Dance, Culture and Nationalism: the Socio-cultural Significance of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in Taiwanese Society

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Chao, Y. (2000)
  • Subject: N1

The socio-cultural significance of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (est. 1973) in Taiwan is manifested in the interconnection of political nationalism and the representation of a diasporic postcolonialist cultural nationalism in its dance creations. The hybrid nature of Taiwanese society and its struggle between Chinese and Taiwanese nationalism are reflected in the motive behind the creation of the company, the evolution of its repertoire and changes in its nationalist stance. The creation of Cloud Gate, the first Taiwanese contemporary dance company, was stimulated by its founder Lin Hwaimin's enthusiasm for Taiwan Chinese nationalism. The name Cloud Gate Dance Theatre not only relates to Chinese dance history and the formation of Chinese mythological nationalism, but also indicates the hybrid nature of Taiwanese society. In brief, Cloud Gate's multi-cultural dance creation is generated by diasporic Chinese for diasporic Chinese. In the light of intensifying Taiwanese nationalism on the island the evolution of the Cloud Gate repertoire (between 1973-1997), which began by juxtaposing Chinese and Western dance elements before integrating Chinese, Western, Taiwanese, Taiwanese indigenous and various Asian dance elements, reflects the company and Taiwanese society's search for a Taiwanese cultural and political identity. Among the Cloud Gate repertoire, Legacy (1978) and Nine Songs (1993) are considered to exemplify most this distinct socio-cultural phenomenon-the interaction and interconnection between dance, culture and nationalism in the context of the formation of Taiwan as a postcolonial society in opposition to Chinese nationalist hegemony. A research methodology for the socio-cultural analysis of dance is developed, with specific relevance to the Cloud Gate repertoire, which incorporates methods originating in sociology of dance and choreological studies. This is supported by a documentary research method which draws on theories and analytical methods of sociology and dance history. Zelinger's (1979) theory of semiotics of theatre dance is applied to bring together sociological and choreological methods. The examination of Thomas' (1986) sociological analysis of dance, Adshead's (1988) and Sanchez-Colberg's (1992) dance structural analysis leads to the development of a new method of analysis. Geertz's (1973) concept of `Thick description' provides the theoretical ground for the interpretation of data collected through the analysis of extrinsic and intrinsic features of cultural phenomena. Consequently the significance of the dance in question can be addressed in terms of the complex network of interpretations of it within its socio-cultural context.
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