Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan 

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Cloud Gate artistic director Lin Hwai-min chose calligraphy as the inspiration for his new hour-long piece, Cursive, which explores the mysteries of communication. Though it's unlikely that Western audiences will understand the work's projected Chinese characters, the projections would often be unreadable to Eastern viewers too: depicted in part, they're too abstract to be identifiable. Lin seems to say that speed, direction, and weightedness have meaning in calligraphic writing as in dance--even when we don't know precisely what that meaning is. The gorgeous black-and-white stage design reiterates the look of ink on paper, creating dramatic positive and negative space. Most of the time the dancers wear stark black costumes and move against glowing rectangles of light at the rear of the stage and on the floor, devised by designer Chang Tsan-tao in imitation of clean sheets or scrolls of paper. The thick and thin parts of the body--the shoulders as opposed to the waist, the head as opposed to the hands--echo the varying thicknesses of the brush strokes. And the choreography is striking, recalling the martial arts in its constantly evolving strong shapes, which never devolve into poses. But just in case the idea of dancer as indecipherable character is a little too meditative for some viewers, Lin has thoughtfully divided the piece into several sections distinguished by shifts in the lighting and in Qu Xiao-song's original score. I suspect these sections are interpretations of the various masters of calligraphy whose work is depicted--but like much of Cursive, this too remains mysterious. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-902-1500; 312-922-2110, ext. 4, for groups of ten or more. Opens Wednesday, May 28, 7:30 PM. Then Friday, May 30, 7:30 PM. $25-$50.

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