Hsiao Wenhua, MFA, Graduate Institute of Theatre Arts and Playwriting, Taipei National University of the Arts
Pu'ing: Tracing the Atayal Route is a large-scale musical dance drama mounted by the Formosa Aboriginal Singing and Dance Troupe in 2013, written and directed by renowned choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava, with a score by Fan Tsungpei, and starring singer Irene Luo (Yokuy Utaw). The work is also a memorial to economist Lin Kexiao (1960-2011), general manager of Taihsin Financial Holding Company. Lin traced and retraced ancient mountain paths in an effort to find the story of the legendary Atayal maiden Sayon, publishing a chronicle of his search entitled Finding the Way: Moonlight, Sayon, Klesan – Sayon (2009). Sadly, Lin lost his life searching for Sayon on Mount in Ilan County.
The word pu'ing (“origin” or “genealogy”) is a key term in Taiwanese Atayal culture. It is the essence of Bulareyaung Pagarlava’s quest to trace the “Atayal route,” to find the roots of the Atayal. This quest comprises four stages: Black Leaves, Red Sun, Purple River, and Rainbow Bridge.
The narrative has two interwoven strands: the story of Wadan, an Atayal youth searching for his roots and identity, and the true story of Sayon Hayun, a 17-year-old Atayal girl who went missing, and is presumed to have drowned, while carrying the luggage of her teacher Masaki Takita during a storm in 1938. The drama blends past and present, reality and imagination, tradition and modernity. The performance is like a finely woven Atayal fabric – complex and intricate yet perfectly organized.
In the first part, Black Leaves, for a full twenty minutes the dancers “walk the route” by filing back and forth across the stage, bending and stooping, carrying things about, walking on tiptoe. “I have the dancers walk back and forth because walking is the most basic element of movement,” says Bulareyaung Pagarlava. Profoundly influenced by theater director Jerzy Grotowski, Bulareyaung Pagarlava believes that essence and vitality are most vividly conveyed by simple actions, repeated over and over.
The next part, Red Sun, satirizes the present day through its portrayal of the past oppression of indigenous peoples during the Japanese colonial era. Purple River portrays Sayon’s horrific drowning; her death and the anguish it evokes are representative of the pains experienced by aboriginal women. In the coda, Rainbow Bridge, Atayal elders recount in song how their people are constantly on the move –recalling the “walking” imagery of the first part. Their song speaks to younger tribal members who wander beyond the tribe, reminding them that they have roots and that they have a route they can follow.
A word which carries many layers of meaning in Pu'ing is seeking: seeking a path between the tribe and food, a way between traditional tribal culture and modern society, a path between aboriginal culture and Western aesthetics, seeking a middle ground between the stage and the audience.
Starting in 1990, the Formosa Aboriginal Singing and Dance Troupe have devoted themselves to the popularization of aboriginal culture. Bulareyaung Pagarlava, on the other hand, recently left the world of the big stage in New York to return to Taiwan and search for his spiritual, physical, and artistic roots. Their close collaboration began in 2011 and has produced such works as Lalaksu and La'ge. The collaborators sustain each other in different ways. Pu'ing: Tracing the Atayal Route speaks of their shared spiritual path.
Pu'ing: Tracing the Atayal Route video clip (Source: The Formosa Indigenous Foundation of Culture and Arts)
|Related Literary Themes：||Aboriginal Literature|