Taiwanese Company, Cloud Gate 2, tear up the rule book. Yes, influences are there – Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, martial arts, meditation – imbued by the founder of its sister company Cloud Gate Theatre, Lin Hwai-min, yet absorbed by osmosis by a new generation of dancers and choreographers, headed by Artistic Director Cheng Tsung-lung.
Indigenous references flicker and shimmer through this glorious triple bill in gesture, ritual, rigorous discipline and artistry; while the dancers appear as ethereal beings, compact, extraordinarily supple, light, yet beautifully expressive. They have an innate organic energy which re-defines the ensemble, while the live experience is spell-binding.
The bill opens with Huang Yi’s ‘Wicked Fish.’ Watching his parents teach tango at their ballroom dance school is one of his earliest memories. ‘Wicked Fish’ matches beat for beat the relentless force of Iannis Xenaxis’s dissonant score, ‘Shaar,’ with breath-taking fluidity. Swirling and swarming, the ensemble resemble shoals of fish. Yet in moments of slow motion limbs suspend and become weightless. Coupled and coloured by some extraordinary lighting effects by Lee Chien-chang, the dancers appear like oceanic sea-sculptures.
‘The Wall’ is the first of two pieces choreographed by Cheng Tsung-lung. His inspiration presents an urban freneticism as black-clad figures mark the perimeter of the stage, and shuffling close together, drum the air with their fists in a silent, desperate tattoo. Michael Gordon’s score ‘Weather One’ pulsates as the wall suggests internal and external barriers; tension and release in both a mechanistic and individual response. Black costumes are gradually replaced by white or grey, mirroring a choreographic language that becomes more sinuous and lyrical.
The final piece ‘Beckoning’ is colourful and playful. Movements from Taiwanese street-dancing rituals, Ba Jia Jiang, give a backdrop to the shifts in nuance – a head, a hand, an angle – presenting a benign influence. Yet Tsung-lung’s choreography is rooted in the street. And like Huang’s experience of his parents’ ballroom, so Cheng’s early experience is of his parents’ slipper factory and street hawking. While the group’s slow motion movement recalls Huang Yi’s ‘Wicked Fish’ in a cyclical gesture uniting land and sea.
Light, shadow and colour meld with textured movement and propulsive music. All three pieces play with time sequencing. Yet in ‘Beckoning,’ moments of stillness, as dancers observe each other, add a fresh narrative. Cloud Gate 2 offer this dynamic debut as part of Sadler’s Wells Out of Asia 2 season. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience not only outstanding dance from Asia, but outstanding dance full stop.