Triple Bill: Wicked Fish / The Wall / Beckoning

Huang Yi and Cheng Tsung-lung
Cloud Gate 2
Sadler's Wells Theatre

Wicked Fish by Huang Yi Credit: Liu Chen-hsiang
Wicked Fish by Huang Yi Credit: Liu Chen-hsiang
The Wall by Cheng Tsung-lung Credit: Loki Tsai
Beckoning by Cheng Tsung-lung Credit: Gia To
Beckoning by Cheng Tsung-lung Credit: Gia To

For this, its first visit to the UK, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s sister company Cloud Gate 2 presents a triple bill showcasing some of Taiwan’s most talented young dancers and a new generation of Taiwanese choreographers. All three are danced against a black surround with lighting having an important contribution.

The programme opens with Huang Yi’s Wicked Fish, danced to Shaar by Yannis Xenakis with its ominous resonances and juddering strings. It opens in darkness with the black-dressed dancers lined up across the back of the stage, flashes of flailing limbs caught flickering in cross light before they break ranks and move forward.

It is inspired by the way shoals of fishes suddenly swoop, swerve and reassemble but, though at times there is a definite underwater feel in the way that the light falls and individuals sometimes seem like an eddy swirling around on themselves in that turn ice dancers love, these are not fishes but human.

Perhaps one could see this as fickle following of fashion, sticking with the gang or the peer group: conformity bringing safety. There’s a hint at times of a piranha like swoop on the individualist.

Sometimes the group is swept by oceanic currents; sometimes a still individual becomes the pilot of a new circling movement in a work that is constantly fluid. Its movement may be glimpsed through darkness but physically it is light and speedy with the occasional hiatus.

The Wall, choreographed to the harsh, insistent rhythm of Michael Gordon’s Weather One, again presents a black-clad company. They enter in silence, pacing a regimented slow march, filing around the extremities of the stage until they enclose it. There is silence. Then there is light and this wall is fragmented, first some still rigid line-ups counter-parading, then increasingly complex and more athletic, dance full of twisting and thrusting.

A woman in a white dress appears out of the black mass, a boy in a white shirt joins her, the dancing much more free. Soon there are more of them white-clad, but these individuals have become a new kind of conformity. A sequence of fists beating air could be either jubilation or frustration as more robotic movement returns.

A wall is not necessarily a physical frontier. It can be the wall of political or social conformity or just of one’s own inhibitions, the restrictions imposed by personal insecurity.

Beckoning, also choreographed by Cheng Tsung-lung, begins with a shirtless figure crouching downstage centre who slowly rises in a contorted way that suggests pain or deformity. The music by Chung Cheng-da and the Quiet Quartet begins with mechanical buzzing and grinding. String sounds, the ting tang of finger cymbals and more light see the man starting to dance and another figure joins him upstage dressed in yellow and copying his movements. Then there is a third man in red, followed by women who each wear a different bold colour. After a monochrome evening, the stage begins to burst into brightness.

The choreography seems very eclectic. The fluid turns of the other works mix with an indigenous street dance form called Ba Jia Jiang; there is a hint of Martha Graham in splayed, bent legs (emphasised by the way the women’s dresses stretch over them). Music veers from strummed strings to percussion and tinkling, the mood becomes playful, sometimes no music. The women circle; one in green lies watching the others commenting on them, two in pastel dresses bring a mood change, there’s a showy leaping male solo in silence.

In this work, Cheng Tsung-lung’s choreography begins to develop into a series of conversations and comments. There is eye contact between dancers and real communication rather than abstraction and as the harmony of this multi-coloured group develops the stage itself is suffused with rainbow light. A joyful end to the evening.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton