The first contemporary dance company in a Chinese-speaking location, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre performs in a uniquely mesmeric and beautiful style.
Its 1993 work Nine Songs, choreographed by company director Lin Hwai-min, is based on a series of classical Chinese poems. Imagery reflects gods, goddesses, nature and rituals to create a powerful visual spectacle that is almost hypnotic.
Scenes are diverse and evocative: a performer scuttles across the floor like a lizard, a masked god stands on the backs of two suit-wearing businessmen, and barely-clothed women leap and fall to the ground as if they have been shot. Each segment takes inspirations from Qu Yuan’s poems and while the meaning of the activity on stage is not always clear, it’s hard not to find it moving.
The set by Ming Cho Lee is also beautiful. A lotus, the symbol of reincarnation in Chinese culture, forms the backdrop, with a pond of rippling water filling the orchestra pit.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s 24 dancers are supremely talented, making both the athletically challenging choreography and more simple poses and movements equally aesthetically appealing. The final scene, Honouring the Dead, in which they slowly and repeatedly walk onto stage depositing candles until there is nothing but a sea of hundreds of small white lights, is magical.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre is at Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue EC1, until 27 February, performing Nine Songs 22-23 February, and Rice 26-27 February. Tickets priced £12-£38. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review this production.