Cal Performances. UC Berkeley
Friday, January 22: Saturday, January 23, 2016
Dance, Nature, and Western Influence
Cloud Gate Dance brought its gorgeous dance “Rice” to Zellerbach Auditorium this past weekend. 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.
(Picture credit: LIU Chen-hsiang)