Rice

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan

Cal Performances. UC Berkeley

Friday, January 22,  Saturday, January 23, 2016

All ecological fans and all lovers of the exotic must be pleased with the performance. The sections of the piece consist of episodes entitled “Soil,” “Wind,” “Pollen (1 & 2),” “Sunlight,” “Grain,” Fire,” and “Water.” These dances were backed by brilliant video, illustrating and amplifying the work, filmed on location over a cycle of rice cultivation in Chihshang in southeastern Taiwan. It sometimes drew more attention than the dance.

The influence of the Martha Graham School, where director Lin Hwai-min studied, is visible throughout.

Hwai-min states that Cloud Gate’s hybrid aesthetic “combines Western classical dance techniques with Easter “rounded” movements that draw on martial arts and tai chi.” “Classical” usually refers to ballet; none that was present, but the intense use of the upper body, the central pelvis and the flexed foot and hand, so characteristic of Graham, was the standard expressive movement of the women’s chorus. The men’s work, however, was characterized by the use of long bamboo poles and its use in martial arts.

The contrast was particularly evident in a section entitled “Grain” in which a woman in a red dress does a long lament surrounded by the women’s chorus. Her solo work seemed a derivative from Graham’s “Lament.” Also notable was the duet “Pollen II” a duet on the ground, barely visible in the green lighting, but clearly a fertility ritual. The chorus work was beautiful and moving throughout, creating long passages of slow movement interspersed with intense sections of reaching, falling and lifting.

Lin Lee-Chen is to be congratulated on bringing such an unusual dance experience to Berkeley and the United States. It is important for audiences to see how new dance has been inspired by such cross-cultural traditions.

San Francisco,
Joanna Gewertz Harris, Ph.D, is a dance teacher, historian, reviewer, and lecturer. She taught dance and theater at UCB, UCSC, Cal State Hayward and Sonoma, and is a frequent contributor to scholarly journals and books, most recently to H'Doubler, and Legacy in Dance Education, both from Cambria Press. Beyond Isadora, Bay Area Dancing 1915-1965 , her book documenting Bay Area history (Price $40. + 2.00 shipping) is available from her web site beyondsadora.com and her e mail, joannagharris@comcast.net.