If This Is Writing on the Air, It's Poetry ; Taiwanese Choreographer Lin Hwai-Min's Dancers Practise Black-Belt Calligraphy ++ Dance ++ Cloudgate Theatre of Taiwan ++ Sadlers Wells LONDON

Article excerpt

The words "made in Taiwan" are often the butt of jokes, usually about cheap electronic goods or short-lived plastic toys. However, that has not stopped choreographer Lin Hwai-min and his Cloudgate Theatre of Taiwan from building a global reputation for work of the most fastidious quality, as well as a beauty that has people reaching for words like spiritual and hypnotic.

Cloudgate were founded in the 1970s, the f irst modern dance company in a Chinese-speaking country, and for a time their productions were quite political, examining aspects of Taiwan's history that had once been repressed. Now, according to Lin, the work is all about "chi", or energy - "an energy drawn from the soles of the feet up to the point between your sexual organ and your asshole" - an instruction that will be familiar to all of those who have dabbled in any form of Asian physical discipline.

Previous Cloudgate shows have tended to be meditative and slow, if spectacular - one had the dancers clearing pathways in mountains of rice, another mirrored their movements in water that flooded the stage. So the speed and turbulence of this latest offering is unexpected.

Its title, Wild Cursive, alludes to Chinese calligraphy, a rigorously stratified craft in which "wild cursive" is the highest expression, when the writer is no longer bound by the need to convey meaning in the characters, but can let his temperament show, go wild a little. On a very obvious level, dance is already very like calligraphy. We've all written our names with sparklers on Bonfire Night, and this show's riveting opening minutes - a sustained copperplate squiggle of whirling, looping bodies - looks like a mass version of that. But Lin's own craft reveals itself more subtly, and in the course of a seamless 70 minutes of sustained virtuosity, that "writing on the air" evolves into something more akin to a sequence of poems. …