Cloud Gate Dance Theatre

I just got back from seeing the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan perform in Berkeley.

If they had a Sunday matinee performance, I would go back tomorrow to watch it again. Alas, they only had a two night run, yesterday and today. (I saw King Arthur a couple of weeks ago, but Mark Morris chit sai (move over))

This program, called “Wild Cursive”, is based on Chinese calligraphy and martial arts/breathing. With the staging of white banners rolling up and down with ink, reminiscent of scroll paintings/writings, the performers danced the words that you could imagine a master calligrapher ‘writing’ with a brush. If I knew more Chinese, maybe I could even figure out what words they were ‘writing’ out.

Writing is such an inadequately English word to describe the process of executing Chinese calligraphy, which is actually a rather physical discipline: the calligrapher has to focus and channel personal energy into the strokes. It can be fast and slow, fast and slow. Like kung fu/martial arts.

The dance incorporates a lot of martial arts moves. (For this child of the 80s, brought up on a steady diet of TVB serials, it was a throwback to the kung fu fight sequences to the Gum-Yong shows like “Legend of the Condor Heroes!”) Slow moves are so much harder than fast moves, because it’s hard to maintain balance.

Throw in some sinuous contortions and akimbo elbow angles (a touch of Balinese dance and shadow puppetry?); and you had a 70 minute, no-intermission show that had you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

The audience held their collective breath. The performers mastered breathing, an incredibly technically challenging thing to do: and with the ‘soundtrack’ of natural sounds: cicadas chirping, waves, etc, you could hear them breath. Breathing is to dancing what silent pauses are to music.

One more thing. The human butt is the original fulcrum. And it’s beautiful.

I hope Cloud Gate comes back to the Bay Area next year. Last year, I got tickets for them, but I couldn’t make it, and gave them to my mom, who thoroughly enjoyed it. (it was a different program.). If they ever come to your neighborhood, don’t miss them.


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