In this society, the men dominate the action as well the women, thundering through them, hurling them around, holding them perched on their shoulders.
Saturday night’s audience was thrilled that the sacrificial victim was danced by Yu Tsai-chin (余采芩), a Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA, 國立臺北藝術大學) graduate who joined the company in 2008, the first Taiwanese dancer to do so. Yu’s was a delight to watch, from the almost tentative start to the power, gut-wrenching convulsions before she collapses in the dirt and the lights go out.
TNUA was also well represented by its alumni among the choreographers whose works were presented by Cloud Gate 2 (雲門2) in its Spring Riot program at Taipei’s Metropolitan Hall over the weekend.
The program opened with two pieces by Huang Yi (黃翊), Lost For Words (無聲雨) and Light (光), both of which featured him as a dancer, which has been rather rare in his works of late. They also featured pure dance, with none of the technology that features so prominently in works he has made on his own.
Lost For Words, set to Arvo Part’s Fur Alina is a solidly romantic piece for two couples who move in, around and on the edges of the spotlit center of the stage with almost music-box prettiness. Light, set to Steve Reich’s Three Movements for Orchestra, features nine dancers and centers around a series of almost tango-ish duets, with the women often pressed up tight against their partners, legs sliding down and around the men’s legs and lots of very tight spins in and out of the men’s arms.
Cheng Tseng-lung’s (鄭宗龍) Blue Hour (一個藍色的地方), set to John Tavener’s The Protecting features six women, clad in sleeveless, belted long black dresses, often moving silhouetted against a white back screen. Cheng’s love of tight engineering and almost architecturally pure, sharp movements were on full display as the women moved on their own or as a scuttling group, criss-crossing the stage, hair often flailing. With a great solo for Cloud Gate 2’s leading lady, Yang Ling-kai (楊淩凱), Blue Hour was the best work on the program.
A big disappointment, however, was Bulareyaung Pagarlava’s Uncertain/Waiting (帕格勒法), set to Reich’s Six Pianos, with a cast of nine men and Yang. Perhaps because I liked the shorter, smaller cast version seen in 2011, I was more disappointed that this expanded version seemed to drag on far longer than was necessary. The work features a lot of improvisation designed to show off the dancers’ personalities, and there were plenty of physical jokes as well as sarcastic interplays between Bulareyaung, directing the action from the back of the theater, and the dancers. Everyone worked hard, but in the end the piece felt flat.
Cloud Gate 2 will take Spring Riot to Greater Taichung on April 20 and 21, and then to Greater Kaohsiung at the beginning of May as part of the Kaohsiung Spring Arts Festival.