In 1998, Taiwanese-born choreographer Kun-Yang Lin visited Borobudur, the ninth-century Buddhist temple in Java, Indonesia, formed by intricately decorated circular platforms built upon a square base. “I was fascinated by the simplicity on the top but the detail within,” Lin says. “I wanted to explore that idea, to start architecturally but get to the meaning inside.”
It took more than a decade for that inspiration to bear fruit, but this weekend Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers will premiere “One: Gifts From Afar,” a program featuring two pieces that echo Borobudur’s structure. The evening includes the world premiere of “One – Immortal Game,” which explores the competitive drive in human nature via the game of chess, ideas related to the temple’s square foundation, and “Mandala Project,” which premiered in 2011 and explores the form of the mandala, the Sanskrit word for circle, which also translates as community or connection.
“In Chinese culture we use the circle as a metaphor for many different things. For life, for compassion, for generosity,” Lin says. “The square relates to morals, integrity and structure. That’s how the Buddhist temple is built, with structure and simplicity — you begin with the structure and then let the structure go. As a dancer, it’s a similar situation when we train for almost a year, then allow ourselves to digest that and let it go.”
“One – Immortal Game” was developed during last year’s presidential race, and as philosophical and spiritual an artist as Lin is, he couldn’t help but be influenced by the daily headlines. “I don’t want to talk about politics,” Lin insists, “but how do I respond to them as an artist? I can’t articulate with words what I can with my dance, so I have to figure out my own way to respond and to reflect.”
The London Olympics were also happening at the time, and the event’s dueling messages of global unity and competitiveness helped lead Lin to the inspiration of chess, which has its own parallels in the political realm. “Chess throughout history has been very political,” Lin says. “It’s associated with wealth and power. I wanted to bring that concept into a sense of oneness, because oneness is the secret of everything.”
If you go
Mandell Theater at Drexel University
33rd and Chestnut Sts.