Popular belief has it that this phenomenon portends a storm, but at a deeper level it's believed to be a sign of impending significant change. And that’s the sense Cloud Gate artistic director Chen Tsung-lung, who first observed a lunar halo in Iceland, opted for when creating his Lunar Halo as a meditation on the digital world and the changes it’s causing in human behaviour.
It’s an accomplished piece of theatre, where Jam Wu’s visual design that immerses the stage in the hyper-technological mood of the 21st century, combines with video by Ethan Wang, crepuscular lighting by Shen Po-hung and the other-worldly, deeply atmospheric music of the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós to impressive effect.
It opens with a striking image: a totally dark stage is suddenly ripped open by a diagonal shaft of light pointed at an immobile white male figure, his back bent. Then murky lighting gradually reveals a serpentine line of men, arms linked, moving in a slow rise-and-fall movement, repeated at length with only slight variations to a score that sounds like distant rumbling.
Precise repetition is one of the tenets of Chinese art, and it’s present in Cheng’s choreography. Another recurring element is hair almost as another limb, with its own flowing, swirling, often frenzied choreography, which is more visible in the six long-haired female dancers but is also discernible in the seven shorter-haired male dancers.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Lunar Halo. Photo: Liu Chen-hsiang
The women are first seen bathed in red light in a huddle at the opposite corner to the line of men, and they slowly move forward. As they do so, the line slowly dissolves and the whole company moves centre stage.
A mirror hung at an angle above the stage reflects blue swirls that could be smoke or water but gradually coalesce to create the stunning image of a lunar halo.
The music gathers momentum, and the dance becomes faster, more intense. The rhythmic movement borrows from a variety of sources, in particular martial arts, with knees bent very low, stomping, and sharp, cutting arm movements. Extreme back bends also recur.
Periodically the group breaks apart to make way for slow, meditative solos, and then a huge blue figure of a naked man is slowly projected onto a panel at the back. Later on large body parts will emerge at the margins – a line of hands, a section of body cut lengthways – but unless you read the interview with Cheng in the programme their symbolism, like that of many other elements in this hour-long show, is not immediately apparent.
Some sections of Lunar Halo are hypnotic, others so slow they become a little soporific; throughout, though, Cloud Gate’s 13 dancers are superb, their performance never less than totally committed.
|What||Review: Lunar Halo, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
30 Nov 23 – 02 Dec 23, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 10 mins no interval
|Website||Click here to book|