Thursday, August 20, 2009

Choreographer Lin Lee-chen’s 60th birthday calls for all-out dance celebration

By Nancy T. Lu

Thursday, August 20, seemed at first to be just another rehearsal day at the Taiwan Human Rights Memorial compound in Taipei for the dancers of Legend Lin Dance Theatre (Wougow in Chinese). The young talents under Lin Lee-chen, the company’s artistic director, had gathered to practice in preparation for the Taipei premiere of a new piece of choreography, “Song of Pensive Beholding (Chants de la destinee)” in December.

The Legend Lin Dance Theatre has been one of Taiwan’s leading contemporary dance companies to have found acclaim on the world stage. The group since its founding in 1995 has developed a repertoire focusing on large-scale and often slow-paced dance dramas inspired by traditional religious rituals and ceremonial rites in Taiwan, evoking the ever-changing seasons and celebrating the rhythms of nature and life. “Hymne aux fleurs qui passent” first made a big impact in France in 1998 before touring other countries in Europe with great success.

Elsewhere, inside another building on Thursday afternoon, a flurry of activity indicated that a surprise was going to be sprung on Lin for good reason. Somebody finally announced that Lin would shortly be ushered in.

As soon as the choreographer, with hair tucked as usual into a bun and wearing a white pants outfit, entered the room, everyone broke into the upbeat birthday greeting song.

Lin, surrounded by her dancers and friends, marked her 60-year milestone on August 20. The small party was organized secretly on just a few days’ notice.

As she choked with emotion and expressed gratitude to her mother, standing next to her, for bringing her up to be what she has become, tears flowed. She made her wish and blew out the sole candle on the big cake.

Some of the company members shortly picked up their exotic percussion instruments to strike out a truly exciting beat, kicking off a dance celebration. Lin herself could not resist moving to the rhythm of the music. An impromptu program saw dancing feet taking turns in grabbing the limelight. Others got pushed to gracefully dance with joy on such a happy occasion. Through it all, Lin Lee-chen gave her fine dancers a big smile of approval and encouragement.

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