Firehall Arts Centre presents


By Co. Erasga

Until January 13/2001

at 8 pm


By Ed Farolan

"Truly visceral", was a comment I heard on opening night for this dance production. True enough, it was a gutsy production. For a puritan audience like Vancouver's, who wouldn't be shocked to see nude bodies dancing on stage?

But it was refreshing to see the beauty of the craft. Poetry in motion, as the saying goes. And art is beautiful if portrayed sincerely and I must say, this was a production that portrayed the nudity, and the simplicity of the most basic inorganic material of our universe: the "bato" or the stone/rock.

And it is in the simplicity of the theme like a stone that critics, artists and poets like to elaborate on in their works.  The simple and the complex in one, as it were. A paradox. Like a poem.

And for me, this dance production was a 90-minute poem. The lighting (James Proudfoot), the set design (Jeina Morosoff, Don Cunningham, Lea Paulson, Alvin Erasga Tolentino), costumes (Jennifer Langman) and the original score (Noah Frew) were innovative, creative…and to add to this, elegant and magnificent.

One enters the Firehall Theatre and notices the stage with rocks of all sizes either lighted up or tied on long strings hanging from above. The atmosphere is smoky, reminding one of the fifties when anyone could smoke inside a theatre.

Then the lights go off, and slowly, very slowly the dancers come in and with the music, go into a mantra kind of a hum, which reminds me of the transcendental meditation I went through during those hippy years in the seventies, making the body vibrate with "ommmmm" .

Then, jerky movements from each of the dancers, alternating, sometimes in coordination. Afterwards, we see segments, pas de deux, sometimes pas de trois, as a combination of jazz and classical ballet movements are performed.

The climax at the end of the first act:  Alvin and Ziyian take off their clothes and exit. Blackout. Applause. Intermission.

The first act is called "Revealing". The next and final act after intermission is named "Embodying". Another nude dancer comes in. Now we have two orientals and one white body dancing. The white body belongs to Daelik who, in his statement in the program says: "As I get older, I realize that I have begun to move away from traditional notions of dance".

The other dancers, Anne Cooper, Daniel Lauzon and Jackie Nel are clothed as they watch the nude dancers do their steps. They also do their routine dancing to the atonal music of composer Noah Drew.

Personally, I was most impressed with the precision and grace of Ziyian Kwan. In her own description of her emotions as a dancer in "Bato", she describes her feelings poetically: "a rock whispers flight/falls/lands smooth on my belly/spills hot lava through my limbs…"

For Alvin, stones and rocks "are beyond an inspiration…They have played significant roles in the essence of life and death. An almost indestructible material they have shaped, and continue to be part of, the foundation of our civilization…they represent time, an encounter of the present, recalling the past and a peek at the future…familiar and unfamiliar resonance of figures and movements which…embodies our human drama".

Discipline, creativity and hard work is what makes this company an up and coming dance company here in Vancouver. This night was also to celebrate the company's (Co. Erasga) inauguration. And to exhibit "Conversation with stones", a collection of different visual artists' works based on stones, at the lobby of the Centre . It runs till Jan 14).