“[Sunyata] is by turns erotic and horrific, serene and tumultuous, ponderous and explosive, filled with dread and filled with wonder… [Sunyata is] a remarkable journey.”

– Chris Dafoe, The Globe & Mail

Visually stunning, aurally rich, kinetically wild, Sunyata is a cyclical journey traveling from sensuous hell through timeless purgatory to heaven’s deliverance. East meets West, Buddhism mixes with Christianity, butoh marries modern dance in this epic Kokoro Dance production.

Sunyata is a Buddhist word meaning emptiness. The Buddhist accepts that life is suffering, that suffering has a cause, and that the cause of suffering is desire. Buddhists learn that they will be released from their suffering when they cease to desire. The soul passes through states of grace and disgrace, and the cycle continues. Sunyata is a portrayal of this cyclical journey. It draws its physical imagery from the work of the prolific French book illustrator Gustav Doré in his etchings of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The three sections which comprise SunyataZero to the Power, Aeon, and Elysian Fields – depict Dante’s journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven.

Against an otherworldly backdrop by artists Richard Tetrault and Thomas Anfield, and a haunting score provided by Robert Rosen, the dancers weave through an interactive set by Gerald King and Duncan Wilson. Kokoro overwhelms its audience with searing images such as what one reviewer described as a “Hell’s hot tub”-“Completely coated, the creatures ooze out of the tub down to the stage floor. The lights above highlight every muscle, joint and curve of their bodies, as though they are made of malleable burnishes copper.”

Sunyata premiered in 1991, and was called one of the best dance productions of the season by local critics. The 1997 remount of the work was performed to sold-out audiences and set box office records during its nine-day run. This third remount opened in March 2006 at the Vancouver International Dance Festival before two performances as part of the Dance Victoria series.

Choreographers: Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi
Music: Robert J. Rosen (performed by François Houle, Lauri Lyster, Peggy Lee, and Adrienne Park; recorded on CD)
Lighting: Gerald King
Costumes: Tsuneko Kokubo and Laura Bartlett
Performers: Barbara Bourget, Carolyn Chan, Chris Hannon, Jay Hirabayashi, Holly Holt, Jennifer McKinley, Deanna Peters, and Matthew Romantini
Length of work: 2 hours and 30 minutes (including 20 minute intermission)
Number of persons on tour: 10

The Dance Current Review of Sunyata
Technical Specifications

For more information about touring, please contact Jay Hirabayashi at jayh[at]kokoro.ca