東方意境的舞動人生── 旅德編舞家林美虹

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2011 / 12月

文‧楊齡媛


台灣旅德編舞家林美虹擔任德國達姆國家劇院舞蹈藝術總監8年,今年10月她以作家李昂的小說《彩妝血祭》為靈感發想的舞作《新娘妝》,入圍德國最高藝術榮譽「浮士德」獎,這也是該劇院百年來首次有作品入圍該獎項。

出身蘭陽舞蹈團的林美虹,去國30年,一直以跨文化的創作風格享譽歐陸;可以說,台灣在國際上最重要的兩位編舞家,一位是林懷民,另一位就是林美虹。


舞台上穿著白色新娘衣的舞者痛苦驚恐,來自當局的訊息,如針般刺向她,新婚沒多久她就成了政治迫害下的犧牲者,一位年輕的寡婦。數十位身穿黑衣的受難者家屬,或捧親人遺照,或手持黑傘,或舉暈黃水燈,一步步地走上舞台......。

林美虹重新詮釋一個悲劇歷史下一位命運悲慘的母親心中的愛與苦,外電報導形容,「完全不同的文化圈撞擊出如詩一般的畫面。林美虹突破了東方式的和諧、內斂與沉默,融入歐式的美感與直接表達,讓舞者發出吼叫、狂笑、吱吱笑。」

這個故事題材,林美虹籌備了3年,在她看來,國際間政治壓迫的殘酷事實現在仍存在,包括茉莉花革命、格達費政權垮台等,世界和平尚未真正來臨。而「為台灣發聲」,雖然是她的創作動機,但也因作品沒有文化與國界的隔閡,更能打動人心。

林美虹是德國最重要的舞蹈藝術家之一,而直到去年3月國內觀眾才有機會欣賞到她的舞作。

讓鄉親感受她的舞台魅力

「一段不肯放手的愛情,一個分不清虛幻與現實的悲劇。」獨自在歐洲奮鬥多年,林美虹首次帶著作品《天鵝之歌》回台演出,她以6段不同場景的雙人舞呈現愛情的不同面貌,迷離淒美,深刻多層次的表現,獲得國內外藝評家和觀眾高度推崇。

《天鵝之歌》改編自1892年比利時作家羅登巴赫的小說《布魯日,死城》,故事描述喪妻的男子來到布魯日療傷,遇見一位酷似亡妻的年輕舞者,瘋狂地轉移情愫,卻又因耽溺於逝者的意象而悲痛不已。

這部小說是許多藝術家的創作靈感來源,包括歐裔作曲家康果爾德的歌劇《死亡之城》,電影大師希區考克的《迷魂記》等;林美虹則透過舞作呈現男主角被過去制約、抗拒現實的糾葛情緒,她在舞作中使用了許多歐洲文化符碼:如從天而降、敲響死亡喪鐘的繩索,有錢寡婦集結的修女社群,但林美虹強調,作品追求的是一種跨越形式的普世情感。

「重點不在故事本身,我真正感興趣的是人的『放不下』,什麼樣強烈的意念會引領著一個人不斷追尋,甚至超越死亡。」

原作的故事場景是19世紀末的布魯日,布滿教堂和運河,還有很多天鵝。當天鵝用盡全身力氣喊叫時,代表牠即將死亡,象徵意義清楚,形容作品的絕響、純潔和不變的愛。

「我總覺得,沒有痛過,不知道什麼是快樂?在作品中我會用戲謔、反諷和影射的手法,讓觀眾體會快樂的意義。」

林美虹擅長以隱喻手法表現細膩的心理和情感,以致有德國媒體稱她為「舞劇界的李安」。

「我非常喜愛李安的作品,我們都是有東方文化背景的人,又在西方領域裡,詮釋非常西方的東西,但最終講的還是人的故事。」

宜蘭的女兒

今年50歲的林美虹,出生在在宜蘭羅東,與宜蘭大部分的女孩一樣,受當時成立不久的蘭陽舞蹈團影響,也喜歡跳舞。10歲時,跟著姊姊一起進入舞團習舞,成為第一屆出國表演的團員,接受密集訓練,2年後,就隨著舞團到各國演出。

16歲時,林美虹在蘭陽舞蹈團的協助下,申請到獎學金,前往義大利羅馬國家舞蹈學院進修,主修古典芭蕾。原以為,這種要求肢體精準、挑戰完美的芭蕾,將征服她的一生,但即將畢業前,她改變了對於舞蹈的想法。

