company Cloud Gate 2, will be performed at Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts next week. GIA TO/ FOR CHINA DAILY

On a sleepless night in early spring of 2013, standing on the balcony of his New York apartment, choreographer Cheng Tsung-lung saw the sky begin to fill with a magical blue hue. For some 20 minutes, the sun was still below the horizon but the sky started to glow.

Cheng was so fascinated by the moment and the color that he went to check out how to describe it in English. Then he got to know of the "blue hour".

It refers to the period of twilight when the sun is below the horizon and the its indirect rays take on a blue cast. The effect is caused by the shorter wavelength of blue light than that of red. During the "blue hour", red light passes straight into space while blue light is scattered in the atmosphere and therefore reaches the Earth's surface.

Artists love the romantic connotations of the time. A French saying characterizes the "blue hour" as a time of confusion and mystery, because it is impossible to determine whether it is night or day.

Cheng interprets his feeling and understanding of that moment into a dance named Blue Hour, featuring six female dancers in elegant, long black dresses, dancing to the music of John Tavener's Protecting Veil.

The dance premiered in Taipei in 2013 and will be performed by the famous Taiwan dance company Cloud Gate 2 at Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts from Oct 22 to 24.

Cheng, as artistic director of dance troupe since 2014, will also bring his latest work Beckoning, as well as Light, choreographed by Huang Yi.

Beckoning features Taiwan's folk dancing and religious statues.

"When I was young, I lived in streets rich with religious atmosphere. I was fascinated by the street-dancing rituals, the hand gestures, the facial expression of those gods crafted by folk artists," says Cheng.

"But the dance is not to perform or portray the gods. I just try to sort out my childhood memories through the dance."

Born into a poor family in Taipei, Cheng helped his family to earn a living by selling sandals on streets in his youth. He even joined the local gangs for a while. All of that early experience has been a rich resource for his creativity.

After earning his degree from Taipei National University of Arts, he danced with the Henry Yu Dance Group and Taipei City Ballet. In 2002, he joined the original Cloud Gate. His talent impressed artistic director Lin Hwai-min, so Lin invited him to be the resident guest choreographer for Cloud Gate 2. Subsequently, his pieces were shown in New York, London, Brisbane, Ludwigshafen and Taipei.

Huang's works usually combine dance, photography, installation and other arts forms. His piece Light integrates tango into contemporary dance with impressive light changing.

Huang grew up in his parents' dance studio in Taiwan, where he was always around teachers of tango and other Latino dances. Huang himself also studied photography, installation and other arts, and now he creates dances merging technology and machinery with body movements.

He has twice won the Taipei Digital Art Performance Award. In 2011, Huang was selected as one of "25 to watch" by the US publication Dance Magazine.

If you go

7:30 pm, Oct 22-24. National Center for the Performing Arts, west of Tian'anmen Square, Xicheng district, Beijing. 010-6655-0000.