Thursday, September 18, 2003

Dariush Dolat-shahi/ Minh Trahn/ Portland Taiko/ Gail Bruner/ Reza Mazloomi 

My mind was mostly turned down during this beautifully staged performance at the Newmark Theatre last night, able to let go in a way I’ve not previously been able to this week. I’ve been yearning for it, that release into art at a level over chattering critiques and comparisons.
A sound, a motion
An echo of stars
Curtain rises, Curtain falls

That's the title of the second performed piece of the evening and pretty much sums up both the first and second. Elegant appetizers for the sumptuous third act.
The sound: Dariush Dolat-shahi on the Tar. Scales, modes, slow Persian trills. Merely entertaining at first, this extended warm up drew me in after a while, hypnotized, the same gentle pitch changes over and over. I wanted to sleep or do yoga.
The echo of stars: Local dancer Minh Tran spotlight, interpreting and responding to Dolat-shahi’s contemplative presence on the Setar. Tran’s energy seemed inexhaustible and chaotic, exploring the stage as a musical landscape inside a semi-circle of lit candles.
Curtain rises: Taiko drummers upstage, Tran center spotlight, an athletic dancer. His wasn’t a deep heart kind of dance, nothing terribly important to say except look, I’m a dancer enjoying the act of dancing to this unique music. It was light and joyous and made me want to dance too in the always-cycling ambient music of Dolat-shahi.
Curtain falls: Fini.
Third act. The Seven Valleys of the Way based on Manteq ut-Tair (The Conference of the Birds) by Farid ud-Din Attar. This was a fully realized dance and music performance, an interpretation of an epic journey. Dolat-shahi directed and played Tar to an ensemble of Taiko, movement and dance. The effect was stunning. Manteq ut-Tair tells the 900 year old Persian poetic story of 30 birds who embark on an epic quest to find the Simaurgh, the King of all the birds.
You don’t need to know this story to experience The Seven Valleys of the Way performance as authentic and rich. Not only does Attar’s poems printed in the program add nuance to the performance itself, but we get to see Dariush Dolat-shahi as an artist alive and working inside his ancient culture and tradition, embodying new forms and inherited wisdom. We become immersed in the dance, allegory of a souls journey to find Source.
The internal Divine is embodied in the yoga meditations of white clad Gail Bruner center stage. Toshiko Namioko awakes from sleep,a sort of rough beast in black who slowly gains conciousness. She is fascinated with Bruner, ineffectually mirrors the yoga poses, then comes closer and actually touches her.
Namioko’s harsh journey is to arise from darkness and discover this Friend, this inner love. Bruner only becomes aware of Namioko as a lover, and the love they share is so profound that the passion of it rips Namioko out of darkness. The process of awakening not only wakes her up to the Divine, but enables the Divine to recognize her as well. This recognition prompts a death, the death perhaps of the idea of the Lover externalized out of ourselves, and leaves Namioko as the central figure on stage, a mad tornado of passion in a twirling white sheet. The extremes of sorrow and love pull her and us along with her into divine rapture.
Sage Ricci

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