當時劇院正在上演國際舞蹈大師碧娜.鮑許的作品,她深感震撼;原來,舞蹈可以藉由戲劇的呈現,深刻解剖人性;舞者的肢體可以如此揮動、扭曲,展現內心深處的感情;現代藝術可以融入舞作之中,演繹出另一種貼近生活的藝術。

她才知道,被譽為舞蹈劇場大師及推動者的碧娜.鮑許,其前衛的理念與表現手法,建立出獨特的舞蹈劇場形式,並且讓德國舞蹈的面貌徹底轉變,這是她所不知道的舞蹈世界。當下,她決定到德國學習與美國後現代舞、日本舞踏並列為當代三大新舞蹈的舞蹈劇場。

師承舞蹈劇場精神

在習舞之路上順遂的林美虹,滿懷夢想進入德國艾森福克旺學院,卻初遇坎坷。

「這裡完全不重視技巧的追求,」林美虹自認承繼了芭蕾最好的血統與技巧,以為當了碧娜.鮑許的學生,能學到更深層的舞蹈技巧,但老師卻要她放掉一身的舞藝,從頭學起。她不瞭解老師要求她探索心中最原始、純真的感受,有種格格不入的感覺。

剛開始,林美虹不太能適應學校的教法,甚至萌生退意,但隨著時間流逝,她逐漸理解到舞蹈劇場的精神;她褪下古典芭蕾技巧與完美訓練的基礎,轉而舞出生命中真實的美感。

畢業後,尚未決定留在哪裡發展的林美虹,先返回台灣思索下一步。1999年,她為由劇作家游源鏗編劇的《噶瑪蘭公主》編舞,故事描述東海龍王的獨生女與龜將軍一段不為族人接受的淒美愛情,是蘭陽平原不朽的神話傳說,首演4場,場場爆滿,被喻為宜蘭版的《羅密歐與茱麗葉》,這部蘭陽舞蹈團的經典作品,至今仍持續在國內外演出。

2年後,林美虹與德國夫婿幾經考慮,認為留在德國,更適合兩人發展彼此的興趣,也因德國的劇院系統完整,軟硬體完善,藝術家能專心創作,而不需旁騖於行政事務。

音樂劇一鳴驚人

林美虹在德國第一次編排舞劇,就大展才華。2003年,她執導由音樂劇作家韋伯與橫跨影壇、劇場的班艾爾頓聯手創作的音樂劇《美麗遊戲》,讓許多劇評家吃驚於這位編舞家,竟能執導音樂劇。

這齣描述一位神父培訓青少年足球隊的故事,交織了球員與女孩的真愛、政治與宗教暴力、無名小卒成名的經歷,以及身為愛爾蘭共和軍成員的球員,面臨的「忠誠」難題等複雜情節,在林美虹的編排下,呈現出另一種女性細膩的情感。

有了《美麗遊戲》的成功經驗,她再度挑戰德國艾福特劇院每年夏天所舉行的「教堂階梯音樂節」,接下改變劇場生態的重要作品《萬世巨星》的編導工作。

這齣韋伯於1971年創作的搖滾劇作,根據耶穌基督的生平故事改編而成,除了將彌賽亞救世主的觀點自舊約轉向新約聖經,並顛覆以往音樂劇的形式,改以沒有對話的方式呈現劇情,是音樂劇史上最具原創力的作品之一。

林美虹必須在連結艾福特聖母瑪麗教堂與聖塞維里教堂的80層階梯上演出全劇,且因故事快速緊湊,演員多達一百多名,編制龐大,場景與服裝必須快速變換。當燈光投射在兩座壯觀的大教堂間的露天舞台,全場屏息,視覺效果相當震撼,《萬世巨星》於2005年登場,總共演出14場,每場都有數千位觀眾捧場,顯見林美虹的編導實力。

為淒美愛情所感動

旅居異鄉30年,林美虹認為自己很幸運,可以在德國持續創作。

「同一段時間,不是只創作一個作品,而是3個。」尤其2004年出任達姆國家劇院舞蹈藝術總監後,林美虹除了維持尚在演出的作品、排練即將推出的新作,還得籌劃下一部作品,幾乎沒有休息的空檔。

