Sunyata (1991)

Choreography: Barbara Bourget/Jay Hirabayashi

A two and a half hour work adding a third section, Elysian Fields, to a re-choreographed Zero to the Power and Aeon. Cast included Adrienne Park (keyboards), Barbara Bourget, Jay Hirabayashi, Ziyian Kwan, Kate Potter, and Miroslaw Zydowicz. Music by Robert J. Rosen. Lighting by Gerald King. Costumes by Tsuneko Kokubo. Art work by Thomas Anfield and Richard Tetrault.


Sunyata (1997)

Choreography: Barbara Bourget/Jay Hirabayashi

Kokoro Dance presented Sunyata at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (1895 Venables Street) from March 12 – 22, 1997. The nine performances drew 1,848 patrons (86% capacity overall with five soldout shows) who awarded the production with standing ovations.

Originally inspired by the etchings by Gustave Doré for Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Sunyata was developed over a six year period and was previously produced in 1991 at the Waterfront Theatre in Vancouver. The three sections, Zero to the Power, Aeon, and Elysian Fields metaphorically depict states of hell, purgatory, and heaven following Dante’s journey. The title Sunyata, however, suggests that the three realms be viewed from a Buddhist perspective. Sunyata is a Buddhist Sanskrit word meaning emptiness. In one important school of Buddhist philosophy, all metaphysical arguments for the existence of states such as hell, purgatory, and heaven were thought to be empty of reality. We only understand things in terms of their relationship to other things. An understanding of some absolute reality could have no relationship to our ordinary understanding. It would transcend language. We thought dance, music, and visual art, being non-verbal experiential languages, were ideal vehicles for conveying this intangible concept.

Sunyata is a two and a half hour production featuring eight dancers and four musicians. The 1991 production was called one of the best dance productions of the 1990-91 season by local critics but was produced under severe financial restrictions. We had to scale down that production for economic reasons. In the new version, we had the full cast of twelve performers (the ’91 version had six). For this production, Robert J. Rosen rewrote his original score specifically for the talents of the Vancouver new music ensemble, Standing Wave (François Houle on soprano saxophone, clarinet and MIDI wind controller, Lauri Lyster on percussion, Peggy Lee on cello, and guest artist Adrienne Park on MIDI keyboard). The dancers were Barbara Bourget, Jay Hirabayashi, Ingmar Bergsma, Salome Diaz, Ziyian Kwan, Eve Lacabanne, Alvin Erasga Tolentino, and Michael Whitfield. Artists Thomas Anfield and Richard Tetrault painted the backdrop- a thirty foot canvas filled with tortured bodies. Set builder Duncan Wilson brought his amplified tables, mud pit, and platform designs to the Vancouver East Cultural Centre’s intimate stage (the VECC is a former church). Gerald King contributed his alchemical lighting designs. New costumes were created by Mara A. Gottler.

The 1997 production credits:
Dancers: Barbara Bourget, Jay Hirabayashi, Ingmar Bergsma, Salome Diaz, Ziyian Kwan, Eve Lacabanne, Alvin Erasga Tolentino, and Michael Whitfield
Musicians: François Houle on saxophones, Peggy Lee on cello, Lauri Lyster on percussion, and Adrienne Park on keyboards
Music: Robert J. Rosen
Lighting: Gerald King
Costumes: Tsuneko Kokubo and Mara A. Gottler
Artwork: Thomas Anfield and Richard Tetrault
Set: Duncan Wilson