Dance of fish frenzy

Taiwanese dance troupe Cloud Gate 2 opens its debut here as a shoal of fish surging through water, stunning the audience



Cloud Gate 2


In its Singapore debut, Taiwanese contemporary dance troupe Cloud Gate 2 distressed and delighted in equal parts.

A first act so relentless that it was almost stressful for the audience was countered by the serene charm of the second.

The sister company to the well- known Cloud Gate Dance Theatre performed a triple bill at the Esplanade as part of the annual Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts.

 It set the pace straight out of the gate with the frenetic choreography of Huang Yi's Wicked Fish.

Dancers hurl each other over their shoulders as if swirling in the current in Wicked Fish. PHOTO: LIU CHEN-HSIANG

Dancers clad in muddy grey mimicked a shoal of fish cutting through the water to the dissonant sawings of Shaar by Iannis Xenakis.

In frenzied duos and trios, they hurled each other bodily over their shoulders as if swirling and surging in the current.

At a brief 13 minutes, it had a hit-and-run effect that left one stunned and almost out of breath in its wake.

It was followed by a lengthy interval that felt awkward, but in retrospect was necessary to allow the audience time to recover before artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung's unnerving The Wall.

 As the anxiety-inducing strings of Michael Gordon's Weather One kicked in, dancers in black scuttled about in elaborate grid patterns like avatars in a nightmarish video game.

Body tics executed with mechanical precision, such as agitated little head-flicks, gave way to more sinuous lines of expression as the cast began a series of deft costume changes from black to white and grey.

Scenes such as a couple in white dancing in tandem on either side of a bristling black wall of bodies, or a man with his shirt pulled over his face and dragged offstage, lent the 22-minute work an air of dystopia.

 This was elevated only by a poignant moment at the end, where a woman in white danced with unexpected tenderness towards a slowly advancing man, their shoulders brushing just as the lights went out.

It was with a sense of relief that one moved into the second act, where the bleak urgency of the first two pieces gave way to Cheng's Beckoning, a playful ode to Taiwanese street-dancing rituals awash with colour.

To the sound of temple bells, the dancers - now clad in loose clothing of vivid hues - undulated ponderously in broad, squat stances.

At 40 minutes, the piece could have used some cuts, such as a silent segment where a dancer in red navigated the stage in mounting frustration, which sounded an odd note in the flow of the piece.

But as a whole, the irrepressible exuberance of the cast in motion made it a joy to watch.

Tight-knit ensemble performances served to highlight stand-out soloists such as Hsu Chih-hen, who showed superb spin technique in The Wall and later gave full rein to his athleticism in a stunning series of cartwheels in Beckoning.

Despite the disparity of tone between the three pieces, a distinct vocabulary of movement helped them cohere in this impactful debut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2017, with the headline 'Dance of fish frenzy'. Print Edition | Subscribe