「每部作品的誕生,就像懷胎10個月般艱辛。」在達姆前3年,林美虹要建立舞團的風格,並讓觀眾接納,每次新作的首演夜,她一定與觀眾一起坐在台下,抽離自己的總監角色,重新以觀眾的眼光觀賞,再以劇評的角度檢視整齣劇可以加強、修改的地方。

謝幕後,即使觀眾的掌聲、劇評文字的讚譽,已肯定了林美虹,但她認為,創作者永遠需要內觀,專心默想,回到創作前最單純、原始地想表達的理念。「最嚴苛的評語,永遠發自創作者的心裡。」

林美虹喜歡說故事,她的創作靈感多來自文學、電影,與日常生活的觀察,由於小時常出國演出,至今仍保持前往世界各地旅遊的習慣,她喜歡駐觀車站、機場裡所上演悲歡離合的每一幕。

她認為,讓人感動的時刻,就是最好的戲。「保持心的柔軟與敏感,就能讓觀眾欣賞到藝術品想表達、呈現出生命中的美。」

她從小學鋼琴,對音樂的詮釋也有自己的見解。當她聽到英國作曲家埃爾維斯•科斯特洛1993年的《給茱麗葉的信》專輯,將每年從世界各地寫信到羅密歐與茱麗葉故事發生地的維諾納茱麗葉銅像前,從中挑選出20封信的內容譜成歌曲,深深地感動了她,林美虹於是也以自己的觀點改編成音樂劇《給茱麗葉的信》。

林美虹選的故事,都是愛情極端的表現,例如有位暗戀朋友妻子的人,終其一生困在無法表白愁苦中;出征波斯灣戰役的女大兵,擔心自己是否有明天;喪妻的人,因朝暮思念妻子,最後決定找靈媒引出亡妻靈,一吐相思情;無法與愛人結婚的人,在自殺前寫信給茱麗葉等故事。

在德國努力27年,累積的作品無數,林美虹的事業在2006年達到巔峰,當年被德國劇場聯盟獲選為年度藝術家;今年又入圍德國藝術界最高榮譽「浮士德獎」,實至名歸。

文化就在血液裡

「是舞蹈選擇我,不是我選擇舞蹈。」雖然林美虹從小受傳統舞蹈薰陶,又接受西方古典芭蕾的訓練,最後在現代舞蹈劇的洗禮下,發展出自己的舞蹈世界,但她始終認為,自己並非刻意選擇這條路,而是許多機會之門在她眼前開啟,讓她走進去。

「藝術是寂寞孤獨的,每個階段、過程,都有困難與歡樂。」林美虹認為,藝術就是對自己誠實,而且絕對地自由。

與林美虹熟識的作家李昂曾問她,你的台灣特色在歐洲的舞蹈劇場界能否表現出來?

她回答說,「我不需要強調台灣特色,這種文化就在我的血液裡。」

李昂說,舞蹈劇場集結燈光、服裝、布景、聲音、肢體動作等多種元素,但除此之外,舞作的情感是否強烈放射,更為重要;身為一位女性編舞家,林美虹的舞作帶有一種詼諧,以及女性夢想的空間,非常扣人心弦。在《北方旅館》中,魅影在旅館周圍徘徊不去,臉上罩著一塊黑巾,就非常「東方」,也非常「台灣」。「美虹更希望能作為一種管道,經由她,讓台灣的年輕舞者與歐洲的舞劇界接軌,她的舞團就有一位來自雲門的舞者。」

林美虹自認是傳統、古典芭蕾、現代舞的混合體,卻從未偏離追夢的方向,而現在,她仍在這條路上。       

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EN

A Life in Dance-German-Based Choreographer Lin Mei-hong

Yang Lin-yuan /tr. by Scott Williams

Taiwanese choreographer Lin Mei-hong has been directing the Tanz-theater of Germany's Darm-stadt State Theater for eight years. In October 2011, her Bridal Makeup, a piece inspired by author Li Ang's Rouged Sacrifice, was named a finalist for Germany's prestigious Faust Prize, the first Darm-stadt State -Theater work to be so honored in 100 years.

A former student of the Lan Yang Dancers, Lin left Taiwan 30 years ago. In the decades since, she has made a name for herself in Europe based on the cross-cultural style of her work. Together with Lin Hwai-min, she has become one of the most important Taiwanese dancers on the international dance scene.


