13 Tongues

13 Tongues


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

Visually striking. It's like watching a moving work of art emerging in the hands of an invisible calligrapher.  

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 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 story-teller known as “Thirteen Tongues” who had adopted Bangka for his informal stage. It was said that “Thirteen Tongues'' could conjure up all the Bangka characters - high and low, 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 own childhood memories into dance.

Beginning and ending with the sound of a single hand bell, the music accompanying 13 Tongues ranges from Taiwanese folk song 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 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, behavior and belief.

Photo by Liu Chen-hsiang

13 Tongues

Cheng Tsung-lung

Lim Giong

Art Design
He Jia-sing

Lighting Design
Shen Po-hung

Projection Design
Ethan Wang

Costume Design
Lin Bing-hao

Voice Coach
Tsai Pao-chang

Performed by
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan

March 11, 2016   TIFA - Taiwan International Festival of Arts, Taipei, Taiwan 

August 12-13, 2021  Taipei, Taiwan

Photo by Lee Chia-yeh

Visited venues include
Sadler's Wells, London, UK
Le phénix, scène nationale Valenciennes, France
Théâtre National de Chaillot, Paris, France
Maison de la danse de Lyon, France
Dansens Hus, Stockholm, Sweden
internationale tanzmesse nrw, Dusseldorf, Germany
Macau Arts Festival, Macau
National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, China
Shanghai Oriental Art Center, Shanghai, China
Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou, China

Photo by Liu Chen-hsiang