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Taiwanese dance company performs with tons of rice

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will perform tonight with 3.5 tons of rice on stage. Courtesy of Joe Florence.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will perform tonight with 3.5 tons of rice on stage. Courtesy of Joe Florence.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will perform tonight in Memorial Hall as part of Carolina Performing Arts’ 2014 season. The company, which has come to UNC twice before, presents a mix between a martial art style called Qi Gong and modern dance.

Though they have multiple prepared productions, Cloud Gate will perform one 90-minute piece tonight called “Songs of the Wanderers.” Inspired by the myriad of Asian religions, the piece presents dancers on stage with 3.5 tons of rice.

Joe Florence, marketing director for CPA, said the rice represents natural elements such as rivers, hills, deserts, thunderstorms and waterfalls.

Aaron Shackelford, postdoctoral fellow of Arts@TheCore, an organization that works to link the arts with academic life at UNC, said the performance is unique.

“(The performance) will open your mind. Your breathing slows. It allows your mind to start asking questions,” he said.

Heather Tatreau, who teaches modern dance within the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, saw Cloud Gate a few years ago when they performed “Songs of the Wanderers” at Duke University.

“International choreographers in modern dance offer a really good perspective for an American audience and American dancers,” Tatreau said.

“Modern dance is known as an American art form, but just in the last 15 years, getting foreign companies to come here and bring their own take on modern dance is a nice perspective for us to see.”

Through Arts@TheCore, Tatreau organized a master class taught by two members of the company. Students from her modern dance class, dancers from ModernExtension — the dance company affiliated with the Carolina Sport Club program — and several dance students from Duke attended the class Tuesday.

“For my students in my dance class, when they go see on stage what they’re learning about in class or in film or in the studio movement-wise, it puts it into practical application of what we’re doing in the studio,” Tatreau said.

“They can see how the final product will look.”

Since the company’s arrival in Chapel Hill at the beginning of the week, it has been engaging with students. On Sunday, several members from Cloud Gate spoke in a seminar moderated by Mimi Chapman, a professor within the School of Social Work, in a seminar that tried to connect meditation with mindfulness and social work.

Many academic classes including history, religion, dance, and social science classes are required by their professors to attend the performance.

Shackelford said the show stimulates thought in the way that an audience member is able to have a very personal experience during the show and that is why so many different types of classes will attend.

“It is a piece that invites you to reflect upon yourself — whatever you bring to the performance dictates what you reflect,” Shackelford said.

The 1,400 seat hall is sold out tonight with one of the top sales for student tickets this season.

“That is a lot of classes. That is a lot of students. That is a lot of Chapel Hill audiences who enjoy dance and want to take a chance on something a little less accessible,” Florence said.

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