Review-Salty Roast Crane-CCDC
By: Meaghan McGurgan
Salty Roast Crane opens with one of the most beautiful stage pictures I’ve ever seen. Tonal beats play rather than music, fog rolls in, a giant egg glows upstage left and the dancers hold frozen poses. Some of the poses were incredibly difficult and left the audience wondering when they would begin to move. They certainly couldn’t hold both legs in the air forever, could they? They held this frozen pose for five minutes or so—- but it felt much longer. The audience anticipation was growing. What was going to come next after such a magnificent opening moment?
Salty Roast Crane is unlike any dance show I’ve seen before. It was beautiful and the dancers were some of the most technically phenomenal I’ve seen. But frankly, I spent most of the show really confused about what the artists’ intentions were with the piece.
The show was presented in a series of vignettes, rather than a traditional linear storyline. There were no characters or plot lines to follow. I thought all the individual pieces were good but I had trouble seeing how they all connected. At times it reminded me more of gymnastics or professional cheerleading competitions. The dancers moved through a series of moves and stunts which often had female performers flung through the air like rag dolls or dropped to ground with a thud. I had the pleasure of speaking with choreographer, Er Gao, after the show. He explained he had a thought to present the piece like a traditional yum cha: little dishes that progress and become a whole meal. This made things more clear to me but I think the progress of “the whole meal” lacked flow and the themes of the work were lost in the presentation of the moves.
The lighting by Low Shee Hoe was perfectly suited for this production and did a great job of highlighting Er Gao’s choreography. His use of fog and lights without gel gave the piece a real edge. Er Gao’s choreography was different than other modern pieces I’ve seen in the past. He used a lot of references to break dancing, hip hop, martial arts and gymnastics in his work. It was exciting to watch, the dancers were incredibly skilled at their craft and brave to do some of the moves. It required incredible trust and teamwork to present Salty Roast Crane.
One thing about the show I found absolutely irritating was the sound design by Liang Liyuan. Rather than traditional music it was a mixture of ambient noise, tonal beeps, slurping, snoring, chewing... and squeals and whistles that would make a dog howl. Er Gao told me afterward he wanted to present something different with the music, something that shows “tradition.” There was one moment of what I would call traditional music, near the end of the play, where the female dancers stood on the male dancers' backs. This was a sigh of relief for me because I couldn’t take another second of slurping. I want to make clear it’s not just that I thought his choice of ambient sound was annoying. My point is that it was too loud and detracted from the beautiful work on stage.
The best example of this is the closing sequence which was, again, a gorgeous stage picture of people frozen in extreme poses beside the glowing egg. You see their silhouettes basking in the warm glow and then you hear this horrendous snoring which completely removes you from the moment and shatters the beauty on stage.
Overall, Salty Roast Crane is a new kind of dance. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before and you have to prepare your eyes and ears to take in something different. Different isn’t always bad; it’s just challenging to handle the first time. And as much as I loved certain parts of Er Gao’s staging and choreography I couldn’t move past the point that, for me, it was really confusing.
Salty Roast Crane is playing at part of the City Contemporary Dance Festival through November 14th. For more information, click here.
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