For the spring semester at the Dance Center, there is a small cohort of dance writers viewing, discussing, and writing about each performance in the Dance Presenting Series (DPS), guided by Director Ellen Chenoweth. Comprised of Columbia College students and recent alums, cohort members were nominated by faculty members and applied for a position in the group. Here are a few excerpts from their writings about the recent Dance Center presentation of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, performances March 2 & 3, 2018 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in Formosa
Cloud Gate’s movement vocabulary fluctuated between physicalizing mountains and rivers, creating architectures that were heavy and strong, embodying swifter, wind-like movements, and identifiable pedestrian gestures such as an embrace or preparing for a fight. Their range was truly a testament to their dancers’ seemingly infinite capabilities. One of the most striking images from the beginning of the piece was when the dancers swung their torsos, side to side, as a group as if they were encroaching upon unsuspecting victims located downstage left.
The sonic elements supported the execution of the dancers’ physical ability to utilize their weight and body in captivating ways. Jumps with controlled landings that echoed throughout the space, reverberating back to the viewers in ways that emphasized groundedness and strength.
I think about what it means to engulf the mind and body into complimentary practices, supporting the breath and its physical response. Floating, agile, and focused…beauty is revealed and celebrated.
When I think about the performance of Formosa…I am relieved. For a while I’ve been in a complete anti-ballet, anti-modern, anti-Western headspace. The only dances that could gratify me were those of the diaspora. This rich, Easternized dance has completely replenished my hunger for something fresh and devoid of all Western tendencies and habits. Formosa captured a culture at its purest form and splayed it out with smooth abandon.
Bodies form a flock-like entrance onto the stage. One after the other makes their debut as the dance begins. In comes various lines of dancers overlapping with their silent footfalls creating a solid rhythm with a favorable serene urgency as if they’re birds taking to the sky with light flutter of their wings. The overlapping bodies create an interwoven arrangement.
Characters begin to form on the screen. The characters have a life of their own. They interact with the spoken text (in the form of song, humming and speech forms). At points they engulf the dancers in a sea of memory and history. They seem to extend past the stage into the audience, wrapping us into a circular pattern of time.
The combination between Eastern and Western movement patterns and styles was evident throughout the choreography, but it was the control the dancers had over their bodies that stuck with me the most. There was not a single point during the performance when I did not believe one of the dancers was not one hundred percent confident with the choreography that had been set on them. This sureness that they all carried in their bodies allowed them to move with a soft strength.
Images: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in Formosa. Photos: Liu Chen-hsiang