Adorned in a white wedding dress, the bride on the stage is stricken. The authorities have just sent word about her groom, and the news has pierced her to the core. Just wed, she is already a widow, a victim of political persecution. Dozens of distressed family members in black, clutching pictures of the deceased, black umbrellas, or flickering yellow water lanterns, march slowly onto the stage....

Lin's work offers a new take on an ill-starred mother's love and pain at a tragic moment in history. One foreign reviewer described it as "a poetic scene hammered out by a completely different culture. Lin casts off the harmony, restraint and reticence of Asia, incorporating European aesthetics and directness to have her dancers howl, giggle, and guffaw."

Lin worked on the piece for three years. Though her intent was to "speak for Taiwan," the work is more moving for not being bound by cultural or national borders.

Lin may be one of Germany's most important dancers, but it wasn't until last March that Taiwan had a chance to appreciate her work.

Bringing it home

Having lived and worked in Europe for years, Lin recently brought her Swan Song to Taiwan. A duet consisting of six unrelated scenes, the work depicts the different faces of love. Ambiguous, poignant, and layered, it earned rave reviews from critics and audiences both in Taiwan and abroad.

Swan Song is based on Belgian author Georges Rodenbach's 1892 novel Bruges-la-Morte, and tells the story of a widower who has come to Bruges to recover from his loss. In the city, he meets and falls desperately in love with a young dancer who looks exactly like his dead wife. Unfortunately, his obsession with the deceased's image leads to endless grief.

Lin uses her dance to depict a protagonist trapped by the past and denying reality. The work draws on numerous European cultural symbols, such as a falling rope that has been used to toll a death knell and a nunnery where wealthy widows congregate, but Lin says her focus was on voicing universal sentiments.

"The point isn't in the story itself," she explains. "What I'm really interested in is people's inability to let go, in the kind of idea so powerful that it makes someone seek endlessly, even beyond death."

The original story, which takes place around the churches and along the canals of 19th-century Bruges, is filled with swans. Swans cry out with all their strength when death draws nigh, in a way emblematic of both the purity of the work and of an immutable love.

"I've always thought that you can't know happiness unless you've experienced pain," says Lin. "In the piece, I try to help the audience grasp the significance of happiness through humor, irony and innuendo."

Lin excels at using metaphor to express nuanced emotions and states of mind, leading the German media to dub her the "Ang Lee of dance."

"I love Ang Lee's work," says Lin. "We both come from an Asian cultural background, but interpret extremely Western things in Western settings. Ultimately, however, what we're doing is telling people's stories."

A girl from Yilan

Lin, who turned 50 this year, was born in Luodong, Yilan County. Like many other Yilan girls of her generation, she was influenced by the contemporaneous Lan Yang Dancers and loved to dance. At the age of 10, she and her older sister joined Lan Yang, began to study dance, and were among the first group of troupe members to perform abroad.

When Lin was 16 years old, Lan Yang helped her apply for a scholarship. She got it and traveled to Italy, where she studied classical ballet at the National Academy of Dance in Rome. At first, she thought that ballet would be her life, but her thinking changed as graduation approached.

The key to her change of heart was an amazing performance of a piece by international dance maven Pina Bausch. Lin hadn't realized that by incorporating dramatic elements dance could be used to dissect human nature. Writhing limbs and twisting bodies could express deep-rooted emotions. Elements of modern art could be added to create a new art form that was closer to life.

Lin learned that Bausch, a leading light in modern dance, was among the proponents of Tanz-theater, an avant-garde mix of dance and drama. She decided then and there to go to Germany to study what was, with American postmodern dance and Japanese butoh, one of the three new major dance styles.

Lin, for whom everything dance-related had so far come easily, encountered her first difficulties when she entered the Folk-wang University of the Arts in Essen.

Lin believed that she had been trained in ballet's greatest lineage and best techniques, and thought that studying with Bausch would further strengthen her technique. But her teacher wanted her to abandon a lifetime's training and start over from scratch. Lin didn't get that her teacher was pushing her to explore the purest, most primal emotions, and had a hard time adjusting to the method. But, as time went on, she began to get into the spirit of Tanz-theater. She cast aside her ballet techniques and began to dance with an aesthetic sense drawn from life.

