The Taipei Times had an article today reviewing U Theater's The Mountain Dawn, now touring through Taiwan (it was at Taipei's National Theater on Saturday, and is heading south from there).
I'm mentioning this on Lao Ren Cha because I was there on Saturday, and every word of the review is true. I loved it. I realize that Yunmen Wuji (The Cloud Gate Theater) seems to have a monopoly on both international and local fame, but U Theater is almost as good and in some ways - including their percussion skills - better.
Brendan and I bought tickets - a compromise of proximity and price - to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, which we celebrated on March 2nd. Yay us!
If you read the article or the theater program, you'll learn that they began in the 1980s and currently live and rehearse on a mountain outside Taipei. They practice dance, drumming and meditation among other things up there, and their latest show, The Mountain Dawn, showcases the group's feelings about their hilltop home.
The costumes were very minimal - almost monk-like and rather androgynous. The music was also minimal; it reminded me of a cassette I picked up at a secondhand shop years ago, featuring the Washington DC Toho Koto Society, full of traditional Japanese music. The Mountain Dawn shared a lot with this sort of quiet, bare dissonance.
In fact, I saw a very strong Japanese influence in the costumery, the music and the topic: more or less meditations on nature. It only goes to show that art in Taiwan is influenced as much by Japan as it is by China.
The pieces performed included one about bamboo in the wind, one about the cloud sea and one about the power of the sunrise - I can't provide much more detail as that is what I could read of the titles.
More about the show is reviewed in the article, in more lyrical terms than I could ever give it. We contemplated buying the CD, but realized that without the dancing and the atmosphere that the performers created, the music itself might be a let-down. It wouldn't capture quite the mood of the theater that night, stripped bare of its plush red seats, lobby chandeliers and gold-leaf hullaballoo and transformed into a mountain top of cool stones and singing bamboo.
In short, if you have the chance, go see it.