The idea of this show is great: Create a show that illustrates the movement of martial arts instead of the impact. The execution of the show: Brilliant.
Let me explain why this piece is so breathtaking. In martial arts films we are constantly watching for the impact. We wait for that moment when the kick lands or the sword is deflected because that is the moment of conflict and/or resolution in each swing. We see in that impact the end result and we get instant gratification without much work internally. In this show we are forced to pay attention to the movement from start to finish. The conflict we witness is the struggle of tendon against bone and the attempt to unify the focus of the mind with the power of the body. The idea that struck me with the force to break bricks (which they do in the show) was that I had never before witnessed the true grace and power of the martial arts. While dancers offer the same strength of body; their goal is beauty (which is noble). But, these men prove that it is even more powerful to allow beauty to be the long journey you experience before you reach the goal in a short sharp impact.
The story line is that of a wimpy guy growing from punching bag to master. You witness the first scene in the light, but then you are cast into darkness. Immediately the drums begin beating and a primal sense of impending danger crawls into the back of your skull. You are then disoriented by the arrival of several lights moving in tandem as sparring exercises are worked through in unison or harmonic movement with the only focus being the hands and feet covered in different colored LEDs.
You progress through the story of our hero as he learns about different techniques and weapons (including the purely intuitive, fluid, and vaguely taoist drunken fighting technique) with the help of a fatherly voice from the shadows. This voice explains various ideas and anecdotes about the martial arts experience. You get the sense that you should be hearing more than the words as the meanings behind them will surely become very significant in the near future. And sure enough another fight will break out and those words of wisdom suddenly become the difference between finishing the fight standing up or being dragged offstage.
If you have a love of martial arts, grace, beauty, dance, or anything new and exciting, you need to see this show.
Running time: 60 minutes.
Illuminate: A Martial Arts Experience information and tickets.