Thu, Jun 14, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Another view of LUNA

Second chances can pay off spectacularly, as the Bulareyaung Dance Company proved with a very inspired performance at the Cloud Gate Theater last weekend

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Bulareyaung Dance Company member Aulu Tjibulangan’s energy was unflagging in choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava’s latest work, LUNA, at the Cloud Gate Theater last weekend.

Photo courtesy of Lafun Photography

Dance, like life, does not often provide second chances to make things right, but when it does, it can be very rewarding.

I left the Cloud Gate Theater in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) on Friday night last week feeling exhilarated — like I could possibly dance all the way home. Great dance performances can have that effect on an audience, and a great performance was what I had seen.

It was, however, not what I had been expecting when I took the MRT out to Tamsui to see Bulareyaung Pagarlava’s (Bula) newest work for his Bulareyaung Dance Company (BDC, 布拉瑞揚舞團), LUNA (路吶).

I went to Taichung on May 19 to see the premiere of the show, which had been commissioned by the National Taichung Theater. A fan of Bula’s works since his early days as a resident choreographer for Cloud Gate 2 (雲門2), I have appreciated his efforts to forge a new creative identity by exploring his own Paiwan roots, as well as those of his dancers and other Aboriginal communities in Taiwan, with his works for BDC, such as 2015’s La Ke (拉歌), 2016’s Qaciljay (阿棲睞) and Colors (漂亮漂亮) as well as last year’s Stay that way (無,或就以沈醉為名).

I was underwhelmed by that first viewing of LUNA, for which Bula collaborated with the Luluna Bunun Choir (羅娜薪傳音樂團) from Luluna Village (羅娜) in Nantou County’s Sinyi Township (信義).

As I wrote previously: “There is a kernel of a great show there, but it needs to be polished and refined.”

Knowing that differences in the size and shape of the theaters in Taichung and Tamsui could affect the staging, and having heard that Bula had spent the time between the premiere and the Tamsui run doing some revisions, I decided a second viewing was needed.

He did make some changes, both to the choir’s performance that begins the show and in the choreography, but mostly it felt as if the overall energy of the work had been given a boost.

In Taichung, the men of the choir, armed with large staves, began pounding millet stones set in a circle at the front of the stage, while women and children could be seen dimly through a scrim, moving about a village-like setting as the men sang the Bunun’s pasibutbut, a polyphonic prayer for the millet harvest.

The scrim was then lifted, and then men returned as if from a hunt, sitting in a semi-circle while the women and several children stood behind, for the second song.

In Tamsui, the scrim was not used, the millet circle was moved to the back of the stage, next to the unshaded windows through which trees and the nighttime sky could be seen, and the children were allowed to run about naturally.

The acoustics of the Cloud Gate Theater also meant that the audience felt enveloped by the choir’s harmonies, as they were when the dancers began creeping through the darkness, clad in flesh-colored dance belt thongs, brown body make-up and headlamps, softly singing as they made their way down the aisles from the back of the theater, from the flyloft and from the sides of the stage.

Kung Bo-yuan Kwonduwa’s (孔柏元) strong vocals led the other 10 men in polyphonic song as they gathered on stage, although he disappeared soon after, returning only at the end to sing them off.

Bula used the metaphor of a nighttime hunt as an exploration of masculinity, how societal demands can shape — or crush — males and how the bonds between warriors are forged.

He has honed ability to use the dispassionate eye of an anthropologist even as he creates powerful images that rip through the masks that humans wear to shield themselves.

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