Mr. Cheng, 43, is in many ways very unlike Mr. Lin. His background is not literary or intellectual; his parents, migrants from the south of the country to Taipei, sold slippers on the street before starting their own small factory. Sent to a school with an extensive dance program, Mr. Cheng excelled but became addicted to amphetamines in his early teens, he said in an interview. Being arrested by the police for possessing drugs and performing community service was a turning point, he said. After graduating, he worked as a truck driver by day, and studied dance part-time at college at night.
He joined Cloud Gate, but after four years, a spinal injury forced him to stop dancing and led him to focus on choreography. He became the resident choreographer and artistic director of the junior troupe, Cloud Gate 2.
His physical style and inspirations are his personal history, he said, citing “13 Tongues,” a 2016 work based on his memories of the vivid street life of his childhood, and which Cloud Gate 2 performed earlier in the week at the company’s sleek and curvaceous building, in a verdant setting outside the city.
Mr. Cheng said that he was shocked when Mr. Lin asked him to take over Cloud Gate, but that he tried not to feel intimidated or nervous. He said his central focus was to maintain a connection to society. “Dancing is a way to connect people, and now the baton is with me,” he said. “You don’t have to abandon the past to have new beginnings.”
But on Saturday, the theme was continuity, not change. “My parents brought me, and now I bring my children, and it’s the same for so many,” said a woman near the front of the stage. Mr. Lin echoed the sentiment in his speech, alluding quickly to his retirement and that of several dancers, before moving on briskly. “Cloud Gate Theater of Taiwan will keep moving forward,” he said. “See you here next year.”