Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cloud Gate 2 debuts in New York

Taiwan's Cloud Gate 2 takes pains to clarify its identity: not Cloud Gate Junior, not Cloud Gate Lite. Although also led by Lin Hwai-Min, who founded and directs the famed Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, Cloud Gate 2 tackles the work of Taiwan's young innovators. The New York stop on its international tour--The Joyce Theater now through Sunday--features five works by four compatriots. While these are not brand new pieces--the most recent ones premiered in 2009--they serve as a good introduction to this strong, striking troupe.

Huang Yi's Wicked Fish (2009) had me from hello and, I'll admit, spoiled me for what came after in this roughly two-hour evening. A more seamless, perfect marriage of movement and dancers--let alone dancers and lighting--I cannot imagine. With nothing hokey, obvious or the least bit tentative, Huang and lighting designer Lee Chien-chang evoke a deep sea world of darkness and sudden, mysterious illumination, of increasingly swift, fluent motion. The ensemble--thirteen dancers including Huang--exhibits potent technique, guts and believability. This work leaves me astonished, once again, at how the human body can transform to make art, how the energy of the body can transform to make magic(k).

Huang Yi's whimsical Ta-Ta For Now, set to a Khachaturian violin concerto, opens with the image of a guy tying his shoelaces and pedaling his floating feet like an astronaut in free fall. I really want to see what follows here--a quintet of dancers perched and rhythmically, goofily interacting across a row of folding chairs--back-to-back with Camille A. Brown's The Groove to Nobody's Business, although Huang serves up his own clever, cutesy groove. He's a confident artist, an audacious one, and I want to see more of what he's got up his sleeve.

Tantalus (2000), by the late Wu Kuo-chu, turns its eight dancers into what appears to be a tribe of meerkats with a serious case of the twitchees and an inclination towards slapstick. The Passage (2000), a lusciously surreal sextet by Bulareyaung Pagarlava, plays with dreamily, effortlessly shifting costumes and simulated nudity. As with Cheng Tsung-lung's The Wall (2009), which appears stuffed with and distended by every movement idea that the choreographer could imagine, lengthiness quickly diminishes virtue. Both pieces, however, make the ensemble look fantastic--and vice versa.

Cloud Gate 2 appears again at the The Joyce on Friday night at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm and 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.

The Joyce Theater
Eight Avenue and 19th Street, Manhattan

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