Review-Almost 55- City Contemporary Dance Company



by Rhian Widdowson



City Contemporary Dance Company is celebrating not only its 40th anniversary but also its first-ever solo performance, Almost 55. It tells the story of the long-serving dancer of CDCC, Qiao Yang as she reaches the age of 55. This piece was created closely with Yang and a small creative team with a 400-day journey of exploring, creating and revisiting Yang’s hometown and past. At the age of 54, Yang is one of the only dancers of her age dancing full time, and the solo explores not only her life devotion to dance, but also her next chapter. Yang says ‘I follow my heart and soul. No compromise. No regrets!’. The choreographer, Chou Shu-Yi describes the process of creating this piece, more like creating that of a documentary than a choreography.

Every seat in the Shouson Theatre was sold, everyone quiet, waiting anxiously for the show to begin. Yang is on stage warming up as if no one is watching. It feels intimate, her sharing her ordinary dance rituals with the audience. She uses various tools and then displays them at the front of the stage. As this is happening, pictures of her past dance training are projected onto white fabric at the back of the stage, as if setting the scene. There is a large, curved, hanging beam that sparks your interest, questioning its meaning and position in the performance. Yang exits and the stage is encompassed with darkness.

A light shines out from one end of the suspended beam as it continually turns. On reflection, I felt that this represented a clock and the passing of time. Simple piano chords are played. Yang enters the stage and begins slowly but constantly moving on the floor, exploring the ways in which her body can move as the music increases in intensity. Her costume which covers all of her body apart from her face, hands and feet gives her a sleek silhouette. Yang’s shadow is cast on the white fabric as the light moves around the stage, highlighting her dancer's body. There is an ebb and flow to this first section, it all feels so connected, well timed and in tune with each other. Yang exits the stage and a projected silhouette image of her continues to move in the connected way in which she was, as if even though she has left the stage, her presence and the feelings that she drew from the audience continued. This was the most engaging section of the whole piece for me personally. The music, with no particular tempo or timing, worked seamlessly with Yang’s never-ending movements with multiple layers added with the lighting and projecting. I could feel the audience's engagement and focus. Everyone in awe of Yang and her dancing.

When the light returns, Yang talks about (, in Chinese with English subtitles, ) her training in dance and the different schools and places she trained and worked. She then performs, whilst dressed in a black leather jacket, a Chinese dance from the first troupe she was in, whilst counting aloud in Mandarin. The costume and the dancing are in contrast with each other, appearing to show the many sides and layers to Yang. The movements that she is recreating from her past create feelings and take you back in time as if reliving her past with Yang ‘it was a memory, now it becomes a feeling’.  

Sections of the piece are identified through costume changes and darkness. Through different sections, they appear to explore different parts of her life, with the choreography exploring the new way of moving that Yang develops through time. There is the use of silence, the spoken word, different styles of music, flashing lights, low lights and overlapping projected images. A highlight of the piece for me was the innovative use of light by Lee Chi-wai. After experiencing his work in this piece I am eager to explore his other collaborations.  


Qiao Yang showed her talent and connection with dance in this stunning piece of art. During the piece I felt like I wanted to know even more about Yang, and that the information she shared with her audience was almost surface level. I feel another layer could’ve been explored, a more intimate and vulnerable one. I think this would’ve engaged the audience further and made the piece more personable and connecting.

After the performance, Yang spoke about how ‘The piece has added new layers and textures to her body’, showing there is no end to her dance journey and always more to explore and create.


This production has now closed 

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