Cloudgate (雲門舞集) are an institution in Taiwan; and one of its most treasured cultural exports. Combining traditional Asian and Chinese motifs, they combine them in extraordinary ways, mixing digital media, human-scale calligraphy, old folk tales and contemporary dance. It’s always a challenge to get seats for their performances in Taiwan, since they are so often on the road abroad, but they have an annual open-air performance; this year at least in the grounds of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, and in the shadow of the National Theatre.
Seats were first-come-first-serve, so Yuyin and I wandered over a couple of hours early, camping mat in hand and laid out a pretty good plot for our friends that were planning on joining later. Taipei for once served up a rather splendid sunset, and we enjoyed hanging out in an unusual environment with kids running around and old people bisecting the audience loaded with shopping bags on their way home – hilarious.
With the clock counting down, Abe, Lin and Steve arrived packing fizzy wines, cheeses, hams and a plethora of treats; if we were going to do this, we were going to do this in style! We were certainly the only ones I saw drinking out of about 10,000 people, quaffing out of champagne glasses and getting increasingly giddy as the evening progressed.
The dance? I give the troupe full respect for not holding back, and not pandering to the lowest common denominator; the accompanying audio and performance were challenging, and at moments poignant and beautiful. The strength, stamina and control on display were extraordinary – and that for us just sitting still on a camping mat for two hours.
Check out this video here which introduces the performance we saw: