Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan

Moon Water



Sadler’s Wells

16-19 April, 2008







A review byKirsty Harris for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Moon Water, choreographed by Lin Hwai-min, is a piece of work that doesn't so much tell a story as explore the realms of spirituality as an energy flow. It does this through beautiful images and powerful movement. At times the performers move like rippling water and use the space around them as something to be manipulated. They push and pull at the air, cutting shapes through the performance area.

The style is a wonderful and elegant mix of martial arts, Tai Chi and ballet. A slow, controlled movement can be followed by a series of angular martial-arts actions. This dynamic is beautiful to watch, however, the rise and fall of the piece as a whole does not reflect that in the minutiae of the choreography. It is challenging to stay attentive all the way through this piece as long periods pass with little change in the tone or tempo. With no narrative to propel the audience through, they have to rely on what is plainly in front of them, a thing of beauty, but perhaps beauty is not quite enough.

All the performances are powerfully and exactly executed. Every movement is full of control, giving intensity that would be hugely affecting if directed into some narrative or character. The company move as one, like a shoal of fish, and peel away periodically to give stunningly skilled individual performances.

There is a significant focus on coupling and togetherness, even if no love story is actually told. The couples that break away from the throng swirl around each other, barely connecting, like fish circling in some mesmeric mating dance. The reflections from mirrored surfaces and the water that appears on stage towards the end create more doubles and multiply the images in front of us.

The moment when water floods the stage is long anticipated, given the billing for the piece. Though once it has covered the floor, the dynamic picks up and it becomes easy to revel in the beautiful reflections created. The tone changes here to something more whimsical – joyful playing in the water which refreshes the audience after a long period of intensity. The sound of splashes cuts through the oppressive music and adds some high notes to a mostly baritone soundscape.

Bach's cello suites are a dark and heavy foundation to the piece, drawing long, heaving breaths over and under the fluid movement. The moments that are most affecting in this piece are those when the music stops and the audiences eyes and ears are suddenly more aware of the onstage action, such as at the beginning of the piece when a long moment of silence centres the energy before beginning - similar to a moment of stillness before commencing a session of yoga or Tai Chi.

There is definitely a spiritual level to this piece and not just in the movement style. The meditative pace coupled with hypnotic actions is enough to make one feel particularly 'Zen'. The theme of mirroring evokes ideas of equilibrium and a constant search for peace. Moon Water could be seen as a piece of spiritual practice rather than dance theatre. Its story could be a story of time and energy; perhaps a tale of deeper significance to everyone than any of the usual 'beginning-middle-and-ended' fare we see on stage today.



70mins (no interval)
Tickets £10-£35



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