Cloud Gate – Portrait of the Families

Intensely powerful and fierce is this iconic work called, “Portrait of the Families” choreographed by the founder and artist director of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Lin Hwai-min.

Lin Hwai-min’s inspiration for this work came from his memory when as a boy he discovered a hidden family photo album. Looking at one of the photos, he discovered to his surprise as Taiwanese, his ancestors in the portrait were wearing Japanese Kimonos. He asked questions only to be admonished and forbidden to see the pictures and never again speak of his untouchable and buried past during the Colonial Japanese occupation. It is a shared past of Taiwan’s troubled and turbulent history that affected not only his personal story but the national collective one as well.

Lin Hwai-min states in his own words that “Portrait of the Families” is “a ritual that pays homage to the turbulent past and to those common people who died unjustly”. It is an attempt to reclaim the “truth” of the personal experience in contrast to the “facts” written in Taiwanese history books, by piecing together the fragmented history that was split between Taiwanese (local), Chinese (National) and a Japanese (Colonial) past. Hwai-min chose to weave the past together through personal story telling through a collage of movement, voices of personal stories and slide projections of family portraits.

In all Hwai-min used 1,000 photos with a collaged musical score that consisted of beiguam and nanguan, operatic traditions, western music and aboriginal songs. The over riding question in the speaking voices is “which country should I love?”

This piece has some powerful images. The first one I like begins at 1:01 where the dancers end by covering their faces the moment we hear the phone ring, this emphasizes the “unanswered phone call” which becomes a very poignant moment. The second image begins at 1:19, which I find extraordinarily stunning is the dance of the hand. It is exquisitely expressive not just of beauty but a whole range of communication and emotions just through the gestural movement. The white hand/arm against the black background heightens the power or this image.

The dancing by this world acclaimed company is strong and committed as Hwai-min attempts to reclaim, heal and transcend their collective personal past.

Enjoy these powerful images by Lin Hwai-min’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and SHARE!


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