Taiwan’s Legend Lin Dance Theatre is making a rare appearance in North American this week with a presentation of the work The Eternal Tides. The company’s artistic director and choreographer Lin Lee-Chen talked about her philosophy and the show in an emailed interview with ARTSFILE’s Peter Robb. Lin Lee-Chen came out of retirement and founded the company in the mid-1990s “with the goal of revitalizing and reaffirming Taiwanese culture.” Her answers were translated into English with the help of the NAC Dance department. For more on the company please see this review: seeingdance.com
Q. Ms. Lin, why are you doing what you are doing?
A. It’s that I love theatre, love dancing. Because of theatre, I have a chance to express myself. Dancing is my vocabulary.
Q. Do you have a choreographic philosophy? What is it?
A. Expressing rich imagination with the simplest things. To have the body and space, blank, allowing passion to flow through this emptiness.
Q. I have seen references to traditions, rituals and ceremonial rites that are present in Taiwan that are in your work. What are those and why do they interest you?
A. All Taiwanese traditions and rituals are connected to life. In the rituals, people reorganize their relationship to the environment. From these rituals, one can understand the meaning of their lives and from it, achieve strength.
Q. Can you describe this piece Eternal Tides for me? What will I see on stage?
A. Don’t expect anything, but come in blank. Naturally the ‘Tides’ will connect with your life. And every person has had different life experiences so the connection will differ.
Q. What was the inspiration for it?
A. The inspiration for Tides was from mythologies. Like prophecies, the white bird survive because of love, death because of violence, and reincarnation from the Tides.
Q. Musically what will I hear… and see?
A. It will take you to another space.
Q. This is a big piece. Two hours, no intermission and 17 dancers. Are you performing it elsewhere in Canada/ North America? How often do you tour a piece this size to North America?
A. Not just 17 dancers. (There are) two drummers and one singer. The singer is also Taiwan’s most important singer, Christine Hsu. With Legend Lin, they will perform Tides. The main dancers have been with Legend Lin for more than 10 years. The lead female dancer, Wu Ming Jing, has been with Legend Lin for 15 years. Her expression and performance techniques are both mature and outstanding. She is one of a kind. This is our first performance in Canada. We were in New York, performing Hymne aux Fleurs qui Passent in 2005.
Q. Is the eternal nature of water something that is central to your thinking in this piece.
A. Water and tides are very different. Tides are thrilling and active. When I was writing the word ‘Tides’ for the pamphlets, I woke up one day at 4 a.m. in the morning, jumped out of bed, my body covered in sweat, forgot my glasses and ran to my desk. I started writing while the paper was covered with sweat. On the fourth attempt, I threw the pen down and decided that was the one. The Chinese character for Tide includes sun and moon characters. The character represents the universe. A person is a speck in the universe, represented by the white bird. I hope the audience can walk with the white bird and I feel everyone in the world is the white bird. We need to be like the white bird with a sense of destiny. Eternity is both ideal and imaginary. Always changing like the earth.
Q. Are you trying to capture nature or the natural world with your choreography?
A. The majority of my inspirations come from nature. Dancers imitating birds is an example of this.
Q. Why is nature important to you?
A. Everyone of us is influenced by the environment, as well as the influence of culture.
Q. Taiwanese dance, even though it is rooted in the culture of the island, is very innovative. Where do you fit in this tradition? Are you building upon that tradition to make new forms of dance?
A. I am not making new forms of dance. Legend Lin’s dance is not of traditional Taiwanese culture but something on its own. It is comprised of deep emotions of the earth. It is pointless to decide what it is. I naturally blend elements with my work. Elements of life. Elements from where I’ve lived and past experiences. The earth is essential to life. Without water and soul, the earth would die. Everyone is influenced by culture and the environment. Anything can nourish a new sprout and this is the meaning of life.
Q. Who has influenced your artistic thinking? Other choreographers perhaps, or other artists?
A. I admire many artists, choreographers and philosophers, but the one that truly influenced me is the ideas of Laozi and Zhuangzi (Taoism). Philosophies of Zhuangzi greatly influenced me because he is open-minded toward the world. It has opened up my mind so it is not so narrow. My work is not about a place, it is about a life. This life we all will eventually experience.
The Eternal Tides
Legend Lin Dance Theatre
Where: Southam Hall
When: Jan. 20 at 8 p.m.
Tickets and information: nac-cna.ca