“I had them meditate three hours a day. They hated me! But I was very persistent.”
So said choreographer and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre founder Lin Hwai-min to the Montreal Gazette about preparing his dancers to perform Songs of the Wanderers. The Taiwan troupe is currently showcasing this piece on a short North American tour, with upcoming dates in Quebec, North Carolina and Texas. Lin’s 1994 pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, the site of the Buddha’s final enlightenment, inspired him to create Songs of the Wanderers as “a work about practicing asceticism … and the quest for quietude.”
“Before I went to Bodh Gaya, I thought Buddha was a god,” he recalled for the Gazette. “And there he was, like us, a human being. I was extremely moved with this realization. I came to it under the Buddha’s tree. I think the energy of the tree and the place settle into my meditation. I’m a very restless person; (it’s) hard to sit down and meditate.”
Wang Rong-yu, however, as the Buddhist monk figure at the center of the work, can’t be restless. He remains motionless, meditating through the entire 70-minute performance under a constant cascade of golden rice. The dancers move through three and a half tons more rice, one raking the chaos back into Zen garden order. Their movement evokes the progress of meditators—and people—everywhere, in what the Seattle Times called stages of “frustration and breakthrough” in its review of a performance there earlier this month. “The sense of ambiguous progress being made within a gathering timeless stasis is palpable.”
Read the full Seattle Times review here, and the Montreal Gazette piece here (including how Wang Rong-yu prepares for his stint as the monk under the shower of rice, and how the company manages all that rice between performances).
Visit the Cloud Gate site here for details about the upcoming performances of Songs of the Wanderers.