The Star Online
Published: Saturday May 24, 2014
BY REVATHI MURUGAPPAN
Dua Space Dance Theatre’s latest performance resonated with the philosophy of the Lotus Sutra.
AMONG the many teachings attributed to Buddha, the Lotus Sutra is regarded as the most complete and encompassing.
For three months, Malaysians got to sample some of the Buddhist wisdom at the Lotus Sutra Exhibition – A Message Of Peace And Harmonious Coexistence, co-organised by Soka Gakkai Malaysia and The Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP).
The exhibition, which concluded last weekend, featured historical photographs, illustrations and more than 100 pieces of artefacts, including manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra as well as replicas of the Dunhuang Grottoes.
These manuscripts, which were lost in India through various upheavals, have travelled all the way from various international archives from Britain, Russia, China, Japan and Nepal, where some of them have been preserved, translated and reproduced.
Since 1998, the Lotus Sutra travelling exhibition has been displayed in various countries around the world. Malaysia was the 11th country to showcase these exhibits.
Translated into numerous languages, this sutra emphasises that every human being possesses unlimited potential, promotes profound philosophy and reveals the fundamental principles for happiness and peace.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Dua Space Dance Theatre was commissioned to present an 80-minute work inspired by the message of peace and harmonious coexistence. Five performances were shown over three weeks at Wisma Kebudayaan SGM in Kuala Lumpur.
But, how do you create a dance that symbolises peace?
This was the dilemma faced by Dua Space co-founder Anthony Meh, when he agreed to the daunting task. He poured over the sacred texts for nine months and hit many walls before inspiration finally struck.
“One night, I was looking at the moon and suddenly, I had an idea. I took the main threads of the Lotus Sutra and decided to present a dance using only the core values. I’d show the message by comparing ancient and present times. For the songs, I selected chants, ballads and folk numbers from nations where the Lotus Sutra had spread,” revealed Meh at the pre-show talk.
He divided the work into an overture and seven chapters (The Tree Of Avidya, Samsara, Forgiving Dust, Passing On, A Reflection Of Mirror, You And Me and Coexistence).
In Samsara, the dancers just couldn’t get enough of clothes, grabbing, hiding, putting them on and never taking them off despite looking clumsy with too many pieces of clothing.
Meh cleverly used clothing as a metaphor to represent the greed of man, who will stop at nothing in search of material possessions.
Yes, clothes are a necessity to cover our bodies but people only need the basics to survive.
On stage, the dancer struggled to enjoy his wealth as he was “deeply buried underneath layers of darkness and ignorance”.
As Buddha preached, while wealth gives much pleasure, it is also a source of suffering. There were a number of duets, which were flawlessly executed, each pair having its own strengths.
Love, harmony, jealousy, violence … these traits were presented clearly but perhaps, because Meh had provided the synopsis and a brief explanation prior to the show, interpretation was easy, especially for those not familiar with dance vocabulary.
A Reflection Of Mirror was a refreshing chapter, indicating that karma goes on back and forth, until one is eternally released.
Technically, the dancers were brilliant as they attempted to show that all life forms are interlinked. Dancing with grace and expression, their beautiful extensions, flexibility and lines were a sight to behold.
By working together, there was so much more potential to be realised, which is one of the key messages in the Lotus Sutra.
“Frequently, you can see the use of the lotus bud, for it is my hope that the real lotus will blossom in your heart,” said Meh.