BWW Reviews: Cloud Gate 2 is 'ON THE ROAD'
Cloud Gate 2, of Taiwan, performs at The Joyce Theater
Cloud Gate 2 was launched in 1999, by Lin Hwai-min, the Founder and Artistic Director of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, with the late Lo Man-fei, a choreographer and former Cloud Gate dancer, as its' Artistic Director. After Lo's passing in 2006, Lin took over the directorship.
Unlike most junior companies, Cloud Gate 2 is neither a preparation for Cloud Gate nor does it perform the same choreographies.
This week, at The Joyce Theater, NYC, Cloud Gate 2 performs "On the Road", a full evenings' performance, choreographed by Cheng Tsung-lung, which was the Annual Performance Arts Award winner of the 10th Taishin Arts Award 2012, the most prestigious arts award in Taiwan.
Before the performance opens, the dancers, three men, Chiang Pao-su, Luo Sih-wei, and Chang Chien-hao, are on stage, houselights on, each preparing alone, in silence. When the house lights dim, the three line up, single file, at the back of the stage, just in front of the backdrop, in a unison dance/march, in front of the screen. (On this night, there was a broken projector, which, one could imagine, would have displayed visuals of the places they had traveled, while On the Road. The choreography did not seem to be lost with out the photo or film display.) The entire performance portrayed three men on the road.
All dancers remained on stage, whether dancing or still, during various duos, trios, and solos. The movements were often slow and deliberate, even meditative. Sometimes acrobatics were inserted, adding a change of pace. One trio used primarily acrobatics, as the dancers aided each other climbing on each other and inverting one or another. The dancers worked seamlessly together. Arm gestures were important, especially remarkable when two or three dancers were making choreography of their arms woven together.
The pace and the descriptive nature of the choreography depicted every moment the dancers (and their audience) lived this experience. Time of day was made clear by the lighting. When they awakened to a new day, even the house lights came up, although there was no intermission. The dancers dried off, even wiping the sweat off of the floor. Then, on stage, they changed their clothes: dirty t-shirts, with which they had opened, to clean t shirts; pants and socks to fresh ones of similar colors to their first costumes (grey, brown, or black). The house lights dimmed and they were on their way...
American audiences may not be used to this style of dance, as minimalism trumped excitement. The contemporary dance elements featured here are derived from Taiwan culture, including performance art and religious ritual movement, set to scores ranging from Taiwanese folk songs, to traditional Naxi, to Islamic music, to Tom Waits' smoky voice.
The Tom Waits song is played during a solo by Chiang Pao-su. One might imagine that this was his dream. In the morning, another dancer helped to pull Chiang's shirt down and to stir him; and the three were off again, On the Road...
All three were well-trained dancers, although they seemed not to be engaging their full techniques in this piece. Their well-developed suppleness of feet, for instance, was not employed.
It is interesting to glimpse Asian culture through "On the road", which was inspired by a trip to Yunnan, China, taken by the choreographer and two fellow dancers.
PHOTO CREDIT: Chen Chien-chang