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Songs of the Wanderers

Birmingham Hippodrome

International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016

***

CLOUD Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan are said to be Asia’s leading contemporary dance theatre.

Their previous shows are internationally acclaimed and the company have toured extensively around the world.

Their contemporary performance Song of the Wanderers came to Birmingham Hippodrome as part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016 and bridged ancient and contemporary Asian practices to create a performance of a strong spiritual presence through art.

In a company of contemporary dancers choreographed by Lin Hwai-Min, individuals became one with each other. In breezy moving sequences, the dancers moved as a group to form bold imagery intertwined with the story of peace and meditation.

The company had half male and half female dancers which lead to striking moments showing the relationship between the two sexes. There were at times sensual connotations, as the dancers moved closer to bind themselves together. As the male and female partnered together, the audience saw dramatic shapes and strong frames created marvellously with their nimble bodies.

The addition of the accompanying music alone was something to inspire.. The Rustavi Choir’s Georgian Folksongs were heard as an addition to the company’s spiritual choreography.

Through this, Cloud Gate gave Birmingham an authentic deliverance of Asian culture with peaceful sounds. As the music blended with the dancers’ movements, the audience were instantly transported to Taiwan and a blissful ambiance was created from start to finish, bringing authentic sounds of serenity and peace.

The music was slow and tranquil and it was easy to see that the performers became one with their background with great ease. Props of tall sticks were also used to create an image of the barren trees in sandy lands. They had small bells attached to the end and when the dancers moved, the chimes blended into the delicate sound scape.

Cloud Gate are inspired by the ancient and modern spiritual practices of Asia and it was clear that within this performance, the use of the natural elements was a major theme. In an impressive moment which showed the audience how skilful and committed the dancers were to their art, fire was integrated in a sequence of strong focus and energy.

In a moment of striking choreography, we saw vessels of fire being balanced on the heads of each dancer and after, big and bold movements were seen all around, which was made even more spectacular as their used the rice to create flares of patterns in the air. The fire remained still and was carried away to balance chaos and stillness.

The most impressive part of the performance was of course the spectacular stage design by Austin Wang. At the start of the show, we saw a lone monk to the left of the stage. He stayed there for the entirety of the performance in deep meditation. Sometimes it was hard not to take an eye off him. This was certainly impressive; however, he was meditating under a shower of rice that constantly ran down as the performance played on for the show’s ninety minute run-time.

A blanket of rice was also seen over the stage and created beautiful golden imagery of a sandy texture. Dancers used the rice, three and a half tons of it, to display a spectacular picture that looked similar to pouring water.

This beautiful Asian Dance Theatre company have mindfulness at the heart of every movement. At the end of the piece, we saw a lone monk raking the stage to form a crop circle. For the last twenty minutes of the performance, the audience watched him create the tiny beginning of the circle until it covered the entire stage with his carefully crafted and incredibly detailed method.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan have a way of putting the audience into a trance, allowing the effects of its Buddhist style meditative inspiration take over and fill every mind.

Although one might think that the production was in fact slow, this was perhaps the very intention of what Cloud Gate wanted to achieve. In a performance that had beautiful artistic elements, they took their background of Asian spirituality which injected a Western audience with the power of tranquillity of the mind.

Elizabeth Halpin

11-05-16 

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