Every year in the Auckland Arts Festival programme, there are certain shows that seem to shine out of the pages with some intangible magical quality. Rice, from the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Asia’s foremost contemporary dance company, is one such show.
The company itself is partly responsible for this. It blends the roots of its creations with Asian mythology but gives them a modern aesthetic and sensibility. The Cloud Gate dancers practise diverse movement disciplines and approaches, drawing from tai chi, meditation, martial arts and other Eastern traditions, and then fusing these with the best of traditional Western ballet and contemporary dance. But perhaps what makes Cloud Gate so transcendent is the vision of its founder and the choreographer behind the Auckland show Rice. His name is Lin Hwai-min and he has loved this company since his twenties when he founded it, in 1973.
He brings the long magical arc of his own life in to the story of Rice with its choreographed odyssey of the sacred grain of Asia. The story of Rice also serves as a metaphor for the larger human story of death, rebirth, destruction, and resurrection. Through it all pulses the oneness of human life cycles , as well as the oneness of man and Nature. The video backdrop of breathing, floating rice paddies enhances the studied breathing patterns of the dancers as they move in a meditative unison.
Liz Gunn spoke about the sacred rice with the Assistant Artistic Director Lee Ching-Chun and also discussed with one of the dancers, Mei-Ya Huang, how her decade with Cloud Gate has seemed to her to be not only a treasured dance career but also – and more importantly- a sacred personal journey.