In choreographer Lin Wen-chung’s (林文中) first two productions for his company WCdance (林文中舞團), he made a virtue out of necessity, creating finely honed works set on a small number of dancers to be performed in small venues. When you are just starting out, you can’t afford to hire a lot of dancers or big venues and your sets have to be portable.
No longer the new kid on the block, Lin has expanded his vision, yet kept to his minimalist approach with his newest work, Small Puzzles (), which opens at the Experimental Theater in Taipei on Thursday for five shows before going on the road next month.
Other choreographers may love computer imagery and multimedia magic, but not Lin.
“My works are anti-technology,” Lin said with a laugh during an interview on Saturday last week. “The most high-tech we get is putting a light in one of the small pillars to make it look like a flashlight.”
His original idea had been to recycle the white platform he used for a stage in last year’s Small Songs (情歌) by cutting it into pieces so that the dancers could play with them. Stage designer Yao Jui-Chung (姚瑞中) suggested enlarging children’s blocks instead.
You can see how the simplicity of the blocks’ shapes would appeal to Yao, whose background is in photography and installation, not stage design. However, the pieces are so big that the dancers resemble ants, Lin said, which is apropos since his first piece for WCdance, Small (小), confined the dancers to a Plexiglas cube that resembled an ant farm.
Lin is so low-tech that to work out the choreography for Small Puzzles he bought a wooden puzzle set from Toys“R”Us and painted it white.
“Everyday I would go home, play with the blocks and then the next day we would go into the studio to try out the moves,” he said. “Since we don’t have the space to be able to look down from above, and the set pieces are so heavy, it would just be a waste of energy to move them without planning ahead.”
What: WCdance, Small Puzzles (尛)
WHERE: Experimental Theater of the National Theater (國家戲劇院實驗劇場)
WHEN: Thursday to Sept. 25 at 7:30pm, Sept. 25 and Sept. 26 at 2:30pm
ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$500, available at NTCH box office or through www.artsticket.com.tw
ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES: Oct. 23 at 7:30pm at Yilan Performance Hall (宜蘭演藝廳), 482, Chungshan Rd Sec 2, Yilan City (宜蘭市中山路二段482號); Oct. 30 at 7:30pm at National Taichung Library Chungsing Concert Hall (台中市中興堂), 291-3 Jingwu Rd, Taichung City (台中市精武路291之3號); Nov. 17 at 7:30pm at Experimental Theater of Chiayi Performance Arts Center (嘉義縣表演藝術中心實驗劇場), 265, Jianguo Rd Sec 2, Minsyong Township, Chiayi County (嘉義縣民雄鄉建國路二段265號); and Dec. 10 at 7:30pm at Kaohsiung Weiwuying Metropolitan Park (高雄衛武營藝術文化中心281棟). Admission is NT$300 for Yilan and Chiayi shows, NT$350 for Taichung and Kaohsiung
The music was suggested by Lin’s mentor and former boss, Bill T. Jones: Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier.
“Two years ago I was choreographing a piece using Tchaikovsky. Bill wrote a letter to say that when he was driving he was listening to Bach and thought it was well suited for me. I thought ‘OK,’ but didn’t know when I would use it. I’m afraid the audience will fall asleep since the music is only one piano [and pianist Chen Huei-yu (陳慧宇)], but I think the music can be enough,” Lin said. “Keep the music simple, the stage simple, the costumes simple. I haven’t used one-piece leotards since I was in college.”
The 70-minute performance (no intermission) is divided into four sections: The Window, The Figures and Shadows, The Loop and The River of Time.
Lin uses the blocks and lighting to establish the area for each section.
“The Window is a game of negative space. We just use the interior space suggested by the form of a box, like the windows of a building. In The Figures and Shadows, the dancers hold the blocks so they become figures, like ants or workers on the street,” he said.
“The Loop is like a broken CD player; it’s the only section where the music is repeated three times. The movement is circle, swing and repeat,” he said. “I think The River of Time is the one that people will find the easiest to understand — we build a boat, there’s a river, a storm that washes away the people, 12 blocks laid out like a clock face.”