With his latest work, Small Puzzles (尛), Lin Wen-chung (林文中) proved he is more than ready for the big time. He has really raised the bar, not just for his own work and his company WCdance (林文中舞團), but for other small troupes in this country.
The 70-minute long Small Puzzles was packed with enough choreography and ideas for two or three more shows and the dancers hardly ever stopped for more than a few moments at a time.
After confining his dancers (including himself) to really small spaces for the first two pieces in his Small series — the 3m² Plexiglass cube used in Small (小) and the 4m², 20cm-high platform used in Small Songs (情歌) — Lin took up almost the whole stage floor in the Experimental Theater, although he then filled it with the enlarged squares, rectangles, triangles and half-moon shapes of children’s building blocks that the dancers had to dance with, over and around when they weren’t building mini-sets.
The show opened with Chiu Yu-wen (邱鈺閔) walking out among the piled up blocks and opening up a bag filled with a small set of building blocks and beginning to play with them as the rest of the troupe slowly took up their places. It was just about the only time the dancers moved slowly in the entire show.
Lin manipulated the blocks and the dancers, light and shadows, in creating solos, dynamic group sections and, as always, beautiful duets — I especially loved the three pairs of couples dancing together in the “Loop” segment, with its circle, swing and repeat motif. He alternated bursts of activity with quiet moments — just as Johann Sebastian Bach did in crafting The Well-Tempered Clavier used as the score — that built in intensity until the dancers were running in circles at the end.
His dancers showed terrific clarity and coordination, especially veterans Chiu and Lin Hsiao-yuan (林筱圓), although newcomers Hu Chien (胡鑑), Hsieh I-chun (謝宜君) and Chen Hsin-yu (陳欣瑜) delivered equally expert performances.
Fang Ting-jui’s (方廷瑞) costumes could not have been drabber — one piece gray matte jersey outfits that hugged the body — but their quiet simplicity was beguiling. The intricate ribbed piping down the arms, the sides of the legs and across the chest provided texture, while the overall plainness kept your eyes focused on the dancers’ movements. The material also must have been extra-absorbent, because the sweat was flying off of foreheads but the outfits never sagged.
Kudos also to stage designer Yao Jui-Chung (姚瑞中) and lighting designer Li Chien-chang (李建常) whose work was so subtlety supportive you might question what exactly it was that they did.
Small Puzzles proved the promise that Lin showed with earlier works like Evil Boy (for Dance Forum Taipei) and Small. Perhaps a DVD of it should be saved to show US immigration officials, who denied the troupe’s dancers visas when they were invited to perform at the Japan Society’s annual Contemporary Dance Showcase in New York last January on the grounds that the company was neither “internationally recognized” or “culturally unique.” I guess Lin’s fine blend of Western contemporary technique and Eastern aesthetics was too nuanced for the immigration bureaucracy to understand.
Meanwhile, WCdance begins a four-city tour of Small Puzzles on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Ilan Performance Hall that will also take them to Taichung, Chiayi and Kaohsiung. If you live in one of those four cities, this is a show that should not be missed.
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