Saturday, 7 May 2016

REVIEW: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan mesmerise with Songs of the Wanderers

Fri 6 May 2016
Sadler's Wells
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan - Songs of the Wanderers

Founder and Artistic Director, Lin Hwai-min brings Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (CGDT) back to Sadler's Wells with a mesmerising work from his back catalogue. Songs of the Wanderers is a warm landscape of rolling mounds of rice, tall desert branches and hypnotically slow movement. The work has a deeply ritualistic sense, reminiscent of the ancient Buddhist and Hindu traditions of East Asia. 

Downstage right a monk stands in stillness, his hands folded in prayer, as a stream of rice falls upon his head. The grains collect around his ankles and spray across the space. Emerging from the darkness, ten dancers creep through the rice-ridden stage, crouching and clutching onto tall desert branches. The image reminds us of a journey- of wanderers desperately seeking enlightenment. 

The Cloud Gate dancers move with their well-known precision and fluidity, slipping into careful moments of unison, before throwing the rice in curving ribbons. Later, a woman writhes and shakes on the floor, reaching and straining with frustration. The men's muscled backs extend as they pass through inversions into quiet floorwork. 

Hwai-Min constructs gorgeous moments of contrast between the serenity of the lone monk and the unravelling group formations of the other dancers. Four men lay motionless, each flanked by a woman standing at his head. The women hold a desert branch in each hand- the effect is beautiful.

The work comes to a close as five dancers appear from the darkness carrying large bowls of fire. The flames flicker in the darkness, reminding us again of the ancient Buddhist and Hindu rites of East Asia. 

At this point, the monk, still in perfect stillness, is knee deep in the falling grains. Like a human hourglass, he is the embodiment of time and patience.

Songs of the Wanderers continues at Sadler's Wells until Sat 7 May.

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