"I wonder if the peacocks are trained to stay up front," mused one spectator loudly to another midway through last night's performance of "Dreamscape" by Cloud Gate, Taipei Contemporary Dance Theatre. She was referring to the quartet of live blue-green fowl strutting regally back and forth on the stage of Lisner Auditorium, an animated ensemble that proved to be the most unpredictable and original component of the entire enterprise.
"Dreamscape," a rambling if sporadically effective collage of movement, taped music, slides, lighting effects and elaborate costumes and props, is the first of two evening-length works to be presented here by the three-year-old, 35-member troupe. Choreographer and artistic director Lin Hwai-min is a writer and dancer who studied ballet and classical Chinese movement at home, as well as the modern dance techniques of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham in New York City. He appears to have derived his dance vocabulary and his theatrical concepts from a variety of predominantly western sources, but in "Dreamscape," he fails to make them his own.
The dream format is an oft-used and convenient one, but Lin does little to make it new. The piece, which unfolds behind a scrim, begins with a man (the dreamer?) standing in front of an imposing red door. The peacocks enter, followed by a seemingly endless procession of angst-ridden humans: a mechanized group in black reading and then dropping newspapers, a demon in red print pajamas that executes a flashy series of barrel turns and acrobatic flips, a young woman in white who leaps and swirls joyfully and then clutches her side as if in great pain. A guy clad in nothing but a motorcycle helmet and dance belt spends his time flexing his muscles and amassing a heap of pillows and streamers. Women wearing classical Chinese garb sit crosslegged, moving their arms in gorgeous loops. Four men slowly unwrap the bandages that cover their bodies.
It goes on and on in this way, until the dreamer and the red door reappear and fade. Though the dancers are technically assured and focused, none of the characters or episodes relate to one another, and the movement styles -- part Graham, part ballet, part Peking Opera -- come off disjointed and oddly inexpressive.
Cloudgate performs "Legacy" tomorrow at 8; "Dreamscape" will be repeated Wednesday evening at 8.