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Lin draws on human spirit for inspiration

Taiwanese choreographer turns dance company into world force

By Ian Grayson
For CNN

The Cloud Gate Dance Theatre troupe performs "Moon Water" in August 2000 during the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

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(CNN) -- Captivating football stadium-sized crowds with mystical performances drawn from Buddhist philosophy is no easy task. Yet choreographer Lin Hwai-min has achieved just that -- and more.

As founder of Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Theatre troupe, Lin has taken his interpretations and dance creations to the world. With a touring schedule rivaling those of A-list rock groups, he has won devoted fans around the globe.

Lin began his career studying at the famous New York-based Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham dance studios during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Initially wanting to become a writer, he found himself instead drawn to the dance studio, using funds raised from sales of his first novel to fund his early studies.

Lin returned to his home in Taiwan in the early 1970s, determined to establish a world-class contemporary dance company. The result was the Cloud Gate -- the name drawn from an ancient Chinese dance first performed more than 5,000 years ago.

Early productions drew on traditional Chinese operas and, through innovative interpretation and inspiring staging, Lin quickly developed a strong following.

Determined to push the creative envelope, Lin began experimenting with the dance form, drawing ideas and inspiration from areas such as Asian folklore, the art of meditation and the discipline of Tai Chi. The result is an intriguing series of works that has won him lavish praise from critics on every continent.

"I want to speak of the landscape of the human heart," Lin says when asked about the inspiration behind his works. "I care about a unique, fresh choreography. I'm interested in choreography, not in a system."

As well as a testing international tour schedule, the Cloud Gate Dance Company enjoys strong support when at home in Taiwan. The company, which comprises around two dozen dancers, performs in a range of venues. Each year it also undertakes a series of free, open-air performances that regularly attract crowds of more than 60,000 people.

For Lin, inspiration for new works comes from deep within the human spirit. Harnessing both natural and spiritual forces, he translates them into dances that connect with people at a fundamental level. It's not uncommon for audience members to cry during his performances.

His latest work, "Wild Cursive," is the final element of a trilogy and premiered late last year. Drawing from the ancient art of Chinese calligraphy, the production is performed on a stage decorated only with long pieces of white paper.

During the performance, black ink is poured onto the paper, creating flowing, abstract patterns. Dancers move through the paper, stylizing the expressive and free-flowing nature of calligraphy in a pure and unrestricted form. Audience reaction has been strong and enthusiastic.

To ensure the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre remains an international force in modern dance, Lin has established Cloud Gate 2. This second company has been designed to encourage the development of young, aspiring choreographers.

Comprising a dozen young dancers, Cloud Gate 2 uses a combination of classes and performances to foster new talent. Works from both Taiwanese and international choreographers are used.

By constantly creating new and exciting works, Lin manages to keep Cloud Gate at the forefront of international dance. At the age of 58, this world-admired choreographer still has much to do.

The touring schedule for the Cloud Gate Dace Company during the remainder of 2006 includes Germany, Australia the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States.

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