Mon, May 08, 2006 - Page 13 News List

Cloud Gate 2 dancers sparkle in `Spring'

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER

Cloud Gate 2 rehearses with guest artist Sheu Fang-yi, center, a principal dancer with the prestigious Martha Graham Dance Theater.

PHOTO: WALLY SANTANA, AP

Cloud Gate 2's Spring Gathering 2006 was a thoroughly enjoyable mix of lyrical grace, sisterly love and laugh-out-loud fun. It's not an easy combination to pull off, but the company's young dancers proved they were more than up to the task.

The evening began with Gloaming, resident choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava's (布拉瑞揚) elegant meditation on life's final stages.

Dictionaries define "gloaming" as twilight, and the first half is all about shades and passages. As the piece begins, the five men who lift and carry guest artist Sheu Fang-yi (許芳宜), a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, are clad only in those black skirt-pants so beloved of both Cloud Gate companies, so that the paleness of their chests and Sheu's costume are sometimes all that can be seen on the darkly lit, foggy stage.

Languid undulations in the group movements are counterbalanced by spasmodic jerks of the soloists that seem to echo the staticky sounds in the score (a mixture of Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki and Darrin Verhagen), while in twos and threes, other dancers move across the front or the back of the stage at an incredibly slow, measured pace.

Gloaming picks up speed with a dramatic pas de deux between one of the men and a woman in a black unitard and top, her face hidden by a black veil. As the piece nears its conclusion, the stage lightens and the costuming shifts to white, perhaps to indicate an acceptance of the end and the beginning of the afterlife.

It is a beautiful piece that clearly shows Bulareyaung's mastery of his craft.

It was hard to watch Pursuing the Dream, Cloud Gate 2 founder and artistic director Lo Man-fei's (羅曼菲) final work, without acknowledging that her life and work ended far too soon. Lo, who died in March, created a wonderful solo for Sheu and her older sister Sophie Lo (羅蘇菲), who sang three excerpts from the Kunqu opera The Peony Pavilion.

Sophie Lo's stiff white costume and headdress and the practiced artificiality of her movements provided a striking contrast to the fluidity of Sheu's free-flowing dress, hair and limbs. Sheu's emotional connection with Lo's choreography added texture to her finely nuanced performance.

Pursuing the Dream is a beautiful expression of sisterly love across the divide of very different theatrical traditions and a wonderful final gift.

The program's last piece, A Dignified Joke, brought to mind Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove, not just in its playfulness but in the joyfulness of the dancers, who were obviously having a ball. Giggles and laughter could frequently be heard from the audience.

The piece began with deceptive formality, a proper black dress on Yang Ling-kai (楊淩凱) and evening jackets or black suits for her male colleagues. But then, each dancer extended one arm, flexed the wrist and then rolled the hand up to and over the head before dropping it down the front of the body and grabbing the crotch with a pelvic thrust -- a move that became a signature motif of the piece.

A Dignified Joke is all about image and how we present ourselves to the outside world. Does clothing really make the man (or woman)?

The entire company shone in this piece, but especially good were Yang and her male colleagues Chou Shu-yi (周書毅), Liao Tsu-yi (廖祖儀) and Chang Chien-ming (張建明), who, it must be said, quite nearly stole the show in his purple dress.

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