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Cloud Gate 2

"The Amazing Adventures of BoBo:
Who Stole the Nutcracker?"

by David Mead

January 19, 2007 -- Novel Hall, Taipei, Taiwan

Cloud Gate 2 is the well-known Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s second company. Like many second companies, it has a strong education remit, undertaking a wide range of such projects and residencies with colleges and universities. It also tours smaller venues and community settings and aims to encourage and foster young choreographers while still including occasional whole pieces or excerpts from the main company repertoire.

BoBo first made an appearance in 2003 when the then artistic director, the late and much missed Lo Man-fei, decided to programme a new full-length production specifically aimed at allowing whole families to enjoy performances together by bringing together dance, drama, theatre, music and education. Since then, the adventures of BoBo, an extra- terrestrial, and the strange characters he meets have become a regular feature of Taiwan’s dance scene around Christmas and the New Year.

Briefly, this is the story of BoBo’s adventures as he journeys to find and rescue the Nutcracker doll, stolen from beside the fireplace by King Rat (think Captain Hook from “Peter Pan”). It includes strong references to two well-known tales. The way BoBo (Chen Li-ya) initially follows King Rat (Liao Tsu-yi) through the fireplace and discovers the strange world beyond draws parallels to the way Alice followed the Rabbit and discovered Wonderland. This world too is inhabited by strange animals such as purple cats and a red mouse in a cheese castle. Then, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”, BoBo picks up three companions to help in his quest, Queen Flame (Chang Ji-jia), QQ (Wu Chung-ying) and the red mouse (Ye Wen-bang) who lives in a cheese castle. Indeed QQ, leader of what looked like a 70’s pop group and dressed like brightly coloured candy, is just like Dorothy’s lion, all bravado on the outside but a coward at heart.

Like all the other BoBo tales, the performance included plenty of comedy and audience participation, with the children encouraged to cheer and shout, and blow hard to revive the Queen Flame who was rapidly going out. At one point the characters even dove into the audience as they searched for the missing Nutcracker.

The evening was entertaining but it fell short. Not only was there a relative lack of dance, it wasn’t even replaced by mime. Instead there were long periods when spoken dialogue was used to tell the story. It wasn’t needed. The story was quite straightforward and the company seriously underestimated children’s ability to follow it through dance. Previous BoBo tales have neatly interspersed dance sequences, sometimes taken from other modern dance works, with the young children’s elements and audience participation. Here there were only two, and they were both quite short. Anyone expecting to hear Tchaikovsky’s music would also have been disappointed, as we only got snippets, although there were some interesting variations on it that were new to me.

All this was a huge shame because the company has some fine dancers and Bulareyaung, who choreographed the dance sequences here, is a fine choreographer. I fear however that this was not the best showcase for their talents. And if one of the aims of the show was to introduce children and families to dance, I question whether this was quite the production to do it.

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