Wed, Apr 24, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Review: A riveting lunar experience

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Lee Tzu-chun performs in Cloud Gate 2 artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung’s latest work, 22° Lunar Halo, at the National Theater in Taipei.

Photo courtesy of National Theater Concert Hall

When news broke on Nov. 22, 2017, that that Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) artistic director Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) would be retiring at the end of this year, most people in Taiwan — and many elsewhere — were stunned.

However, anyone worried about the future of the nation’s most famous dance troupe can rest assured: The company will be in good hands with Lin’s chosen successor, Cloud Gate 2 (雲門 2) artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍), as amply demonstrated by his latest work for the smaller troupe, 22° Lunar Halo (毛月亮).

While those who have followed Cheng’s career were not worried about his ability to head up the main company, the 70-minute 22° Lunar Halo, which premiered at the Weiwuying National Kaohsiung Centre on April 13 and was followed by a sold-out weekend of shows at the National Theater in Taipei last weekend, is a huge affirmation of his artistic vision and talent.

It is, quite simply, terrific.

Not only is it good enough to warrant repeated viewings, it is riveting enough to withstand a technical failure, as happened on Friday night last week when the third display panel failed to materialize toward the end of the show.

Those who had seen one of the Kaohsiung performances or had seen photographs knew that a row of raised hands was supposed to appear during Lee Tzu-chun’s (李姿君) solo, but the absence was barely noted, except of course, by Cheng and his team, who were understandably frustrated when I saw them afterwards.

Cheng has created a work that gives each and every one of the 14 dancers a chance to demonstrate their skills, be it in a solo, in a pairing or trio, as well as the group segments, and they were all great.

The piece starts with eight men, huddled into in a tight diagonal line that starts with one kneeling on the floor, head bent. Their pale skin stark against the enveloping black stage, thanks to Shen Po-hung’s (沈柏宏) largely monochromatic lighting.

The men link arms and begin a series of undulating arm movements, expanding and contracting like a DNA helix as their bodies rise and fall until they are finally all standing.

The starkness of Shen’s lighting left color largely in the hands of visual designer Jam Wu (吳耿禎), whose massive LED panel and fluid projections added a touch of magic, and Ethan Wang’s (王奕盛) videos of long extended legs, arms and a full male nude.

Cheng has continued his use of movements and steps influenced by the wide-legged rocking gait and arm movements of the bajiajaing (eight generals, 八家將) of Taoist temple parades that he began to use in Beckoning (來) and in Thirteen Tongues (十 三聲), adding a Taiwanese flavor to his tribal gathering that moves to a haunting soundtrack by Icelandic avant-garde rockers Sigur Ros.

The women especially had great solos, although it was sometimes hard to determine who was who, as Lee Yin-ying (李尹櫻), Su I-chieh (蘇怡潔) and Liao Chin-ting (廖錦婷) often had their loose hair flying about and obstructing their face as they twirled and spun, flinging their limbs and making even the most awkward movements look easy.

Tsou Ying-lin’s (鄒瑩霖) solo was different, and not just because you could see her face as her hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

Clad in just a leotard, she took a spot at the front of the stage and performed a series of movements that blended elements of taichi control with isolationist articulations, even when flopping like a puppet after its strings are cut.

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