Arts

Published: Friday March 21, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday March 21, 2014 MYT 8:28:41 AM

The spiritual pulse of 'Meeting With Bodhisattva'

Breathless: The impressive series of barrel turns was one of UTheatre’s 'Meeting With Bodhisattva' highlights. - Photos SHAARI CHEMAT/The Star

Breathless: The impressive series of barrel turns was one of UTheatre’s 'Meeting With Bodhisattva' highlights. - Photos SHAARI CHEMAT/The Star

Meeting With Bodhisattva was spellbinding in a Zen way.

BLENDING many art forms may or may not work but when done organically, the results can be extraordinary.

This was evident in Taiwanese art group U-Theatre of Taiwan’s Meeting With Bodhisattva show held at the Putra Indoor Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, last Sunday.

Under the artistic direction of Liu Ruo-Yu and music director Huang Chih-Chun, the one-night performance packed up the venue. It debuted in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2002 and has since, travelled around the world, garnering rave reviews.

Through an enlightening whirlwind of athletic drumming, martial arts, Buddhist chanting, meditation and dance, Meeting With Bodhisattva tells the story of one man’s chance encounter with a deity (Bodhisattva or the god of wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism), whose only way to wisdom is through letting go.

When Bodhisattva descends earth after seeing the multitude of man’s foolishness, he transforms himself into a warrior (Huang) and enters people’s dreams.

In his journey into the unknown, the warrior is forced to face his fear, questioning everything and accepting anything that happens to him.

The drummers' technical precision was excellent. 
The drummers' technical precision was excellent.

The programme notes read, “Because he holds a sword, the warrior sees his own cowardliness; but, it’s also precisely because he holds a sword that he finds the courage to face life.”

The story is told in six scenes, beginning with thunderous drumming by the troupe as the holy figure majestically makes his way down. Dressed in white robes like monks, the cast of 39 were aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

The Taiwanese company lives and trains together in the rugged landscape of Laochuan Mountain, thus, the almost uncanny synchronicity showed. The drummers displayed impeccable precision, slicing through the air with long sticks. Their mantra is silent yet clear – rid the mind of impurity, relinquish the dualism that divides thought and act, and become one with the drum.

As the man’s journey continued, the turmoil of his world was illustrated by the ever-increasing speed of the drumbeats and frenetic martial arts cum dance routines. The series of barrel turns and leaps were all done with a sense of tranquillity – in fact, too calm at times that the audience, too, went into a state of meditation.

As Liu stated in an earlier interview, “It is our belief that, through meditation, one is able to reflect and maintain an inner calmness amidst this kaleidoscopic world; furthermore, the same tranquillity can interact with any given audience to crystallise moments of living the present.”

Known for his mastery in synthesising these two disciplines into a new form of performing arts, Huang’s unconventional training regime has both elevated the disposition of the troupe and laid down a solid foundation for a contemporary artistic expression.

The show was Huang’s homecoming journey after over two decades of drumming around five continents. At 49, he was simply spectacular.

In one scene, his almost 10-mnute, roaring drumming solo was so powerful, hand breaking and left us, breathless.

At the end, once he finds his path to spirituality, the warrior lays down his sword, with clarity of body and mind.

With his newfound inner peace, he starts to spin, not in the dervish manner, but calmly. Other dancers follow and it ends when they collapse onto the floor, renouncing worldly emotions and irritations. It was rather anti-climatic but the positive energy floated in the air long afterwards.

Meeting With Bodhisattva had all the elements to captivate the audience but to truly appreciate Liu and Huang’s work, one had to read the synopsis or be lost.

The only drawback was that since the stage was far off from the audience, the performers appeared tiny and one couldn’t make out their facial expressions. A concert big LED screen would have helped.

 

 

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Percussion, Drums, Entertainment, U-Theatre of Taiwan

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