The lapping of the waves, the fizzy hissing sounds as the water washes across the sand and then retreats; it is the sounds of the ocean as much as the movement and colors that stays in one’s memories.
It was the sounds and the floating underwater movements that stayed in my mind after seeing choreographer Bulareyaung (Bula) Pagarlava’s newest work, Colors (漂亮漂亮), for his Bulareyaung Dance Company (BDC,布拉瑞揚舞團) at the Cloud Gate Theater in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District on Saturday night.
That and just the sheer giggling fun the seven dancers had romping around the stage like they were spending a day at the beach.
Photo courtesy of Wang Zhengyi
Bula promised to bring the waters off Taitung and other slices of east coast life to Taipei audiences with the show and he did just that, as well as sharing the voices and dances of Taiwan’s Aboriginal communities.
Thanks to lighting/stage designer Li Chien-chang (李建常), Bula and his troupe were able to conjure up stunning scenes evoking the sea with nothing more than stage lights and large blue and white striped plastic tarps.
Three of the tarps were hung as the side and back walls, while another hung from battens in the rafters, serving at times as the sky or as the top of the water as viewed from beneath the waves.
Photo courtesy of Wang Zhengyi
The dancers spread the fifth one on the stage floor as the audience members took their seats. They later manipulated it to become rolling waves, and, by dragging it by one corner, created that fizzy sound of water on the sand.
Colors is proof that you do not need a lot of fancy gimmicks, or money, to create a striking show.
The men start the show clad in a variety of polo shirts or T-shirts, shorts or pants and colored rubber boots, like they had been helping with a post-typhoon clean-up in Taitung before deciding to hit the beach.
Colors begins simply, with Ponay Ngangiwan standing facing the audience, gently bopping as he quietly hums to himself. Then he explodes with a sudden thrust of his arms or a leg, or a quick jerk of the head, before he returns to the quiet bopping.
His colleagues watch from the floor for a few minutes, before, one by one, joining him and trying to mimic his movements, not always right on the beat, until there is a whole chorus line arrayed behind him.
The men remove their boots so they can “jump” into the ocean, rolling in, under and around the floor tarp, chasing one another around the stage and gradually stripping down to bathing suits, with Kevan Tjuljapalas and Giljigiljaw Tjaruzaljum egging everyone on.
Ngangiwan gets another solo turn as he wraps himself up in one corner of the tarp, looking like a model clad in an avant-garde couture dress, which he plays with and expands upon to the amusement of his comrades and the audience.
A dimming of the lights to a silvery glow and a nighttime world appears, later shifting to an underwater fantasy realm, with some skinny-dipping dancers.
Bula has crafted a series of vignettes, including a really lovely duet for Zhou Yu-rei (周堉睿), who danced despite an injured ankle, and Hsu Ting-wei (許庭瑋) and a solo for Huang Wei-jie (黃韋捷), before the lights came up and it was time for a closing party on the beach, complete with lots of singing and traditional Aboriginal line dancing, tabletop dancing and a great performance by Aulu Tjibulangan.
While Colors is not as emotionally powerful or choreographically strong as Bula’s other works, it is a fun show, one that transports the audience to the seaside, under the waves and back to dry land.
It is a show that makes everyone feel like they are spending time with friends, while showcasing the dancing, vocal and acting talents of the company’s dancers and that is a hard balance to achieve.
Colors is a good addition to BDC’s repertoire.
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