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Cal Performances: Zellerbach Auditorium
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Cloud Gate's Rice evokes images of nature and the company's Western influences

by Joanna G. Harris
January 25, 2016
Cal Performances: Zellerbach Auditorium
101 Zellerbach Hall #4800
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720
510.642.9988
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan brought its gorgeous dance Rice to Zellerbach Auditorium January 22-23, 2016.
All ecological fans and all lovers of the exotic must have been pleased with the performance. The sections of the piece consisted 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, was visible throughout.

Hwai-min states that Cloud Gate’s hybrid aesthetic “combines Western classical dance techniques with Eastern “rounded” movements that draw on martial arts and tai chi.” The term "Classical" often refers to ballet; none of that was present, but the intense use of the upper body, the central pelvis and the flexed foot and hand so characteristic of Graham technique was the standard expressive movement of the women’s corps. 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 did a long lament surrounded by the women’s corps. Her solo work seemed a derivative from Graham’s “Lament.” Also notable was the duet “Pollen II” performed on the ground and barely visible in the green lighting. It was clearly a fertility ritual. The corps 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. It is important for audiences to see how new dance has been inspired by such cross-cultural traditions.

Photo © & courtesy of LIU Chen-hsiang

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