In 1995, teacher and choreographer Lin Lee-chen (林麗珍) founded her company, the Legend Lin Dance Theatre (無垢舞蹈劇場), and marked its arrival with the first part of a trilogy about heaven, earth and humans that was inspired by years of research into Taiwanese folklore, customs and religious rituals: Mirrors of Life (Miroirs de Vie, 醮).
The production was the beginning of her search to capture the beauty and spirit embodied in ancient religious performances as well as the timeless rhythm of nature, and Mirrors was followed by Anthem to the Fading Flowers (Hymne aux Fleurs Qui Passent, 花神祭) in 2000 and Song of Pensive Beholding (Chants de la Destinee, 觀) in 2009.
The trilogy became a quartet in 2017 with the premiere of The Eternal Tides (潮), which, like its predecessors, transported audiences into a mystical, tranquil otherworldly realm.
Photo courtesy of Legend Lin Theatre
In Lin’s productions, time, and her dancers, move with meditative slowness — even slower than the minute-hands of a clock watched by students counting down until the end of a class — so that they appear to just glide across the stage.
Given the years between each new production, revivals of the works of the trilogy excite fevered anticipation among Legend Lin fans eager for a return visit to the worlds she creates.
One benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic that has closed so many arts venues around the world, and temporarily shuttered those in Taiwan, is that the National Theater and other venues of the National Performing Arts Center are restaging classic theater and dance productions to fill gaps in their schedules caused by foreign artists and troupes canceling their appearances.
Photo: Taipei Times
Lin decided to revive Anthem to the Fading Flowers to mark the 20th anniversary of the production, and it begins a three-city tour at the National Theater on Friday next week.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is nature’s greatest warning to us. Through this piece, I hope to show an appreciation of nature, pray for all lives and help ease people’s worries in this uncertain time,” she told a news conference in August.
Lin structured the piece around the four seasons, using birds, flowers, trees and insects as metaphors for the cycle of nature and life.
It is set to music by Chung Yiu-kwong (鍾耀光), with famed Oscar-winning Hong Kong designer Tim Yip (葉錦添) credited as costume consultant and the all-important lighting by Cheng Kuo-yang (鄭國揚). The cast is led by the amazing Wu Ming-jing (吳明璟).
While the Taipei shows are basically sold out, there are still plenty of seats available for the shows next month at the National Taichung Theater — where the production is part of its “Fall for Great Souls” program — and in Kaohsiung in December.
If you have never seen one of Legend Lin’s works, or even if you are already a fan, the Anthem to the Fading Flowers revival is a rare opportunity to see a truly Taiwanese masterpiece.
Like her contemporaries, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) and U-Theatre (優人神鼓) founder Liu Ruo-yu (劉若瑀), Lin Lee-chen has created a repertoire of work unlike anything that has been done elsewhere in the world.
Lin Lee-chen turned 70 this year, and has been threatening to retire for ages — as Lin Hwai-min did at the end of last year — so we need to appreciate her, her works and her talented troupe while we still can.
WHAT: Legend Lin Dance Theatre, “Anthem to the Fading Flowers”
WHEN: : Friday and Saturday next week at 7:30pm, and 2:30pm on Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1, Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
ADMISSION: There are still a few of the NT$900 wheelchair accessible and companion seats, and NT$4,500 seats; available at NTCH box offices, online at www.artsticket.com.tw, Eslite ticketing and convenience store ticket kiosks
ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES: Nov. 28 and 29 at the National Taichung Theater and Dec. 11 and 12 at the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying). Remaining seats for Taichung are NT$500 to NT$1,200, those for Kaohsiung are NT$300 to NT$2,000; available at the theaters’ box offices, online at www.artsticket.com.tw and convenience store ticket kiosks
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