Unusual for Dance Brigade, the cast includes a number of men: newcomer Clint Calimlim, the very experienced Jose Navarrete, and the magisterial Ramon Ramos Alayo.
The book is written in the form of a guide talking to the deceased to make the journey as peaceful as possible. The direct speech lends itself to the kind of dramatic dance theater Keefer often embraces. Here her voice weaves in and out of dance passages and speaks as much to the audience ("this is what will happen to you") as to the dead woman (portrayed by Lena Gatchalian).
The gorgeously intertwined Ramos Alayo and Tina Banchero represent the Samantabhadra, the Primordial Buddha who appears to the lucky ones at the moment of death. Recognizing the blinding light of ultimate reality, they enter nirvana. ("They are off the wheel," Keefer laconically observes.) Like most mortals, Gatchalian's character has to go through "bardo" (transitional states) before being reincarnated. On her journey, she encounters the five Buddha families in both their supportive and wrathful manifestations. Since they are danced by stylistically very different dancers, Keefer encouraged them to choreograph their own characters. The remaining choreography is by Keefer with contributions by Sara Shelton Mann. *
THE GREAT LIBERATION UPON HEARING
Thurs.Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun, 7 p.m., $23
Laney College Theater
900 Fallon, Oakl.