Formosa, the title of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s latest work to premiere in the UK, comes from the name Portuguese sailors first gave to Taiwan: Ilha Formosa, or “beautiful island”.
Within a stark white box, the company create a beautiful and entrancing evocation of its homeland. Words, softly spoken or sung in low reverberating tones, speak of the island, its culture, and its seasons.
Projected onto the backdrop in Chinese characters and above the stage in English surtitles these words, taken from various writings and contemporary Taiwanese poetry, gradually build a subtle image of place and people.
The company’s movement is equally poetic. It doesn’t so much echo the words as resonate with their intention and emotion. The dancers move waves; groups, couples and duets flocking together like birds. They spring and spiral, their movement a seamless fusion of balletic elegance and heavy, grounded contemporary. Sometimes the movement comes in powerful bursts, at others they simply run in and pause, still and watchful.
Images of the egret, of migrating birds over the rice fields, of water and waves recur throughout the accompanying poetry. The company’s flowing, supple movement implicitly reflects these ideas without ever being explicit.
Masterfully danced and impressively crafted, Formosa is a beautiful, mesmeric work. Despite the sheer quantity of movement it never becomes indulgent and each section is perfectly paced, the dynamics fluctuating just enough to hold the attention. It’s a compelling piece danced by a company with both power and elegance.