Since it debuted in 1998 Moon Water, performed by Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, has been presented internationally to great critical acclaim. Founded in 1973 by Lin Hwai-min, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre is renowned for being apolitical, its repertoire having roots in Asian myths, folklore and aesthetics.
Using the quotes “Flowers in a mirror and moon on the water are both illusory” and “Energy flows as water, while the spirit shines as the moon” as the foundation for Moon Water, choreographer Lin Hwai-min has created a revelatory piece, a spiritual, organic rendering of the Taoist philosophy.
Unlike anything I’ve seen before or are likely to see again, Moon Water owes its profound beauty to the basic training of its dancers. Versed in Tai Chi Tao Yin, a series of breathing exercises that cultivate the internal energy of the body, the Cloud Gate dancers displayed incredible control over their bodies, all the while flowing through Lin’s sensitive and challenging choreography with effortless grace.
This incredible control allowed them to execute the slow, unceasing movements with such seeming ease that the choreography came to feel like an extension of nature itself, the dancers becoming elemental and, at the same time, slightly unreal.
The music, J. S. Bach’s mournful and soporific Six Suites for Solo Cello, provided an austere background against which the sensitivity of the choreography and the virtuosity of the dancers was elegantly highlighted.
The mesmerizing, metronomic effect of the movement and music was emphasized by a simple stage design. A white circle, like the reflection of the moon on water, shimmers across the floor, while a mirror, suspended diagonally in mid air reflects the dancers below in burnished haze.
Late in the piece the stage was flooded with rivulets of water, those rivulets swelling to eventually form a reflecting pool. The sound of the dancers synchronized breathing, combined with the sound of water trickling off the stage was so tranquil it seemed wrong somehow to applaud as the curtain fell.
But when the applause came, after a long, meditative pause, it was the sound of an audience that knows it has seen something remarkable. Moon Water represents a significant contribution, not just to dance, but to creativity and philosophy. It’s a major achievement, seamlessly fusing high concept and perfectly resolved movement to create more than just a dance – Moon Water is a spiritual experience.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
Part of the 2009 Brisbane Festival
Venue: Playhouse, QPAC
Dates: 29 September - 2 October, 2009
Duration: 70 minutes (no interval)
Tickets: Adult $48, Concession $38
Bookings: qtix 136 246