It is the middle of summer, it’s really hot and it is hard to get the Loving Spoonful’s Summer in the City out of your head and that image of dancing the night away. Which must mean that it is time for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s (雲門舞集) annual free outdoor performance.
Tonight’s show at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Plaza is all about dancing to pop tunes, though not the Loving Spoonful’s.
How Can I Live On Without You (如果沒有你), which premiered at the National Theater on Dec 2 last year, is artistic director Lin Hwai-min’s (林懷民) paean to Taiwanese music of the past six decades, as well as a love song to his dancers and fans.
He was inspired by the title song, How Can I Live On Without You by the 1940s-era singer Bai Guang (白光) to do a show based on love songs. He then asked his dancers for their suggestions. Given dozens of songs, he whittled the list down to 18 of the most danceable, which range from Wu Bai’s (伍佰) great sing-along anthem Crush on You (煞到你) to folk singer Tsai Chin (蔡琴) and indie singer-songwriter Crowd Lu (盧廣仲), and from Tiger Huang (黃小琥) and Fong Fei-fei (鳳飛飛) to Jay Chou’s (周杰倫) classic Secret (不能說的秘密).
Each song is used to tell a short story, with the dancers portraying everything from a cabaret singer, a heartbroken woman, a couple in love and performers on a variety show, to a young man’s angst. There is even a karaoke sing-along complete with lyrics projected onto a screen and a bouncing ball. Lin artfully interweaves solos, duets and group pieces that serve to highlight his extraordinary dancers.
It is a terrifically engaging and energetic piece right from start, with the opening solo of slinky legs and seduction set to How Can I Live On Without You. The work is poetic, side-achingly funny, melancholic and soaringly beautiful.
What: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre outdoor performance
When: Tonight at 7:30pm
Where: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Plaza, 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
Highlights to watch out for are Lee Tzu-chun’s (李姿君) bandaged-finger solo to Will This Be the Last Time (是否), Tsai Ming-yuan’s (蔡銘元) great leaps in I Don’t Want to Be Just a Friend of Yours (不只是朋友), and Wong Lap-cheong’s (王立翔) twitches and shakes to Secret.
Cloud Gate’s staff and crew of young volunteers run a very orderly program, despite the thousands of people that show up each year for the free show. They keep the tape-marked aisles open and the crowd entertained before the show starts.
While die-hard fans have been known to show up by 2pm to stake out spots in the front row, the heat on the plaza will keep most people away until 6pm or so. But even if you arrive shortly before the 7:30pm show time, the two big screens on either side of the stage — erected at the backside of the National Theater — ensure that even those seated in the back close to the National Concert Hall will get a good view of the action.
While the audience won’t have to worry about rain tonight, it would be good to bring something to sit on, some cold drinks or even a full picnic dinner and something to fan yourself with.
There is nothing finer on a summer night in Taipei then sitting out under the stars watching Cloud Gate perform. It is truly one of the city’s treats.