Lin Hwai-Min’s White, for his company Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, is a work in three parts made at two different times: the first section in 1998, the rest in 2006. All share the same filmy white costumes and a certain artistic approach – Lin favours effects and impressions over drive and drama – and they all shine with the exquisite finesse of the company’s supple, hyper-articulate dancers, who seamlessly blend martial arts and western dance. But White I remains distinct: it’s more statuesque, more symbolic and certainly more weird.
Three women flex and stretch like carved goddesses brought to life, moving restlessly among white banners that unfurl from the ceiling to form backdrops, screens or blockades. Mysteriously, a man in a diaphanous skirt sometimes wanders through, playing a flute. The scene’s mythic quality is rendered uncanny, even creepy, by the microtone dissonances and irregular rumbles of Stephen Scott’s electronic score.
White II returns to the here and now: the stage’s own mechanics dominate this episode, during which low-hanging lighting rigs are raised, a black floorcloth lifted to form a lowering ceiling, and the dancers pull up cables to allow strips of flooring to be dragged off. The eight white-clad dancers wheel and swerve among the shifting scenery like ghostly moths. Then, strangely, they settle into two clumps, arms wafting like fronds, to the accompaniment of a clear-voiced Celtic chant that feels as if it has strayed in from an entirely different piece.
In White III, the stage clears and brightens as the whole company takes to the stage in a breathtaking display of their poised, cartwheeling, cat-leaping technique, while Atsuhiko Gondai’s score – lush orchestral textures skewered by insistently repeated tones – builds up tension but never lets it break out. As with the rest of the triptych, you marvel at the parts, even if the whole doesn’t convince.