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Cursive II - Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
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Cursive II is a masterpiece by Lin Hwai-min choreographer of the highly acclaimed Moon Water and Bamboo Dream. Inspired by the aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy, this work is both commanding and seductive. The superb Cloud Gate dancers, trained in meditation, Chi-Kung and martial arts, touch you with original movements, fierce as striking thunder or soft as flowing ink on rice paper. The complexity of energy is further enhanced by the music of John Cage, while the blown-up images of ‘ice crackles’ from Sung porcelain shimmer with delicate beauty. This production exquisitely filmed by dance expert Ross MacGibbon captures the meditative aura of the dance.
"An exquisite exercise in the balancing of opposites, presented in an aura of uncluttered simplicity...The dancers perform with a palpable intensity...More than just a display, it is also a spiritual exercise." (The Age)
"The work is so visually simple and entrancing that there is no choice but to enter the meditative world of the dance." (Sunday Herald Sun)
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
Choreographer: Lin Hwai-min
Catalogue Number: OA0952D
Running Time: 147 minutes
Sound: DTS Surround; LPCM Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, IT
Label: Opus Arte
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I found myself wondering how the best dancers from the western tradition -- Gillot, Ganio, Durante, Baryshnikov, for example -- would view these dancers with their extraordinary extensions, their almost contortionist flexibility, and their electrifying ability to freeze instantly into a position which looks completely untenable and hold it for what seems minutes at a time. Technically, the Cloud Gate dancers are remarkable -- although their technique is so infused with elements other than those of western contemporary dance or ballet that it is difficult to judge it analytically. It is rather like listening to poetry read in a language one does not know, or doesn't know well: certain elements (sonality, metre, inflection) may be judged, but the overall effect is simply beyond one's ken, and in the end one must simply experience and wonder.
Certain stylistic points can be made which might help others considering this DVD. First, there is practically no contact between the dancers: they tend to work in positions close to one another but not touching, and the movements are often "counterpointed". For example, one dancer might be moving very quickly through a series of gestures and positions while another, or others, remain still or move slowly in contrast. Second, in general (at least in this piece) the main line of the dance is low -- say at waist height: most of the movements generate from the waist or are effected with the feet firmly planted. One typical resting or transitional position has the legs wide apart, knees bent, the feet planted, and the hands placed on the thighs, giving a rooted, solid effect.
Both the women and the men are dressed in long, loose, widely cut pants of light translucent material (men in black, women in white) with the men naked to the waist and the women wearing flesh-coloured leotard tops. This throws the emphasis on the upper body and arms, and gives the effect of the lower body's being the foundation of the dancer: there is, in other words, very little of the delicate use of the foot which one finds in ballet -- no entrechats, no pointe -- although the occasional stretchings-out of the feet are lovely. The dancers are barefoot. Even the jumps are kept low to the floor, although they include some fairly hair-raising flips.
The music by John Cage, selected from a number of his works, provides a perfect accompaniment. If one didn't know its origin, or know Cage's work otherwise, it could easily be mistaken for music by a Chinese or Japanese contemporary composer, although it hasn't the textural delicacy of a Takemitsu, for instance. It does provide a good deal of space -- silence -- between notes or passages, and this fits well with the style of the choreography, which seems to seek points of rest and then move swiftly into successions of movement. The subject of the piece, Chinese classical calligraphy, also of course relies on a contrast, in that case between the blackness of the ink and the whiteness of the paper on which it appears -- a point Mr Lin makes strikingly in his discussion of the piece both in the twenty minute introduction, and in the later hour-long documentary about him and the company. These are both fascinating and essential viewing. I would particularly suggest watching the introduction before seeing the dance itself.
All in all, I found this a delightful, stirring, and ravishingly beautiful experience. It will surely provide deep pleasure to any lover of modern dance particularly, but really to any open-minded lover of dance in any of its forms. I am determined to add the other available DVDs of the company to my collection as soon as possible.
The Cloudgate Dance Theatre has used Adam Hsu, noted martial arts master, as an instructor, consultant, and source of inspiration for years. Evidence of northern Long Fist styles and Tai Chi influences are very clear yet completely sublimed into the dance.
I've only seen one other piece by Cloudgate, "The Song of the Wanderers." While more abstract, "Cursive II" felt more accessible somehow.
Wonderful and inspiring. Incredible piece. If you're a devotee of dance - classical, modern, urban, and otherwise - you MUST see this piece.