Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan brings stillness to the Sadler's Wells Theatre, London. Rice takes you on a journey that brings concepts like time and growth to life. Lin Hwai-min's choreography creates visually stimulating shapes and scenes; we see the cycle of life danced in front of us. Rice is a reaction to the contamination of the Chihshang village in Taiwan, which was polluted by chemical fertilizers; a reality that is permeating our Earth and sadly not unique to Asia. Chihshang is today an organic farming community and has re-established its reputation as the Land of the Emperor Rice. The show highlights the power of women and the resilience of not only the body and Earth but also the spirit.

Rice © Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
Rice
© Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan's dancers strike the perfect balance between the vulnerability of a baby and finding the theatrics of a Martha Graham show. The synergy created in the space arrests you from the moment the first dancer walks onstage. You understand that there is something genuine about to occur, from the exposed and unguarded nature of the dancers. The screen in the background plays a video of rain drops and projects images of nature throughout the entire show. The women are strong, squatting down in unison and pounding their heels into the floor. Their jumps and thumps are in stark contrast with the gentle movements of the men. The stomps become trance-like and repetitive, allowing the audience to settle and follow the footwork. The plowing force and ferocity of it all ripples past the stage and you have an internal reaction.

Rice explores the interconnectedness between humans and nature. Earth-toned costumes and forward chug movements indicate that something deep is stirring and that the ground is alive. Rice is a Life Sciences experiment told through dance. One of the most impressive moments of the evening was during Pollen II, where the suggestive movements remind you of the fertilization process that can occur between a man and a woman. The tender love making scene is graceful, elegant and alludes to honeybees turning nectar into honey; a Rodin statue coming to life with the quirkiness of a Picasso cubist painting. Just beautiful. The shapes and lovemaking are stimulated by a moving aria. The fleshy and creature-like choreography delicately conveyed the inevitable truth that we are merely mortals who need one another to survive.

Thunderstorms occur when warm moist air collides with cool air. The Grain section is just that; the warmth of the women meeting the coolness of the men. Ledges are made with bodies and the turbulent choreography during the scene is dominated by incredibly long sticks moving in circular motions. The repetitive nature, the smacking and brute force of the bamboo sticks hitting the floor is warrior-like. The martial arts movements and the shifting of the sticks back and forth is powerful. This battle scene ends with the sticks, some broken and chipped, abandoned on the stage. The damage is obvious, and in come the women to bear witness to the destruction. What follows is a series of torso contractions and allurement. How these women carry this burden and find the strength and courage to reconstruct the Earth is incredibly danced. The dancers are able to convey a spectrum of emotions, hope and the ability to move forward being just two of them. You acknowledge their pain but are left with their feelings of strength and perseverance.

Rice is a reminder that nature and humans are intertwined. No matter how attached we are to mobile phones, computers or televisions, we are directly or indirectly affected by what is happening outside in the fields. Photosynthesis is real and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre takes you through the great cycle of life with Rice. The imagery is breathtaking and the trembling bodies force you to settle, be still and think about rehabilitating our Earth.

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