Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan performed Moon Water at Sadler’s Wells in 2002 and 2008, and the London-based dance venue streamed the full performance for a week, as part of their Digital Stage program. The serene choreography, set to J.S. Bach’s Six Cello Suites (played by Mischa Maisky) is based off of a mantra for Tai Chi practitioners and a Buddhist proverb. But the Cloud Gate’s moonlit Moon Water production is so staggeringly beautiful, you can simply enjoy it without digging into the metaphors. This performance of Moon Water was recorded at Taiwan’s National Theater in 2008.
On their last visit to London, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre showed 13 Tongues (Cheng Tsung-Lung) and Dust (Lin Hwai-Min).
“Moon Water was inspired by a mantra for Tai Chi practitioners: ‘energy flows as water, water’s spirit shines as the moon,’ as well as from a Buddhist proverb: ‘flowers in the mirror and moon on the water are both illusory.”Lin Hwai-Min, founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
Moon Water Dance Review
The 70-minute production (without intervals) may be set to melancholy strings music, but the overall atmosphere is one of peace. The performers, all in white wide-legged trousers, perform traditional Tai Chi movements as a choreographed dance. They smoothly sweep into deep lunges, sometimes allowing their knees to cave in towards their mid-line as they gently lower their pelvis to the ground. My joints scream in protest out of empathy, but their calm countenance remains.
At times the movement is perfectly measured, evenly metered out over a sustained musical phrase. The extraordinarily slow weight shifts could easily hit a snag and stutter, but they flow effortlessly. Then, the unhurried uniformity is punctuated with a sharp slap of the foot, coinciding with a high kick. As the music crescendos, the dancers accelerate, allowing their bodies to flow through space guided by their breath. A patch of reflective panels is revealed on the back wall, a hint of what’s to come
Pairs of dancers, usually one male and one female, wheel in tandem. Their synchrony is sometimes broken, but although the exact movement varies, they stay united with the same effort and energetic qualities. Sometimes they reach out towards each other, but physical contact seldom occurs in this piece. Even on the rare occasion they do touch, the performers mostly grab each others’ wrists or hands.
In the final and most memorable section of Moon Water, water drips onto the stage, creating small rivulets. The liquid eventually pools around the dancers, who lie on their sides. The music cuts out, so you can hear the gentle trickle of water; and the high vantage point of the cameras allows you to see the reflections of the dancers. But a second raising of the curtain reveals an even larger area of mirror panels, which reflect the movement and the gentle for seated audience members in the theater.
The cello music returns, and the stillness is broken as individuals slide their legs along the floor, kicking up arcs of water. They stir and rise, each member of the crowd sinuously gliding off stage towards the left. The slow motion poetry continues with the last dancer, who takes her sweet time fulfilling the final departure.
“In these times of uncertainty, I hope this lyrical dance will bring you joy and peace.”– Lin Hwai-Min, founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s Moon Water is exquisite. If you don’t allow yourself to dive in, you’ll find it lacklustre. But if you can immerse yourself in the serene experience, you’ll find the production simply mesmerizing.
Were you able to see Moon Water online, thanks to Sadler’s Wells? Or were you lucky enough to watch Cloud Gate performer Moon Water in person? Let us know what you thought in the comments below.