Review: CLOUD GATE DANCE THEATRE OF TAIWAN: 13 TONGUES at The Kennedy Center

Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan's 13 Tongues plays at the Kennedy Center through October 22nd.

By: Oct. 22, 2022
Review: CLOUD GATE DANCE THEATRE OF TAIWAN: 13 TONGUES at The Kennedy Center
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One of the things I love most about dance is that it's universal - you can travel to any pocket of the world and find some form of dance. Movement as a form of expression is older than memory, vital to human existence.

At the same time, it's also so uniquely and intensely personal. Each style, each performance can convey emotions, histories, and stories that provide insights unavailable anywhere else.

That's what makes the international dance performances at the Kennedy Center so enthralling - they give us glimpses into other cultures and worlds, but also give us the chance to connect on a deeper and more intimate level.

This season's opening performance, 13 Tongues by the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan is a prime example of this. 13 Tongues is pulled from the streets of Bangka/Wanhua, Taipei's oldest district, and the memories of Artistic Director Cheng Tsung-lung. The performance is based on the legendary 1960s street artist known as Thirteen Tongues, who performed in the same district in which Cheng spent his childhood and was known for his ability to conjure up a wide range of characters with vivid representations in his performances. Cheng based his own production on his experiences and these tales, with similar characters featured throughout and a unique blend of music ranging from Taiwanese folk songs to Taoist chants to electronica. The production merges the spiritual with the realities of life in this district, taking from both the religious heritage of Bangka/Wanhua as well as the modern secular world.

The Cloud Gate Dance Theatre performance features thirteen immensely talented artists. They move exquisitely - as one, as many, in pairs and groups, in patterns, against patterns - and are constantly in a fluid motion, even at their sharpest movements. Each performer has a unique style, but also can also disappear into the group as needed, melting away and then returning to attention as the performance ebbs and flows. Lim Giong's music - that unique blend of influences - is remarkably smooth, and the performers translate that smoothness their own movements, seamlessly gliding from section to section.

Review: CLOUD GATE DANCE THEATRE OF TAIWAN: 13 TONGUES at The Kennedy Center

Enhancing their movements are Lin Bing-hao's excellent costumes. The loose, black clothing the performers start with is evocative of street culture while allowing for complex movement, and the blacklight-enhanced colorful pieces they gradually introduce are works of art in their own right. Watching the way Shen Po-hung's lights played off the second set of costumes was entrancing, and a great visual against Ethan Wang's gorgeous projections and Ho Chia-hsing's overall art design.

Overall, Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan's 13 Tongues is the perfect season starter for a wonderful international dance program, and I'm excited to see what both this troupe and the Kennedy Center do next.

Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan's 13 Tongues plays at the Kennedy Center through October 22nd. The production is cosponsored by the Taiwan Academy, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States. Performance run time is approximately 1 hour and 5 minutes. Tickets, accessibility information, and more about Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan can be found on the Kennedy Center website: https://www.kennedy-center.org/whats-on/explore-by-genre/dance/2022-2023/cloud-gate-dance-theatre/

Photo Credit: Liu Chen-hsiang, Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan, and the Kennedy Center.




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