A lot was riding on the world premiere of choreographer Cheng Tsung-lun’s (鄭宗龍) latest piece, Sounding Light (定光), his first full-length work for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) since taking over as artistic director from founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) at the beginning of this year.
Sounding Light, which opened at the National Theater in Taipei on Oct. 1, and will be in Kaoshiung this weekend and in Taichung next weekend, was a revelation — a light, airy work at once both earthy and etheral.
However, it also raised the question of what it might have looked like if COVID-19 had not hit the world.
Photo courtesy of Lee Chia-yeh
Cheng has said in several interviews that he was inspired by the forced solitude of the mandatory 14-day quarantine that he and other company members had to complete after returning from a European tour earlier this year.
The sounds of the neighborhood around where he was staying obviously made him more introspective than normal, and contemplative of the sounds of the natural world and those of humans.
The result is a quieter, more subtle piece than audiences have come to expect from the man who brought the sights and sounds of his Wanhua District (萬華) childhood to life in 13 Tongues (十三聲) for Cloud Gate 2 (雲門2), or used technology to such great effect in Lunar Halo (毛月亮).
Watching Sounding Light makes you feel like you are sitting in a sun-dappled glen early in the morning, seeing and hearing the forest come to life around you, but with a microscopic view of the insects, birds and other creatures. It was almost as if a David Attenborough documentary had come to life in front of you.
The sounds — the breaths of wind, the rustling of leaves, the crepitation of cicadas and the patter of rain — are not from a soundtrack, but from the dancers themselves, starting with the bird calls that open the show, thanks to the ideas and training providing by New York City-based composer Chang Shiuan (張玹).
The patterns of the light and shadow falling from above onto the bare white-gray walls and floor move as if tracing the sun’s path over the course of a day as it filters through the clouds and a canopy of trees, thanks to the magic of lighting designer Lulu W. W. Lee (李琬玲).
However, most of all you see the dancers — really get to see them.
The 12 dancers I saw — Chen Tsung-chiao (陳宗喬), Chou Chen-yeh (周辰燁), Fan Chia-hsuan (范家瑄), Huang Lu-kai (黃律開), Huang Yung-huai (黃詠淮), Lee Tzu-chun (李姿君), Liao Chin-ting (廖錦婷), Shao Hsing-wen (邵倖紋), Su I-chieh (蘇怡潔), Tsou Ying-lin (鄒瑩霖), Wu Jui-ying (吳睿穎), Yeh Po-sheng (葉博聖) — are a mix of Cloud Gate veterans and members of Cloud Gate 2, which has now been absorbed into the main company.
The combined troupe has given Cheng the luxury of mixing and matching dancers and having enough to field two full casts for a show.
Sounding Light was a reminder, if one was needed, that Cloud Gate dancers, regardless of which company they were with, have always been soloist-caliber performers.
Cheng makes the most of such talent by gives each dancer time to shine, either with an extended solo or in a duet, even as he challenges their muscles and stamina with a physically demanding movement language that ranges from sharp hip and arm angles to undulating hands, arms and torsos to hip-hop-flavored pops or Taoist parade god rocking gaits.
Cheng interweaves the solos with duets that often resemble avian mating dances, along with ensemble sections that show his mastery of pattern making.
The show opens with a beautifully calibrated solo, danced in Taipei by Tsou, who was later joined for a duet by Huang Lu-kai. Other standouts in their solos were Su, Liao and Yeh, who was always one of my favorite of the Cloud Gate 2 men.
As he did Lunar Halo, Cheng has created an otherworldly environment, but one that is also at times startling familiar.
Sounding Light is a beautifully crafted work and one that will bear repeated viewings, as I can attest, for after seeing the Oct. 2 show, I returned the following night to watch it again.
Cloud Gate will perform on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, with the second cast, and then next weekend it will be at the National Taichung Theater for two matinee shows with the same cast that danced in Taipei.
Don’t miss the chance to catch Sounding Light.
Food can reflect culture, but can food also reflect history? That was what Lee Chi-lin (李其霖), associate professor of history at Tamkang University (淡江大學) wanted to explore when he gathered historians, local officials and culinary enthusiasts at the Tamsui Red House (淡水紅樓), an exquisite red-brick Taiwanese cuisine restaurant built in 1899. Lee planned the menu to reflect the historic Qing victory over the French in the Battle of Tamsui, also known as the Battle of Hobe (滬尾, Tamsui’s old name). On Aug. 23, 1884 war had broken out due to a territorial dispute in Vietnam between the French and Taiwan’s Qing
What sort of science fiction does Xi Jinping (習近平) like? How can China’s weathermen use the president’s political philosophy to improve their forecasts? In what ways can “Xi Thought” help prepare the country for the next big earthquake? These are the sorts of questions Communist Party cadres are now pondering as they prepare for the next big milestone in the president’s effort to cement control: Elevating Xi Thought alongside Maoism. The esoteric concept is expected to be written into the five-year development blueprint that will be unveiled after party meetings later this month. Everyone from diplomats to executives to sci-fi writers
This year’s Kuandu Arts Festival (關渡藝術節), which opened on Sept. 23 and runs through Nov. 29, is focused on music. Under the theme “Joy of Music,” a nod to the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, the program features performances by seven symphony orchestras as well as several Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA, 國立臺北藝術大學) student and faculty shows, in addition to the annual film and animation festivals. However, there is still room for other performing arts, and two productions this weekend and next at the university in the hills of Taipei’s Guandu area (關渡) feature students from the
The prognosis for biodiversity on Earth is grim. According to a sobering report released by the UN last year, 1 million land and marine species across the globe are threatened with extinction — more than at any other period in human history. According to a recent study, about 20 percent of the countries in the world risk ecosystem collapse due to the destruction of wildlife and their habitats, a result of human activity in tandem with a warming climate. The US is the ninth most at risk. Despite this desperate outlook, the Trump administration, as part of its aggressive rollback of regulations designed