Fourteen months ago I interviewed Lin Wen-chung (林文中), who was in Taipei with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Lin was at a crossroads, beginning his final appearances with the company he had danced with for six years and preparing to move back to Taiwan to begin a new career as a freelance choreographer.
He had one job lined up. Dance Forum Taipei was going to perform his Evil Boy in December last year. But other than that, Lin knew two things for sure: he wanted to create a full-length work, and he had no interest in starting his own company.
Fast-forward to a coffee shop in Tianmu on Monday, where Lin was enthusiastically describing the set for his new work, Small, which his company WCdance will premiere next Thursday at the Crown Theater. So, what happened?
“Once I finished Evil Boy, I found that most companies want to hire choreographers. You have to be passive, wait for opportunities. Meanwhile, I’m thinking I want to be more involved in the production than the choreography. I want to have more say, so when an audience leaves the theater, they are taking away what I wanted them to see ... so I have to do it all,” he said.
He admitted that in some ways it would have been better to stay a freelancer.
“All the different things [a company director has to do] drove me crazy. You spend more time outside than inside the studio,” he said, adding later that “if you have your own company there is no money as a choreographer.”
So now he’s a little more than a week away from opening night. He’s really happy about the set, which is basically a 3m-by-3m plastic box made up of two three-sided plastic panels.
“The visual effects are more powerful than I thought they would be,” he said.
Lin said he was inspired by the small size of the Crown Theater’s stage, with its very low ceiling, which people are always complaining about.
“I thought I would just use a 3m-by-3m space, so I could take the piece anywhere, to a museum, to the beach. The stage designer asked me about using plastic to transform the stage, with the dancers as animals or people, like a display model in a store or like when we young, we had ants, fish behind glass. We can transform the dancers for the audience,” he said. “We also talked about how for dance concerts people always want to expand the space; you want it bigger, grander, everything decorated. But we want to focus on people’s bodies, on gentle subtle movements; like going to a museum to look at paintings up close.”
Asked how he recruited his dancers, he grinned again.
“It happened so quickly. I decided I needed dancers so I e-mailed everyone I knew. Five days later I held auditions. About 30 people came. For some, the timing [of rehearsals] was not right, for others the location [his Dazhi rehearsal space].”
For Small, Lin selected four dancers, plus himself. For the score of the 65-minute piece, he turned to childhood friend Umi Hsieh (謝宇書).
“He was a pop singer [and] pop composer. He had never done music for dance before. We tried to create something in-between classical, theater and pop. I’m pretty happy with the result. But he only did 80 percent or so. I had to say ‘stop now, we can’t keep going on any longer’ or else we would [have] run out of time to rehearse,” Lin said.
Asked what Small is about, Lin turned reflective.