Thursday, 13 March 2014

'Meeting With Bodhisattva' comes to Malaysia

The Meeting With Bodhisattva performance will feature a mix of drama, dance, music, drumming, martial arts, chanting and some non-theatrical elements.

The Meeting With Bodhisattva performance will feature a mix of drama, dance, music, drumming, martial arts, chanting and some non-theatrical elements.

Taiwan's U-Theatre will be making its debut show in the country this weekend.

ACCLAIMED Taiwanese art group U-Theatre will make its debut performance in Malaysia this weekend with an act billed as “powerful and virtuosity spectacular”.

Under the artistic direction of Liu Ruo-Yu and music director Huang Chih-Chun, the troupe will present a mix of drama, dance, music, drumming, martial arts, chanting and some non-theatrical elements in Meeting With Bodhisattva.

The show plays at Putra Indoor Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

The husband-and-wife team derived the plot from four Buddhist verses – “One cudgel, like the sword of wisdom; one cudgel, like looking for a snake in the grass; one cudgel, like the roar of a lion; and, one cudgel, which is not a cudgel.” These verses were developed to illustrate a warrior’s path to self-actualisation.

“Before I created this piece, I went for a 36-day meditation retreat at a small island outside Taiwan. During the retreat, I saw the absurd inner-self, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying – I started to understand some new ‘selves’ I didn’t see in my life. Since I founded U-Theatre, I have been hoping to explore the fundamental meaning of life’s existence,” shares Liu, who holds an MA in Theatre Arts from New York University.

The “U” in U-theatre is apparently a phonetic transcript of a Chinese character, meaning excellence. In ancient China, this word also refers to professional performers.

Liu founded U-Theatre in 1988 with a focus on Zen in the art of drumming.

“I think U-Theatre’s practice may be best described as attaining the state of total calmness while in motion. For our ensemble, a performance is not an end in itself, but rather an approach to a holistic way of life originated from the Tao.”

Since its inception, U-Theatre has settled its roots in the lush and rugged landscape of Laochuan Mountain, an hour outside Taipei. It is where each new production is created and rehearsed, and the 500-seat outdoor theatre is where the troupe debuts its annual productions.

Every morning, U-Theatre drummers gather from all over Taipei at this simple wooden pavilion without walls to attend rehearsals and training sessions, with an emphasis on meditation.

“At the beginning, I decided with Huang that all performers should meditate first and drum later, just like the warrior in the production endlessly going through the mist and cloud, hoping to find his true self. Self-cultivation needs great courage and wisdom to look back to the self, and see the true, confused heart of oneself,” she says.

According to Liu, the daily training for the members include Chinese martial arts, Tai Chi Quan, meditation, drumming lessons and Western percussion lessons. In addition, they also have lessons in acting, vocals and sacred dance. Outside class, members are expected to trek and experience lonely travel.

“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,” she adds.

For the Malaysian-born Huang, who has been a drumming and martial arts practitioner for over 30 years, it’s going to be an emotional journey.

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.

“This premier is a monumental appearance for U-Theatre because Huang finally comes home to perform, after over two decades of drumming around five continents. We thank Malaysia for giving him his initial artistic training in drumming and martial arts,” says the proud Liu.

Organised by Purple Cane Group and Hands Percussion, the Malaysia premier will see 39 performers in a one-matinee performance.

> Meeting With Bodhisattva will be held at 3pm on March 16 at the Putra Indoor Stadium, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. Tickets are priced at RM68, RM128, RM228 and RM500. Ticket Purchase: Enquiries: 010-865 6034.

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , Drums , U Theatre , Taiwan , Meditation , Entertainment


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