U-Theatre performs in eastern Taiwan rice paddy

Taipei, Oct. 31 (CNA) On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the serene and scenic Chihshang Township (??) in eastern Taiwan's Taitung County welcomed thousands of visitors who had flocked to the rural township to see an annual art performance in its signature rice paddy. Against the backdrop of a blue sky, mountains and rippling rice stalks, performers from the Taiwanese percussion troupe U-Theatre (????) drummed and danced to the piece "Beyond Time" (????) on a large stage that was set up in part of a rice paddy that had been cleared for the show. At times spirited and at times meditative, the 70-minute performance by U-Theatre -- known for its unique combination of drumming, Zen meditation and martial arts -- drew cheers and applause from the 2,000-strong audience. "Rice fields are the real theater stages that people are searching for," Liu Ruo-yu (???), founder and artistic director of U-Theatre, told reporters before the show. "We may be able to build a theater in a city and try to recreate the atmosphere of nature in a man-made space, but how can we beat Mother Nature? How can we create the same beautiful sky on canvas and with lighting?" she asked. "This time, the clouds are real and the lights are real. We don't need to project them onto the stage," Liu said. "Beyond Time," which premiered in late 2011, blends drumming, dancing and martial arts. Its choreography is consistent with the troupe's signature Zen-style presentations, which embody a mind over matter approach to man's relationship with the universe. U-Theatre is slated to give another performance at the venue on Sunday. The performances are being organized by the Lovely Taiwan Foundation as part of the annual Chishang Autumn Rice Harvest Arts Festival, which celebrates the autumn harvest in Chishang, best- known for its rice production. Lovely Taiwan Foundation Chairman Ko Wen-chang (???) said he established the foundation in 2009 with the hope of "bringing back what is wonderful about Taiwan." To achieve this goal, his foundation has opened shops to help local companies that lack distribution channels to sell their creative products, and has promoted agricultural educational programs in Miaoli that teach schoolchildren about organic vegetables, Ko said. Organizing the arts festival is also part of that effort, he said. Now in its seventh year, the Chishang Autumn Rice Harvest Arts Festival has previously featured performers including pianist Eric Chen, singer A-mei and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. (By Christie Chen)