Cloud Gate Dance Theatre

January 29, 2010

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre

January 29–30, 2010

Eisenhower Theater

Kennedy Center, Washington DC

Reviewed by Emily Macel


Moon Water. Photo by LIU Chen-hsiang, courtesy Cloud Gate.


Once in a while a dance show comes along that leaves you feeling dizzy and breathless. During Cloud Gate’s performance of Moon Water, I was torn between keeping my eyes wide open to avoid missing something and letting my eyelids fall heavy, to let the dreamlike dancing imprint itself in my mind.


The mood was set by a single dancer in a cone of light with a tilted aluminum-like mirror hanging overhead. He moved with the fluidity of a serpent, without angles or jarring changes of direction. He was a technical powerhouse, but his mood was calm and introspective. Watching him, one didn’t gasp with excitement over his flexibility and proficiency, but rather sighed with delight and pleasure.


Lin Hwai-min’s choreography was inspired by tai chi, and the meditative qualities of the practice read clearly. Not only did the dancers appear to fall into a trance while they were performing—with peaceful faces and relaxed limbs—but the audience was welcome to join in this meditation. At times, the repetition and steady tempo made one eager for a quicker pace or surprising change. But the intricacies of the choreography—like the way a dancer pointing his toes would raise just the big toe—recaptured my focus. Dancers lifted legs overhead and balanced on one foot without any restraint or wobbling, or sank into impossibly deep pliés and sat there as if this were the most comfortable position in the world.


The simple costumes (by Lin Ching-ju) and set (by Austin Wang) were proof that less can be more. The women wore nude leotards, the men were bare-chested, and all wore translucent flowing white pants that left trails of billowing fabric. In one section a dancer was lit so that she glowed against the black stage. The marley floor had swirls of white, and at various points in the production, mirrors were revealed—first overhead and eventually against the entire backdrop.


True to its name, Moon Water, which premiered in 1998, began with moonlit dances and a tranquil feeling of nighttime. But when the water appeared, the stage became awake and alive. Mysteriously seeping in, the shallow pool was nearly invisible to the audience at first. Then one dancer dove in, legs first, spinning and throwing an arching splash across the stage. Nothing was overdone here—each dancer moved with grace, ease, and intention through the liquid, creating fountain-like curves and sprays as they circled their arms in the water or crawled through puddles on the floor. The images reflected in the mirrored backdrop were like a moving watercolor with blurred edges.


The eight sections of the dance were done to Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello. Each new solo, duet, full company piece, or quartet added another level of depth to the musicality.


The piece left this reviewer satisfied. It was just long enough to make one wonder when it would be over, but not too long to allow the mind to wander from the simple beauty onstage.