Creative Fusion: East Meets West: a Potentially Transformational Moment / Lee Ming-Cheng / Taipei, Taiwan / Verb Ballets


Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan, established in 1973, is widely considered the island’s premier dance company. The company has garnered its reputation due in no small part to the company’s founder, Lin Hwai-Min, who champions a hybrid dance of classical western modern technique and eastern movements that find their origins in the martial art of Tai Chi. It is out of this tradition of hybridity that Lee Ming-Cheng has emerged as one of Taipei’s favorite sons.

While Lee Ming-Cheng’s style derives from the traditions established by the Cloud Gate oeuvre, the celebrated choreographer and founder of The Body Expression Dance Theatre (Body EDT) blazes a trail that integrates Twenty-first  Century technologies into his presentation of dance theater. The end result is an otherworldly atmosphere that invites the viewer into a multi-modal, futuristic experience of lighting, sound and movement, where the past is intricately interwoven with the present and future. It is a fusion that has made Body EDT one of the world’s most innovative and technologically advanced dance companies.

Lee Ming-Cheng joins Verb Ballets this month for a three-month residency, bringing a world-class style and vision to the company. Verb Ballets producing artistic director Dr. Margaret Carlson believes his arrival will be a transformational moment for the Northeast Ohio-based company.

“Our dancers are required to be able to work in a broad range of dance styles, so our dancers are quite versatile,” explains Carlson. But [Meng’s] work will be very different from anything that they have been challenged with so far. Here in the States, everything tends to be fast, fast, fast. But when you start getting into Asian work, it’s very reflective, and it’s very refined. Even the simplest gesture can take many, many hours to master. It’s a different way of approaching dance from what we are accustomed to.”

The philosophy of the Tai Chi martial art form is integral to Lee Ming-Cheng’s approach to dance. Fundamentally, the masterful practitioner of Tai Chi must delve into the Self to create a relaxation of mind and body. This internal self-discovery is obtained through a combination of choreography and proper breathing techniques. The end result is an investment in loss. While the innovative lighting and sound that are such an integral part of Lee Ming-Cheng’s artistic vision may not be a part of the dance choreography he brings here, the investment in loss that is a part of his approach promises to be a gain for Northeast Ohio.