Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan mesmerizes with a strikingly beautiful production

WANG Wei-ming © YU Hui-hung

Songs of the Wanderers is a masterpiece of imagination and timeless tranquility, the signature work of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Asia's leading contemporary dance company. It is performed to soulful Georgian folk songs -- with a Gregorian chant-like quality -- recorded by Rustavi, the world renowned choir of male singers from Georgia, a former Soviet republic.

Songs of the Wanderers was inspired by Herman Hesse’s 1922 novel Siddhartha, which recounts one man’s spiritual journey of self-discovery and includes tales of pilgrim wanderers fervently in search of inner peace. Songs of the Wanderers creates a world of intense reverence, distinctly Asian in its imagery, yet with powerful universal relevance.

It has been called “a dance of gold” by its creator, choreographer Lin Hwai-min. He may have been speaking literally, as 3.5 tons of golden rice are used to great dramatic effect. As the curtain rises, a stream of dramatically backlit rice drizzles onto the head of a motionless Asian monk. Tons of golden grains ricochet and rain down to form an ever-changing landscape onstage. At the finale, a curtain of rice erupts in a golden explosion of ecstasy.

Inspired by the wealth of religious practices found throughout Asia, Lin Hwai-min transforms ancient rites into resonant dance theatre. The choreography blends Eastern and Western dance styles and demands absolute focus and control from the performers who, at times, appear to have been transformed from human beings into body sculptures, with startling imagery evoking a quest for spiritual enlightenment through experience and suffering.

This visually sensational production has enthralled audiences worldwide, and reviewers have been enchanted. Debra Craine wrote in London’s The Times (April 15, 1999), "... his choreography is both accomplished and gripping, rigorous and committed, and not a little beautiful too ... the focus and control required [by the dancers] is formidable ... [the finale] is a brilliant theatrical moment which bedazzles our imagination."  Le Figaro (Paris) wrote “I had never seen such a fascinated audience in my entire life, an audience enthralled by the beauty and spirituality of a show.”

See a video excerpt of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan performing Songs of the Wanderers here:

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan performs Songs of the Wanderers in Southam Hall on Friday March 21 and Saturday March 22 at 8 p.m.

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