“Eight maybe, let me count: soil, wind, pollen one, pollen two, sunlight, grain, fire, water,” he said. “The fire [section] is so exciting. After harvest, they burn the fields, so there is smoke on the floor and background.”
“This is one of the most difficult pieces I have ever done,” he said, though he added that at least his dancers are happy.
“The male dancers are so happy [because] they are living their childhood dreams; they get to fight with sticks. It is scary to watch, so many sticks going up and down.”
As is his wont, Lin has chosen an eclectic mix for the soundtrack, combining Hakka folk songs, Japanese taiko drums, Taiwanese drums, the sounds of nature, Maria Callas’ rendition of Casta Diva from Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma and a piece by Richard Strauss for the close.
“Norma comes in, it gives an extensive sweep that you don’t get in Hakka songs … it’s so beautiful. She sings about wheat, a field of wheat where they are about to fight… But most of all is its musical sweep.”
Earlier this month, the company gave two performances in Chihshang as part of the Chihshang Autumn Harvest Music Festival as a thank-you to the farmers and the townspeople for their help.
The plan was to perform excerpts from Rice out in the fields, with the audience seated on chairs on a specially-build platform. Fittingly for a work that revolves around Mother Nature, she had her say, with heavy downpours that almost washed out the first show, and then let up just in time for the second show the next day.
Despite the soggy weather conditions, Lin said that the 2,000-member audience was happy.
“No one played with their mobiles,” he quipped. “Afterwards I could hardly walk outside in the town, people kept saying: ‘We’re so touched. When are you coming back?’”
The company may not be back in Chihshang for a while, but it will do an extensive nationwide tour with Rice after its run at the National Theater. After the opening weekend, the company will perform for two weeks — Tuesdays through Sundays — through Dec. 8. Opening night is already sold out, but tickets for the rest of the run are available at a wide range of prices.
Cloud Gate begins a six-city national tour of Rice in Greater Taichung on Dec. 13 that will end in Hualien on Jan. 19.
After the Lunar New Year holiday, the company begins the first of its international tours with Rice. In addition to the National Theater Concert Hall, the show has been coproduced with Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, the HELLERAU European Center for the Arts Dresden in Germany, the New Vision Arts Festival in Hong Kong and Esplanade — Theatres on the Bay in Singapore. Rice will be performed at Sadler’s Wells on Feb. 26 and 27, in Dresden in June, in Hong Kong in the fall and in Singapore in 2015.
With just a few days left before opening night, I asked if Lin was happy with Rice.
“Still working on it. My God, I’m suffocating; it’s too much. Especially after you have done a production [like in Chihshang], you have so much more to do.”
Hopefully, Lin will be feeling a little more relaxed after Friday night’s premiere. He will give two post-performance talk/question-and-answer sessions in Taipei, on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5.
When: Friday through Dec. 8; Friday and Saturday at 7:45pm, Nov. 26 to Nov. 30 at 7:45 and Dec. 3 to Dec. 7 at 7:45pm,