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A Zen-sational experience of drumming with martial arts and dance

Zen. To some, it is abstract and beyond comprehension. To Taiwan's U Theatre, it is an awe-inspiring visual feast made up of martial arts, drumming, dance and chanting.

In their latest production "Meeting with Vajrasattva", which won the Performance Award of Taiwan's 1st Taishin Arts Award last year, U Theatre brings to the audience a perfect piece of physical theatre with well-choreographed body movements and a precise sense of rhythm.

Inspired by Vajrasattva, the god of wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism, U Theatre's Artistic Director Liu Ruo-yu and Drumming Master Huang Chih-chun, after years of practising tai chi, martial arts, drumming and meditation, created this new work which is about the journey of a man who faces his fear into unknown territory, a journey from questioning everything to accepting everything.

"There is a great and complex beauty to the drumming, sounds and silence and simple beats and intricate meshes of precisely articulated rhythms... The concentration and focus of the swaying, bounding performers is impressive, as is the purity of their material at the start", the New York Times said.

Members of U Theatre choose to lead a life of seclusion in the mountains, practising martial arts and drums, and most important of all, meditation to find and achieve tranquility and self-awareness. It is this internal peace they wish to pass on and share with the audience.

U Theatre's last piece "The Sound of Ocean", which acclaimed as "the best performance of the Festival d'Avignon (of France)", represents a milestone in their efforts to achieve both strict body discipline and total freedom of the mind. They picked up where "The Sound of Ocean" left off, taking the audience on another journey of enlightenment and self-realisation in their search for Vajrasattva.

After the performance on November 5, U theatre will host a meet-the-artist session. They will also perform excerpts of "Meeting with Vajrasattva" and "The Sound of Ocean" on November 7 at 3pm at the Victoria Park Central Lawn. Admission is free.

U Theatre was founded by well-known actress Liu Ruo-yu in 1988. Since its inception, U Theatre has set its base in Laochuan Mountain Theatre. Over the years, U Theatre has participated in numerous international arts festivals.

Liu Ruo-yu was one of Taiwan's veteran stage actresses in the early 1980s. In 1984, she participated in a year-long workshop conducted by renowned Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski who inspired her to search for the deeper meaning of life in her artistic endeavours. She founded U Theatre in 1988, soon after returning to Taiwan. U Theatre developed its own approach to the performing arts by introducing elements of Chinese religious and folk rituals into its works. To this foundation were soon added the elements of tai chi and dance. Since 1993 with the joining of Drumming Master Huang Chih-chun, U Theatre has incorporated drumming and martial arts into its performances.

Huang Chih-chun began taking drumming lessons at age six and started formal training in martial arts at age 10. After studying meditation in India and Tibet in the early 1990s, he joined U Theatre as drumming master in 1993. Huang's belief that "to learn to play the drum, one must first learn to meditate" inspired the adoption of meditation, and later martial arts, into the core of U Theatre's training curriculum.

"Meeting with Vajrasattva" is one of the programmes of the "New Vision Arts Festival" organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. It will be staged at 8.15pm on November 5 and 6 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre.

Tickets priced at $100, $160, $220 and $300 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for full-time students, senior citizens, people with disabilities and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Group booking discounts are up to 20% off.

Programme brochures are available at URBTIX outlets or at the website, .

For programme enquiries, call 2370 1044. Telephone reservations can be made on 2734 9009 and credit card telephone bookings on 2111 5999. Internet bookings can be made at .

Ends/Tuesday, September 21, 2004
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