Home » London Dance » Review – Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan : Songs of the Wanderers at Sadler’s Wells on 5th May 2016

Review – Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan : Songs of the Wanderers at Sadler’s Wells on 5th May 2016

Cloud Gate - Song of the Wanderers (cred. Yu Hui-hung)

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan Songs of the Wanderers © YU Hui-hung

There was plenty of anticipation amongst the Sadler’s Wells audience with the appearance of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan and their production, Songs of the Wanderers. Cloud Gate is the name of the oldest known dance in China. In 1973, choreographer Lin Hwai-min adopted this classical name for the first contemporary dance company in any Chinese speaking community. The dancers of the company are trained in meditation, Qi Gong, an ancient form of breathing exercise, internal martial arts, modern dance, ballet, and calligraphy. Lin Hwai-min’s works are a mixture of ancient and modern concepts of dance with this piece using a soundtrack of Georgian folksongs sung by the Rustavi Choir.Cloud Gate - Song of the Wanderers - Wang Rong-yu (cred. Hsieh An)

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan – Wang Rong Yu © Hsieh An

The production opens with a man dressed as a monk standing in meditation in the corner of the stage, gradually a steady stream of rice cascades from above onto the man’s head and body before collecting at his feet. Throughout the entire performance this scene forms a counterpoint to other events on the stage. Eventually a number of dancers enter the stage with a long piece of wood resembling a tree branch, the stage is covered in rice and each dancer in slow and methodical movement begins to interact with the rice.

If this is the start of a spiritual pilgrimage, it is a difficult one with the dancers movement slow and measured with high degree of control. Occasionally this control is broken by a spontaneous interaction with the rice by the dancers, scooping the rice in the air creating waves of golden rice against a dark background. At the beginning of the piece, the women of the company form a kind of chorus in the background before gradually coming into the foreground to dance with the male dancers and using the tree branches with a bell on the top as part of the dance.

The dancers meditative devotion takes on a number of forms, a group of male dancers flagellate themselves with leafed branches whilst the women contort their bodies bending backwards exercising incredible control. One man sits and is almost  buried in an avalanche of rice from up above before wallowing in its abundance.

Cloud Gate - Song of the Wanderers - Wang Wei-ming (cred. Yu Hui-hung) (2)

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (Songs of the Wanderers) Wang Wei Ming © YU Hui-hung

Toward the end of the work, the stage darkens and dancers appear with five shallow bowls of fire which move around the stage illuminating the darkness creating dark shadows. Eventually one bowl remains with a single dancer, Suddenly, the whole stage is awash in stunning golden light and rice is released to create a dramatic downpour across the entire stage. The dancers in their own ecstasy begin to spin and spin accompanied by a louder and quicker soundtrack.

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Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan Songs of the Wanderers © YU Hui-hung

The darkness fall and the cast appear to appreciative applause especially for the member of the company who had to endure 70 minutes of rice being dropped on his head. However this was not the end of the show, the man with a long rake reappears and for the next 20 minutes meticulously traces some perfectly concentric circles in the golden rice that covered the stage. If the dancers underwent their own enlightenment in the piece, this was a chance for the enthralled audience to undertake their own short journey.

Cloud Gate - Song of the Wanderers - Wu Chun-Hsien (cred. Yu Hui-hung) (1)

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (Songs of the Wanderers) Wu Chun Hsien © YU Hui-hung

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan and their production, Songs of the Wanderers offer a very unusual dance experience in which the dancers and three tons of rice provide a constantly moving spectacle about a spiritual journey and the quest for enlightenment. The Georgian folk songs added a different spiritual aspect yet combined beautifully with the dancing to provide a visually and musically feast. Since its premiere in 1994, Songs of the Wanderers has toured the world numerous times to critical acclaim. This production at Sadler’s Wells is an opportunity to experience one of the more unusual and original dance experiences.

If you would like further information or buy tickets, visit the Sadler’s Wells website here

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