Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan are known for their spectacular set designs and stunning choreography, fusing influences from Asian culture and tradition and often incorporating projection and poetry to offer audiences a multi-sensory experience. Their latest piece, Formosa, is a tribute to the beauty of the island of Taiwan and will be the last production with choreographer Lin Hwai—min at the helm, having spent 45 years as Artistic Director of the company. Here we reflect on some of their most impressive works to have visited the Sadler’s Wells stage…
1. Songs of the Wonderers (2016)
An epic work inspired by Buddhist meditation and the quest for enlightenment. A single element constitutes the set: three and a half tonnes of golden rice! The landscape it creates – by raining down on the stage, being thrown in the air by the dancers or shaped into beautiful patterns by a rice rake – defines the performance as much as the dancers’ movements.
2. Nine Songs (2014)
Based on a series of classical Chinese poems by Qu Yuan, Nine Songs draws on ancient imagery and sensibilities to create a thoroughly contemporary piece. Like the poems, the dance reflects the cycles of nature. The first half moves from day to night, from the bright and powerful Sun God to the dark Gods of Fate who bring deceit and abuse to the human world. The second half of the work follows the seasons.
3. Rice (2014)
Co-produced by Sadler’s Wells, Rice was created to celebrate Cloud Gate’s 40th anniversary, and is inspired by the landscape and story of Chihshang in the East Rift Valley of Taiwan. Previously tainted by the use of chemical fertilizer, this farming village has now regained its title as Land of Emperor Rice by adopting organic farming. Featuring folksongs in Hakka – the oldest among the existing Chinese dialects – and operatic arias from the West, this is a stunning, thought provoking piece of dance.
4. Moonwater (2008)
Set to Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello, Moon Water is a contemporary exploration of Qi Kong, an ancient form of breathing exercise. Towards the end the stage is quietly flooded with water. A wall of mirrors upstage reflects the soaked dancing bodies and their images on the water. The only sound is of water gently flowing over the rim of the stage.
5. Wild Cursive (2007)
For this piece, choreographer Lin Hwai-Min drew choreographic ideas from Kuang Chao, ‘wild calligraphy’, which is considered the pinnacle in Chinese cursive aesthetics and frees characters from any set form and exposes the spiritual state of the writer in its expressive abstraction.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan return to Sadler’s Wells with their production Formosa, from 9 – 12 May. Tickets are avaialble now priced from £12 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 our by visiting our website.