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13 Tongues

A sensationally big, indulgent and visually arresting expression of cultural memory. The Times

As a child in the 1980s Cloud Gate Artistic Director CHENG Tsung-lung would contribute to the family business by helping his father sell slippers on the streets of Bangka/Wanhua, the oldest district of Taipei. Bangka/Wanhua was known for its vibrantly diverse and bustling street scene that embraced religious and secular life, rich and poor, work and play, legal and illegal activities. The young CHENG was transfixed by his mother’s accounts of the legendary 1960s street artist and storyteller known as “Thirteen Tongues” who had adopted Bangka/Wanhua for his informal stage. It was said that “Thirteen Tongues'' could conjure up all the Bangka/Wanhua characters - high and low born, sacred and profane, men and women - in the most vivid, dramatic, and fluently imaginative narratives. Thirty years on CHENG’s fascination for “Thirteen Tongues” became his inspiration as he transformed his childhood memories into dance.


Beginning and ending with the sound of a single hand bell, the music accompanying 13 Tongues ranges from Taiwanese folk songs to Taoist chant to electronica. The stage is awash with projections of brilliant colors, shapes, and images and the dancers gather, interact, separate and re-gather in a thrilling representation of the clamor of street life. As the religious heritage of ancient Bangka/Wanhua fuses with the secular space it is today so time appears to dissolve. The spirit realm and the human realm also coalesce as the audience is taken on an immersive journey - via imagination and storytelling that recalls the art of “Thirteen Tongues” - through centuries of human endeavor, behaviour, and belief.

Cloud Gate begins a long postponed U.S. tour of 13 TONGUES in October. Company performances include:

  • Performing Arts Houston, Houston TX | October 1, 2022

  • Stanford University, Stanford, CA | October 6, 2022

  • Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL | October 14-15, 2022

  • Kennedy Center, Washington, D. C. | October 20-22, 2022

  • Segerstrom Center, Costa Mesa, CA | October 26, 2022

  • University of California, Berkeley, CA | October 29-30, 2022



Sounding Light

A beautifully crafted work and one that will bear repeated viewings. As if a David Attenborough documentary had come to life in front of you.      Taipei Times

As was the case for so many people, the COVID pandemic prompted Cloud Gate Artistic Director CHENG Tsung-lung to consider afresh the world around him. During a period of enforced self-isolation in Taiwan, at a time when human activity and noise pollution were at a minimum, he listened to the sounds of the forest - the insects, the birds, the wind through the trees - and reflected on the balance between, and the frailties of, human life and the natural environment.


In Sounding Light, played out under the arc of the sun shining through clouds and trees over the course of a day, CHENG has integrated sound and dance. Here the dancers themselves provide much of the soundtrack as a natural element of their performance. As the dancers move to suggest the mating rituals of birds or insect-like contortions so their bodies become instruments. Working with composers LIM Giong and CHANG Shiuan they utilize voice and breath, the sounds, if not meanings, of Taiwanese dialects, finger clicks and hand claps, the slapping of their bodies, and the stage. From this extraordinary sound-palette, the dancers create the impression of the breeze, insects and birds, falling rain and running water, and their bodies - testing the limits of physical and mental focus - ultimately reveal the essence of both the human and natural worlds while simultaneously merging them together.

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