Totally enjoyed Cloud Gate Dance Theatre's 'Rice' (雲門舞集40周年紀念作《稻禾》). It was created to celebrate the 40th annivesary of the dance group. They chose to pay homage to Taiwan's farming community, and this essential Asian grain that appears as staple carbs on many families' dining tables. The company is inspired by the story of chemicals that tainted the land of Chishang in Taitung County (池上鄉，台東縣), and now rejuvenated through organic farming methods. China Airlines also decorated a 'Cloud Gate Liveried' (雲門彩繪机) A330-300 aircraft with photographs of the company's dancers, their flowing chiffon costumes, calligraphy and ink and wash paintings.
Founder and artistic director Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) choreographed the movements of 'Rice' to a stunning visual backdrop of flooded fields, blue skies, fields, fire and rice plants. Themed into elementals of Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Sunlight, the dancers seemed to be farmers in one segment, the wind in another and of rice plants waving gently. Cinematographer Chang Hao-jan (張皓然) captured footage of the entire cycle of rice cultivation, from planting to the flooding of the land, the soft rustle of the wind, then fire. The visuals perfectly complemented the dancers and the stories they tell, because the music and vocals spoke of the rustling of grains, ominous clouds, thunder, wind and water, harvest. You could almost feel it. It was a seamless production.
Well, watching rice grow is boring. This all-important grain requires so much effort to nurture before it reaches our dining tables. It's on the 24 dancers to bring out the significance of the grain, pay homage to this way of life, and show us the beauty in this simplicity. The dancers are trained in martial arts as well as contemporary dance, producing movements quite different from other dance companies. I love their costumes desogned by Ann Yu Chien and Li-Ting Huang. Earth tones and flowing. Wasn't really paying attention to the music. Not familiar with the songs. They're Hakka folk songs meshed with the voice of Maria Callas from Strauss' 'Four Last Songs'. The music was kinda disjointed and out of sync with the story and movements.
It did get repetitive, but I saw strength, joy, determination, and respect for the land. Yes, the most obvious theme is the cycle of life and all that. After the performance, thoughts of death and re-birth lingered. It's a dance that stays with you.