Robert Tanitch reviews Cloudgate Dance Theatre’s Moon Water on line

Robert Tanitch reviews Cloudgate Dance Theatre’s Moon Water on line

Multi-award-winning choreographer Lin Hwai-Min, founder and former artistic director of Cloudgate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, welcomes the viewer: “In these times of uncertainty I hope this lyrical dance will bring you joy and peace.”

Cloudgate, founded in 1973, famed worldwide, was the first contemporary dance company in any Chinese speaking community. Lin Hwai-Min only stepped down last year.

The dancers receive training in meditation, Qi Gong (an ancient breathing exercise), internal martial arts, modern dance, ballet and calligraphy. The company, highly disciplined, is impressive for its stamina, slowness, statuesque poise and balance.

Moon Water, intensely contemplative, deeply expressive, is performed to Bach’s mournful Suites for Solo Cello, recorded by the renowned cellist Mischa Maisky.

The work, premiered in 1998, was first seen in the UK at Sadler’s Wells in 2002 and the again in 2008. This particular performance, 70 minutes long, was recorded in 2008. The virtuosity continues to amaze and delight.

Moon Water, a challenging work perhaps for those new to Cloudgate, is a metaphor of two things. One is a Buddhist proverb: “Flowers in a mirror and moon on the water are both illusory”. The other describes the ideal state of Tai Chi practitioners: “Energy flows as water, while the spirit shines as the moon”.

The dancers, notable for their suppleness, wear billowing silk trousers. The men are bare-chested. There is a tilted mirror above and behind them. The choreography, which feels both ancient and modern, has an intense, spiritual quality. The movement ebbs and flows, rises and falls; the arms are particularly beautiful and graceful.

In the closing phases the stage, black with white brush strokes, ripples, filling with water and the dancers, lying in the water, soaked and splashing like fish, continue to perform in silence, the cellist having long since finished. It is a striking finale.

Moon Water is a unique experience. Watch it for free on Sadler’s Wells Facebook and on You Tube until 22 May.

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