Modern dance with folk

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Cheng's work, 13 Tongues, is inspired by a story his mother told him about a street artist in Taipei in the 1970s. [Photo provided to China Daily]

It happened on a day early this year at Lin's home, when he asked Cheng to follow in his footsteps.

"I was shocked because there was no sign that he would retire and that I would be offered the position," says Cheng. "It's a huge responsibility and I am still preparing myself for that role."

Referring to Lin his "mentor", Cheng says that the first time he walked into Lin's house, he was overwhelmed by a huge amount of books piled on the floor and lining the walls.

When Cheng asked Lin questions about the inspirations behind his choreography, Lin gave him a book titled Letters to a Young Poet-a collection of letters written by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke to an aspiring poet.

In one letter, Rilke writes: "Even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sounds-wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories?"

"He taught me to go into myself, my daily life and to find everything in myself and in nature," Cheng says.

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