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Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Dance Review: Nine Songs of Cloud Gate

Coco Hsiao

   Cloud Gate is a dance theatre famous for using modern dance to express the core values of Chinese culture. One of their classic dramas, Nine Songs, is an eye-filling performance in which the audience can experience the vitality of ancient Chinese literature. It is an amazing creation that you won’t be able to take your eyes off!

  Nine Songs originated in “Chu Ci,” which is an ancient book of poems by Qu Yuan. These poems were not only carols for ceremonies but also a way for witches to communicate with the gods. This drama is also like Greek mythology; the gods are just a part of our everyday lives, and they have the same emotions, behaviors, and desires as we humans. By resurrecting ancient Chinese gods and goddesses, the dancers remind us that we can’t cut off this relationship with the natural world, which has existed since antiquity.  Our ancestors especially revered nature and used their imagination to create an original religion which personalized every phenomenon. Nine Songs shows us that our relationship with nature is still important for us today.

   “東君太一” was the god of the sun. He wore a golden mask with rays and looked at everything disdainfully. He didn’t care about others because he represented the primitive universe and the beginning of a new day. When a witch dances passionately in the greeting ceremony, the sun god descends to earth and spreads new life. 東君太一is the essence of life and also shows how difficult it was for our ancestors to survive in such a harsh environment.  

   There is a woman in a long white muslin gown, dancing in the middle of a stream, waiting for the one she loved. She is “湘夫人,” the goddess of the river. Although she always feels alone when she looks at her reflection in the water, she still looks forward to the day when she can meet her lover. “湘夫人”shows how young girls live in their own fantasy love world, and how they may lose themselves in their imagination and be unable to face the  challenges of the real world. In this part of the performance, the dancers remind us that we will change our fate if we walk out of the frame of the spirit.

   The god of the cloud and rain, “雲中君,” appears as a crazy, fearless teenager. He loves being as free as a cloud to enjoy the feeling of speed and to travel around the whole sky. “The cloud god” is my favorite character because we have the same dream – I also wish I had a pair of wings and could flying off and leave my worries behind.  

   Nine Songs combines eastern and western features to express different impressions of the gods. For example, the drama uses Javanese palace music (gongs and drums) to describe the reserved image of湘夫人. The most special part of the stage decoration is the lotus pond, with a bright full moon in the background. The lotus is a very old East Asian religious symbol that stands for life, beauty and recovery; the moon frees us from the bonds of time since it has been with us from the beginning of human history. Both of these symbols are bridges to connect the past and the present.

In Nine Songs, everything returns to its original form to remind people that becoming a god is a wonderful goal for human beings to chase and also that gods often affect our daily lives. If you’re interested in the theme, I recommend that you go to the theatre and feel the mysterious atmosphere of this magnificent spectacle. Maybe you will discover a god whose personality is as same as yours!  

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