Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cloud Gate

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In western dance there is a preconceived view of the dancers’ role on stage. On stage we often see male dancers with female dancers. Also there are set roles and certain movements for female and male performers. In Moon Water you see neutrality in gender. In Moon Water a dancer is just that, a dancer. Moon Water breaks free from the very restricting aspect of how we perceive the roles of the male and female dancers.

In Adair’s Women and Dance, Adair states, “as the body is central to dance training and practice, recognition that that which is socially constructed can be deconstructed offers a challenge to traditional practices.” Throughout Moon Water, the female and the male body is not central. All of the dancers are wearing white pants. The female dancers have flesh toned tops on making it very difficult to tell which dancers are female or male. Because of this neutrality between the male and female dancers, the audience is able to focus on more important aspects of the dance.

The movement of the dancers is one of the most important aspects of Moon Water. Unlike most western dance, there is not a climax in Moon Water. Moon Water moves horizontally through time. This horizontal movement allows for a very different development of the movements. Lin uses stylized arm movements that are based upon tai chi. Also utilized are circular movements that are found in martial arts. These circular movements fit into the horizontal direction of the piece because both do not a high, pivotal point.

The first image the audience sees in Moon Water is a crouching dancer. As the dancer rose, balancing on one leg as his limbs, fingers and even toes curled up. His movements smoothly moved between meditative and larger, circular movements. He was soon joined by other dancers. The other dancers preformed the same sorts of movements as they all progressed through a combination of different styled movements. These movements were a combination of tai chi, meditation, and modern and traditional Chinese movements.

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Throughout Moon Water there are many solos, duets, and trios. In these, as well as when all of the dancers are dancing, they are often mirroring each other. Throughout Moon Water there is stillness and an interesting exploration of slow movement. In the final section, water began to flow onto the stage. As the dancers progressed in the circular movements the flicked water continued the circular line as the dancers moved onto the next movement.

“The work’s slow and deliberate manner of unfolding requires patience.” (The Contra Costa Times, October , 00) The stillness seen in Moon Water is congruent with tai chi and meditation, both of which Lin drew on. The slowness tested the western audience, who, for the most part, is used to seeing faster movements. Moon Waters horizontal movement, also tested the western audience. Most performances have a focal point that the piece moves to. Because there was no pivotal point in Moon Water, the audience was able to see the devilment of the circular movements that progressed horizontally.

The music that Moon Water was set to also seemed to progress horizontally. Lin choose to set Moon Water to nine solo cello solos by J.S. Bach. These pieces worked well with Moon Water because they seemed not to have any pivotal point that was being strived for. The music seemed just to progress though time and space. This aided the dancers in their movements. The music also aided in creating an illusion on stage. It was able to draw in a new element that seemed to mystify the methodical movements of the dancer.

Lin often drew from Chinese folk lore. ‘In Chinese, the program noted, Moon Water is both a Buddhist proverb -- Flowers in a mirror and moon on the water are both illusory -- and a description of the perfect tai chi state -- Energy flows as water, while the spirit shines as the moon.’ ( During parts of Moon Water there were mirror revealed on stage. These mirrors combined with the water on stage allowed for illusionary images of the dancers to be reflected out to the audience. These unclear images enhanced the movements of the dancers on stage. It seemed to be relaying that illusions and reflections don’t really excise, they just move through time and space. Also, because Lin drew upon so many different elements, they all combined in a way that illusionary. You a style of dance that is wrapped up in so many cultures and ideas, it is hard to tell if the performance was really real.

Moon Water utilized different styles of movement. Lin has a background in ballet, as well as modern dance. He trained with such dance legends as Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham. Other influences on Moon Water are modern and tradition Chinese movements, such as tai chi and meditation. Lin is also influenced by political, philosophy, and social commitments. An example of this is in his 14 piece, “Songs of the Wanderers” where children playing in a pile of sand influenced the piece. Through out Moon Water, Lin has incorporated many aspects of modern and traditional dance.

These diverse influences take Moon Water in a different direction then many other dances. “Lin Hwai Min has created another milestone in the development of dance.” Because of the combination of tradition and modern Chinese movements, and the influence of ballet and modern dance, Moon Water creates a new style of movement. “It is a ballet that daftly demonstrates the controlled grace and breathing of his tai chi trained dancers. (The Contra Costa Times, October )

One of the most interesting aspects of Moon Water is the neutrality of the dancers. Because of the neutrality of the dancers and their movements, the audience is able to look at all of the cultural and modern influences as they move and develop horizontally in time and space. The horizontal and circular movements combined with the cello solos by J.S. Bach created an illusion that reflected out to the audience in both the moon and the water.

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