Cloud Gate 2 enchants Purple Valley on international tour

Last Wednesday night, the College presented a performance by Cloud Gate 2, a Taiwanese dance program.

The imagery employed by the artists of Cloud Gate 2 is often mysterious, blending age-old symbolism with contemporary elements.

The group peformed in front of an eager crowd at the MainStage of the ’62 Center which was almost filled to capacity. Founded by Lin Hwai-Min, Cloud Gate 2 started as a program geared towards offering young Taiwanese choreographers and dancers a chance to share their work with local villages and campuses. The program is currently on its first international tour.

The program opened with a piece titled “Wicked Fish.” When the curtain rose, the stage was dim, and dissonant music began pounding in the background. The dancers scurried on and off stage, resembling schools of fish, although perhaps not fish as wicked as the title would suggest. The dancers’ bodies were often interwoven, resembling strong currents; they wowed the audience with impressive tricks, such as fast spins. The winding movement continued, and the music sped up as the tension rose. Duets and trios took turns occupying the stage.

The next movement, “Tantalus,” was more comical. It began with a clump of dancers in the center of the stage, slouched in ‘S’-shaped curves; two more soon joined in and imitated their fellow performers, much to the delight of the audience. Finally, the piece truly got started as one dancer began to twitch and the spasm spread among the rest of the dancers. As they began to loosen up, the dancers’ excitement was evident in their strident squeals and rhythmic breathing. The story repeated itself as the dancers returned to their crouched positions only to spring to life once again. The moves in this dance were often short and punctuated, as the dancers synchronized their motions and released short and fast bursts of energy, quite disparate from the flow of the first movement. Eventually, the silence was broken by a strange song drowned out by a woman’s high-pitched laughter. Despite the relative absurdity of this music selection, the performers’ overtly silly attitudes captivated the crowd. The dance was reminiscent of busy city-goers going about their daily lives, always in motion until they finally give into their exhaustion and collapse upon the floor.

The third piece, “Passage,” was the night’s saddest movement. An anguished woman took center stage surrounded by fevered attendants attempting to dress her despite her resistance. A man symbolizing death walked slowly across the stage, covered in white powder and carrying a large black umbrella. The slow, melodious music in the background suited the melancholy nature of the dance, accompanying the female lead as she began to flail about the stage before finally giving in to her fate and getting swept up by the other performers. Eventually, the woman’s feelings of longing, discontent and desperation were put to rest as she “died” and was covered in a white blanket. The remaining performers on stage began to throw white powder into the air in beautiful patterns as they shed their clothes in an impassioned dance. The figure of death returned to cover these figures with the white blanket, and the curtain fell.

The next piece, “Ta-Ta for Now,” was meant to mimic the affects of business professionals. A man in a suit carrying a chair walked to the center of the stage and sat down. As fast-paced music began, he started to twitch and move about frantically. Other dancers, similarly dressed in business attire, emerged and sat down on chairs arranged in a row. The performers took advantage of this setup, their movements either in sync or following one another like a wave. The dance had a slightly comical and cheeky feel, as the performers exaggerated their emotions by putting on displays of fake tears and kisses. Eventually, the dance moved outward from the center, as the dancers shoved their rolling chairs about. The playful feeling was once again palpable, with the performers throwing off their shoes and jackets. The movement ended with the dancers screaming and falling out of their seats.

The last movement, “The Wall,” began with all of the dancers filing in and tracing a giant circle that encompassed the stage. The background music was harsh, filled with the sounds of loud string instruments. The dancers made great use of lines and other geometric shapes as they moved. Most of the company then exited the stage, and performers took turns executing solos and duets before everyone finally reemerged for the finale. The soloists’ movements were largely characterized by fluid motions, while conversely, the ensemble moved about quickly in synchronized patterns. Perhaps the movement’s most interesting aspect was that the dancers began the piece wearing all black and as they moved on and off stage, they slowly changed into gray and then white garments. The show ended with all of the dancers clad in white.

The performance as a whole was mesmerizing, and the effort, skill and grace of the dancers was readily apparent. Perhaps the only critique of the performance was the slight lack of cohesion between the pieces: Some, such as “Tantalus” and “Ta-Ta for Now,” were overly cheeky, while others, such as “Wicked Fish” and “Passage,” were disturbingly spooky.

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