CLOUD GATE blows open
Weeks have passed and people are still talking about Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s first visit to
The almost monotonous pace of this contemporary dance—perfectly synchronized with Mischa Maisky’s pre-recorded performance of Bach’s “Six Suites for Solo Cello” and with no blackout in between scenes to interrupt its river-like flow—sent a few watchers to sleep. The water that poured onto the stage towards the end probably wore them up. But those who paid attention to the details were rewarded with unique movements—in different formations of solos, duets, and groups—that were filled with an elemental stillness and slowness—and plenty of variety.
Swept up, I found myself breathing along with the performers in a meditation that sharpened all my senses to what was unfolding. The simple, tranquil flow of the dancers was hypnotic, enticing the eyes but also the mind and imagination. Thoughts drifted to my favourite beach in Hua Hin, a place I haven’t visited for a few years now, and I felt a mental relaxation that had nothing to do with sleep. Yet, glancing at the dancers’ slightly distorted images in the mirror-like back wall, my head overtook my heart and I was reminded of the Buddhist proverb choreographer Lin Hwai-Min based the performance on: “Flowers in a mirror and moon on the water are both illusory.”
The following evening, I returned to watch the same performance again—something I’ve rarely done in my eight-year career as a dance and theatre critic. As the final curtain fell, it was as if I was double recharged and revving to take on the realities of life at a faster pace.
Also intriguing was an audience swelled by busloads of Taiwanese on both evenings. In all the shows from overseas staged in the 11 years of the festival, I have never a response like it from an expat community.
Apparently, Cloud Gate, having found a dance vocabulary to fit Asian body and mind, is now a pride of Asia, and a cultural ambassador of
Cloud Gate chose a very different piece for a
Soaring against the black backdrop at the beginning of the piece was a lone white kite, kept aloft by large fans hidden in the wings. A shirtless figure appeared onstage, his shadow stretching like a giant under crisp lighting. He twisted and turned, bent and rose, “manipulating” his silhouette like a puppet master.
A group of dancers emerged and split into pairs in a play on the figure-and-shadow theme. One half of the pair stood upright while the other, completely enveloped in a black bodysuit, mirrored his moves on the ground. The steps were small and slow—those expecting to see spectacular moves might have been disappointed at first. But they were soon marvelling at the speed and skill with which the shadows mimicked their “owners”.
The result of Lin Hwai-Min’s collaboration with internationally renowned visual artist Cai Gua-Qing was a breathtaking yet harrowing mise en scène. In the second half of the performance, the shadows declared war and advanced to master their owners. Bodies convulsed amidst showers of black snow. White flags—the emblem of truce—were waved in tandem with sounds of gunshots and detonations. The quivering fabric and the walls of the auditorium were shot full of holes courtesy of Cai’s video projections.
Addressing the climate of fear in the post-9/11 world, Wind Shadow whipped up a daunting vision of the future. Hopefully, the acid-green laser beam that shot across the theatre right before the curtain dropped wasn’t an accurate prediction of our fate.
Cloud Gate is currently in mainland
For more on Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, www.CloudGate.org.tw
The writers wish to thank the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in
written by Jasmine Baker and Pawit Mahasarinand
published in THE NATION on Friday, November 13, 2009
MOON WATER photos courtesy of International Cultural PromotionsWIND SHADOW photos courtesy of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
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