Thu, Oct 17, 2019 - Page 14 News List

Reviews: Quiet mastery and sheer fun at Weiwuying

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Cheng Tsung-lung’s Multiplication, set on nine members of TAO Dance Theater, features both Cheng’s vocabulary and TAO’s traditions.

Photo courtesy of Liu Chen-hsiang

National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying) celebrated its first birthday on Sunday, but it began the celebrations on Thursday last week, taking advantage of the long Double Ten National Day weekend.

The highlights of the weekend were Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s (雲門舞集) EXCHANGE, which had its world premiere on Thursday, and the Komische Oper Berlin-1927’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which opened on Friday.

For many years Cloud Gate has premiered a new full-length work by Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) in the fall or a mixed bill to mark a key anniversary, such as last year’s 45th.

However, this fall Lin is just a few months away from retirement and he has spent the past two years trying to ensure the handover to his chosen successor, Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍), will be as smooth and seamless as possible, so 2017’s Formosa (關於島嶼) stands as his final big work for the company.

Instead, two years ago Lin decided to finish his tenure as artistic director by collaborating with Cheng and Chinese choreographer Tao Ye (陶冶), cofounder of the Beijing-based TAO Dance Theater (陶身體劇場) and a talent who, like Cheng, he has championed and mentored for several years. Each man would create a short dance, with Cheng working with TAO’s dancers and Tao with Cloud Gate’s.

For his piece, Lin decided to create a work for several senior dancers who are retiring along with him.

Not one for fuss, Lin decided that his Autumn River (秋水) would be first on the program, followed by Tao’s 12 and Cheng’s Multiplication (乘法). However, at some point after the programs were printed, the decision was made to end the show with Lin’s piece, which was the right move.

‘MULTIPLICATION’

EXCHANGE now opens with Multiplication, set on nine dancers, led by the always terrific Duan Ni (段妮), a cofounder of TAO.

It is a beautifully crafted work that incorporates Cheng’s own vocabulary with elements of TAO’s style, set to a score by Lim Giong (林強), who worked with Cheng on Full Moon for the Sydney Dance Company, while costumes are by Fan Huai-chih (范懷之), who worked on Full Moon as well as 2017’s Dream Catcher (捕夢) for Cloud Gate 2 (雲門 2).

TAO dancers are usually seen in uniform jersey knit-based costumes in a basic pallete of black, white and grey. Fan kept that color scale, but added yellow in her beautiful one-piece outfits that could have come right off a runway, block-printed sleeveless tops that flow into long fan-folded palazzo pants.

The dancers begin with their hands clenched just below their waists, holding up their pants, arms akimbo; the angles of their elbows the only sharp edges as their shoulders, hips and bodies curve and dip, first as individuals, then in pairs and groups.

Cheng then releases their arms, which flow up and around, as do their legs that rotate around at the waist or higher as the dancers flow across the stage and the yellow wash of Lulu W. W. Lee’s (李琬玲) lighting grows into a bright white that highlights the colors of the swirling pant legs and adding a sculptural edge to the movements.

There is a particularly beautiful segment by the three men, Yan Yulin (鄢煜霖), Fan Min (范敏) and Guo Huanshan (國桓碩), tightly grouped in the front of the stage as they fold over and around one another.

Multiplication is a reminder, if one is needed, that while Cheng’s style is very different from Lin’s, he has the talent to carry Cloud Gate into the future.

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