At the time she graduated, she hadn't yet decided where to pursue her career and so returned to Taiwan to think on her next step. In 1999, she created a piece based on playwright You Yuan-keng's Ka-va-lan Princess. The story of a star-crossed love affair between the only daughter of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea and the Turtle General was a local Yi-lan legend, and Lin's four-performance first run played to packed houses.

Two years later, Lin and her German husband decided after much consideration that Germany was the best place for them to pursue their mutual interests.

Making a splash

Lin's first German production trumpeted her talent. In 2003, she directed the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Ben Elton collaboration The Beautiful Game. Critics were astonished that a choreographer had directed a musical to such effect.

The piece tells the story of a priest who coaches a youth soccer team, and interweaves threads involving a -player's love affair with a young woman, political and religious violence, a young man's rise from obscurity to fame, and the difficult questions of loyalty confronting an athlete who is also a member of the IRA. Lin's version also offered a young woman's perspective.

Following the success of The Beautiful Game, Lin choreographed Jesus Christ Superstar for the Dom-Stufen-Festspiele organized every summer by the Theater Erfurt.

This 1971 rock opera by Lloyd Webber depicts the last week of Jesus' life. Famous for telling the story without dialogue, Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the most original musicals in the genre's history.

Lin had to do the entire show on a flight of 80 steps between two Er-furt churches, the Ma-rien-dom and the Se-ve-ri-kir-che, but the musical's rapid pace and 100-plus performers meant that scene and costume changes had to be quick. When the lights came up on the open-air stage, the entire audience caught its breath at the spectacle. Lin staged her Jesus Christ Superstar in 2005 and attracted thousands of people to each of its 14 performances.

Poignant love

Lin, who has spent 30 years of her life abroad, feels she is fortunate to be able to continue her creative career in Germany.

"Giving birth to each piece is as tough as having a baby," says Lin. She spent her first three years in Darmstadt forging her company's style and -building an audience. For opening nights, she would set aside her supervisory responsibilities and sit with the crowd. Seeing the piece anew from the audience's perspective, she could view it with a critical eye and identify areas that needed improvement.

Regardless of whether audiences and critics applaud her work, she believes that once the curtain falls an artist has to reflect in an effort to recapture the original concept he or she set out to express. "The artist is always his or her own harshest critic."

Lin loves to tell stories, and finds many of her creative inspirations in literature, film, and observations of everyday life. Having spent so much of her childhood performing abroad, she is still in the habit of traveling the world, and likes to sit in bus stations and airports to watch the play of emotions that accompanies each arrival and departure.

The stories she chooses to tell all tend to involve love that is in some way on the edge. Examples include the tale of a man's secret love for a friend's wife and the suffering he experiences as a result of never being able to give it expression; of a woman going to war in the Persian Gulf and worrying that she will die there; of a widower pining for his dead wife and searching for a medium to raise her spirit; and of a star-crossed lover who, prior to committing suicide, composes a letter to the "Juliet" he cannot marry.

After 27 years and innumerable works in Germany, Lin's career climbed to new heights in 2006 when the German theater association declared her their "artist of the year." This year, her work reached the shortlist for Germany's highest arts award, the Faust Prize.

In the blood

Though steeped in traditional dance from childhood, trained in classical ballet, and ultimately baptized in modern Tanz-theater, Lin has always felt that going into dance was not a conscious choice. "Dance chose me," she says. "I didn't choose dance." Doors just happened to open before her, leading her further inside.

"The arts are lonely and isolating," she says. "There are joys and difficulties at every stage of your career." She believes that art requires being true to yourself and offers an unbridled freedom.

Li Ang, who knows Lin well, once asked her if she was able to express her Tai-wan-ese-ness in European dance theater.

Lin answered: "I don't need to stress my Tai-wan-ese-ness. The culture is in my blood."

Li says that Tanz-theater combines numerous elements, including lighting, costumes, sets and movement, but that projecting emotions through the dance itself is perhaps the most important. As a female choreographer, Lin's dance possesses a humor and a feminine vision of space that people find very appealing. In Hotel du Nord, phantoms pace the hotel's environs, black handkerchiefs over their faces. It's both very "Asian" and very "Taiwanese." "Mei-hong would like to be a conduit linking young Taiwanese dancers to European dance theater," says Li. "Her company currently includes a dancer from the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre."

Lin sees herself as a hybrid of traditional dancer, modern dancer, and classical ballerina, but one who has never strayed from her pursuit of her dreams. And she's still on their trail.