… and then there was that time I ate lunch with Lin Hwai-min.

When I think of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, the first image that comes to mind is golden colored rice pouring out of the sky and some guy raking the rice into concentric circles in a mega-sized zen garden.

That’s Songs of the Wanderers.

"Songs of the Wanderers" Performed by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan Photo Photo by YU Hui-hung
“Songs of the Wanderers” Performed by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan Photo Photo by YU Hui-hung
Onstage at Auditorium Theatre with Rogue Ballerina
Onstage at Auditorium Theatre with Rogue Ballerina

Yesterday afternoon, distinguished members of the Asian Pacific American Press and two goofy dance bloggers (myself and a Rogue Ballerina) gathered onstage* at the Auditorium Theatre for a press conference announcing the commission of Cloud Gate’s Songs of the Wanderers in Chicago as a co-presentation between The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, and The Joffrey Ballet.

The endeavor, which involves transporting Lin Hwai-min and his world-class dancers from the other side of the globe with 3-1/2 tons of rice  is also supported by the Alphawood and Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundations, and this event was primarily aimed at engaging the Asian American community in Chicago.  Though most dancers drool at the mention of Cloud Gate coming to town, I was pretty surprised to find out that a healthy number of Chicago’s Asian American population has never heard of them. So, amongst increasing and pressing efforts to expand dance audiences any way possible, this was pretty brilliant.

The timing seemed weird to have such an event seven months before the actual show, but Lin Hwai-min, Cloud Gate’s Artistic Director and the man behind Songs of the Wanderers (and all that rice), happened to be in the country now.  Mr. Lin gently approached the mic after an eloquent introduction from The Dance Center’s Executive Director Phil Reynolds, and started this way (only partially paraphrased):

“Sometimes I think it wasn’t that great of an idea to become a choreographer.

When you’re a writer and you write a great book you can collect the royalties and let it sit on the shelf.  As a choreographer, if you’re lucky enough to make a work people want to see, you get the punishment of seeing it over, and over, and over.”

Such is the story with Songs of the Wanderers since its premiere nearly 20 years ago. Fortunately, he still likes it, and it’s brilliant.

* Oh, and yeah, you heard me right.  The press conference was on the stage, making for my debut performance at the Auditorium. Followed by lunch with Mr. Lin.


Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan performs Songs of the Wanderers Friday March 14 (7:30pm) and Sunday March 16 (3:00pm) at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.  Pre-performance talks with Lin Hwai-min occur an hour prior to each performance. Tickets are available by calling 312.369.8330 and currently only available online through season subscriber packages.  

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic, contributing to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine. She is senior editor of See Chicago Dance. Lauren covers dance across the Midwest and writes regularly for Dance Magazine and Pointe with additional bylines in Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Teacher. Forthcoming publications include essays on ballet training in Chicago (University of Illinois Press) and Shirley Mordine (University of Akron Press). In 2020, Lauren published an opinion piece on the impact of COVID-19 on the arts in the South African journal Agenda. Lauren holds degrees in dance and kinesiology and has presented research on dance training practices at the National Dance Education Organization and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. She has co-facilitated critical dance writing intensives in Chicago and Durban, South Africa, and participated in writing residencies at the National Center for Choreography, Bates Dance Festival and JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. Lauren teaches dance history and kinesiology for dancers, with part-time appointments at Loyola University Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan University.

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