The teenage years are often angst-filled, what with growth spurts, raging hormones and the search for identity — and the outlook can seem bleak one day and sun-filled the next. That pretty much sums up the two parts of Cloud Gate 2’s (雲門２) Spring Riot 2014 at Taipei’s Novel Hall.
Bleakness was the order of the day for part one, which ran from April 17 to April 20. By the end of the three-hour show both dancers and audience were exhausted.
The first piece was new artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung’s (鄭宗龍) Dorian Gray (杜連魁), a narrative-themed dance that is not only very different from his previous works, it is nowhere near as polished. It was a curious mix of East — Taiwanese Beiguan music, some of the costumes, Chinese opera movements — and West — the Oscar Wilde story, music by Beethoven, Camille Saint-Saens, Tom Waits and excerpts from an audiobook in English — that never coalesced, although there were some interesting solos and imagery.
There is a Dorian Gray character and also a dancer who represents the painting (the decay being shown by dripping black ink onto her from above until she is menacing fluid blob), but it was hard to tell who the other dancers were supposed to be. The dance sometimes echoed the storyline, but also appeared to include Cheng’s reactions as he listened to the tale.
The second work, and at 50 minutes the longest, Huang Yi’s (黃翊) Floating Domain (浮動的房間) opened in shadows and just seem to get dimmer. Expanding on his 2010 piece of the same name, it explores the lives of several characters, raising the tension as it goes, though it was often difficult to figure out the connections between the characters.
Is it a dance about the different stages of one person’s life, or were there several individuals’ tales intertwined? The interplay between the men and women began gently, by the end the violence was overt, especially in the duets. Something as innocuous as an old-fashioned telephone became a menacing presence, as its long line was jiggled harder and faster until it became a blur.
I felt exhausted about halfway through Floating Domain and there was a third piece still to come.
The final work, Bulareyaung Pagarlava’s Yaangad (椏幹), incorporated beautifully blended performances — by singer/songwriter Sangpuy Katetepan and cellist — Chen Chu-hui (陳主惠) — with movements based on Western contemporary and Aboriginal dance. Like Cheng’s Dorian Gray, the elements were pleasing individually, but the work dragged and by the time Yang Ling-kai (楊淩凱) was rubbing handfuls of dirt over her chest and legs, it was long past time to call it a night.
Altogether Spring Riot part one hardly seemed the kind of 15th birthday party most troupes would want to throw. Although each show started with a short film of the company members, Cheng, Bula and Huang Yi dancing and goofing around at home and abroad, the film was the only time anyone appeared to be having fun.
However, the dancers were in great form, though I missed Yeh Wen-pang (葉文榜), a mainstay for many years who has left to go freelance.
Dorian Gray, Floating Domain and Yaangad are worth seeing again, but not in a single show, and not before Cheng does some serious revision.
Cloud Gate 2 begins a three-city road tour of the show this weekend in Chupei City, Hsinchu County before moving on to Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung.