By PAWIT MAHASARINAND
SPECIAL TO THE NATION
After winning the hearts of dance aficionados around the world for almost five decades, Asia’s renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will go through a major transition next year. Its founder and artistic director Lin Hwai-min whose name and works are almost inseparable from the company’s will step down and hand the torch to Cheng Tsung-lung, currently the artistic director of Cloud Gate 2.
Notwithstanding the name, Cloud Gate 2, founded by Lin 20 years ago, is more like another company than a second company. Cloud Gate only performs works by Lin while Cloud Gate 2’s dancers are younger and do not necessarily aspire to be in Cloud Gate but would rather enjoy working with a variety of choreographers. Lin has been carefully preparing this transition in his company for two decades now, and it’s clear that he wants people to focus on works and the philosophies behind them, not certain individuals, which is probably why he didn’t put his name in the company’s.
Commissioned by the National Performing Arts Centre (NPAC), Taiwan ROC - National Theatre and Concert Hall (NTCH), the National Taichung Theatre, and the recently opened National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts (Weiwuyin), “22? Lunar Halo” had its world premiere at the latter venue during our Songkran weekend. It was then the closing act at the Taiwan International Festival of Arts (TIFA) 2019 in the capital before travelling to Taichung last weekend. Tickets were hard to find in all three cities. While I had watched Cloud Gate in many cities around the world, it was at NTCH where I had my first, and clearly not last, experience of Cloud Gate 2 in Cheng’s“22? Lunar Halo”.
The substantial support from three theatres meant that Cheng could specifically request to work with his composer of choice – that’s Iceland’s post-rock band Sigur Ros and their longtime collaborator music director Kjartan Holm. The result was original music as unpredictable and riveting as the dance itself. The album has also been released and listening to it by itself, without recalling the images from the stage, would definitely create significant sensations and meaning.
In accordance with the title, which is derived from the natural phenomenon when the moonlight is refracted by 22 degrees through millions of ice crystals in the atmosphere causing a halo, the 70-minute work revealed the uninhibited to the point that it occasionally looked primitive or even animalistic. The six young female and eight young male dancers were up to every task.
Another star of the work was the visual design highlighted by the three LCD screens of different sizes and angles which frequently caught our eyes by surprise, sometimes acting as mirrors reflecting stage actions and on which videos were shown. As striking as these visual elements were, they never stole the spotlight from but always supported the dancers, a task that required close collaboration between visual designer and director Jam Wu, video designer Ethan Wang and lighting designer Chen Pohung.
It’s evident from this work that Cheng not only knows how to create a unique dance choreography but also how put all these elements together into an artistically unified production too. “22? Lunar Halo”, it’s been reported, will soon tour in Europe and be part of Cloud Gate’s repertoire once Cheng begins his tenure – fittingly so.
Cloud Gate nearer home
- As part of the Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay’s dan:s series, “Cloud Gate 45th Anniversary Gala Programme — Lin Hwai-min: A Retrospective” with excerpts from nine internationally acclaimed works, like “Moon Water”, “Bamboo Dream”, "Wind Shadow”, “Cursive”, “Pine Smoke” and “Rice”, is at the Esplanade Theatre in Singapore tomorrow and Saturday, 8pm.
- Tickets are from SGD 40 (Bt940) to SGD 120. For more info, visit www.Esplanade.com
- Keep track of Cloud Gate and Cloud Gate 2 at www.CloudGate.org.tw