[Review] Huayi Festival 2017: Cloud Gate 2 – Triple Bill

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In their much anticipated debut performance in Singapore as part of Huayi 2017, Cloud Gate 2 presented a triple bill programme featuring two pieces by the company’s artistic director, Cheng Tsung-Lung and a shorter piece by guest choreographer and frequent collaborator, Huang Yi. Although Cloud Gate 2 is the sister company of the critically acclaimed Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, unlike other junior troupes, the dancers do not perform works from the main company’s repertoire, nor do they train to join the main group. Instead, Cloud Gate 2 serves as a platform to foster and showcase young up-and-coming choreographers and dancers, while maintaining the unique blend of Western and Eastern influences that have defined the company.

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The evening began with Huang Yi’s “Wicked Fish”- a dazzling, hyperactive 14-minute piece inspired by the movement of a shoal of fishes. Clad in grey to mimic fish scales, dancers flicker in and out of the light, their rapid, fluid movements egged on and matching every frantic note in the high-pitched discordant wail of Iannis Xenakis’ score. The music hurtles forward relentlessly as dancers, performing in duos and trios, collide- spinning, flipping, lifting each other across the stage as if propelled forward by an unforgiving current. The audience is barely given time to draw breath before the performance comes to an abrupt end with a sudden blackout.

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The next piece was Artistic Director Cheng Tsung-Lung’s The Wall, a significantly less stressful affair to watch and my personal favourite of the evening. Inspired by Cheng’s personal struggle with self-doubt, isolation and entrapment, the piece begins with the black-clad dancers in a singular block, executing a series of precise rhythmic drills as they march grid-like across the stage. The synchronized movement of the dancers is beautiful to watch, as they twitch and jerk their way in unison as different parts of a singular machine. As the dancers each begin to break away from the group and shed their blacks for whites, the choreography similarly opens up, with precise minute movements melting into long relaxed undulations through a series of solo and duet pieces. As tension and release battle each other, the final moment is most poignant. A white-clad woman and a man in black slowly walk towards each other- but unlike previous encounters, there is no confrontation, they simply brush shoulders and continue on their way as the lights dim.

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The final piece, also choreographed by Cheng, is titled Beckoning. A departure from the darker, emotionally-heavy first act, Beckoning draws inspiration from the joyous festive nature of Taiwanese street dance. Here, the choreography is playful, incorporating the deep lunges and squats of the Ba Jia Jiang ritual in a series of solos that really allowed the individual dancers’ talents and personalities to shine through. Accompanied by a cacophony of temple bells and gongs, dancers clad in colourful flowing robes throw themselves across the stage to embody the larger-than-life personalities of deities on parade.

However, at 40 minutes long, Beckoning was the longest piece of the night and might have benefited from some judicious editing to streamline the many concepts Cheng was trying to bring across. This editing could also have been extended to the lighting design. While the interplay between shadow and light worked brilliantly in the previous two pieces, the periodic use of the dramatic blue-red wash fell flat and felt like an unnecessary distraction from the dancers. However, all was forgiven in the final minutes of the piece as the dancers once again gathered as a single unit, bodies rocking, feet stomping and arms swinging in perfect harmony, urged on by the energetic thumping beat as the curtains slowly descend.

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By allowing Cloud Gate 2 to flourish independently away from the main troupe and introducing new choreographers into the mix, the company has created a separate repertoire of work that, while sharing a similar blend of Eastern-Western influences, has its own clear distinct style. Cloud Gate 2 is experimental, youthful and modern, and promises an interesting and exciting new direction for Asian contemporary dance.

By Sim Xinyi for Bakchormeeboy.com

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