Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan – Lunar Halo ★★★ Sadler's Wells Theatre | Nov 30 - Dec 2, 2023

The celebrated Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, perhaps Asia's foremost modern dance company, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Founded in 1973 by Lin Hwai-min, the troupe is a frequent visitor to Sadler's Wells and since 2019 has been under the direction of Cheng Tsung-lung. Cloud Gate is notable for the eclectic training of its dancers. They are schooled in meditation, Qi Gong (an ancient breathing exercise), martial arts, modern dance and ballet. And to that regime, Cheng has added hip hop and street dance. It makes for a unique style that can be quite captivating, with a fluidity and muscularity that is powerfully evocative. We are told that Lunar Halo takes its inspiration from the optical illusion created when the sun's light reflected by the moon passes through clouds full of ice particles creating a halo effect. The natural phenomenon was believed to foreshadow unsettled weather or a time of change. Experiencing this occurrence is credited as Cheng's inspiration for his choreography of this piece which deals with the relationship between the human body and the ever-encroaching digital world. In the work itself however, the relationship between the experience and the theme never really became clear for us. The choreography itself is a bit of a mixed bag. In the solo work the dancers demonstrate astounding plasticity, but the movements become repetitive and the experience loses its edge. For us, the opening passage with seven men working together to create a fascinating, organic configuration stands out as the real highpoint of the evening. The other group work which had a quality of tribal dancing with lots of head tossing did not work as well. The music of the Icelandic group Sigur Rós created a brittle, ethereal atmosphere that was played off against some absolutely spectacular lighting work and video creations, but it never felt as if the choreography really matched these effects. Nevertheless, Cloud Gate has a lot to offer and this show, despite our caveats, demonstrates why they are in the first rank of modern dance companies.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo © LIU Chen-hsiang

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