He used a bow, he plucked his amplified cello like a upright bass, he played the lower half like a pair of bongos and used foot pedals to create playbacks or draw out notes — one segment even sounded like a recording of a whale’s song — all the while keeping a close watch on the dancers, feeding off their energy and giving out energy in return.
The audience entered the theater with the cast of three women and two men — Su Kuan-ying (蘇冠穎), Kan Han-hsing (甘翰馨), Chang Chih-chieh (張智傑), Chiu Yu-hsuan (邱昱瑄) and Chen Wei-yun (陳韋云) — already on the floor. They moved, in a series of sprints and stops around a flat golden square laid out on the floor that turned out to be yellow lentils, in what looked to be a combination of musical chairs, a game of “Simon Says” and cause and effect. One dancer would set off a chain reaction that was echoed by the others, although a second or two later.
Once the audience was seated (the show was sold out), the piece formally began by Lancaster taking his seat at the back of the stage and the dancers began to repeatedly fall on top of the lentils, swirling the pulses around with their feet and hands as they get up each time, then wiggling back and forth across the floor, propelled just by their shoulders and feet, until the lentils were spread out across the stage.
Mascarell crafted a combination of solos, duets and ensemble segments, centered on the idea of a reaction having to travel through time from the initiating movement — one woman slaps another’s face, but it is the third woman across the stage who reacts, or one dancer begins a line of movement with a leg that is completed by another dancer’s contraction of an arm. The movements are often circular, possibly like time itself.
The piece closes with four dancers repeatedly picking up handfuls of lentils to toss in the air — moving through a shower of golden light — while the fifth makes “snow angels” on the floor.
The Unreality of Time is a deceptively simple piece, the layers of complexity camouflaged by the overlaying visual and aural beauty.
The company will be taking the show to Seoul and then Shanghai next month, but hopefully they will be able to perform it in Taiwan again sometime.