Making a Point with Pieds

21 10 2007

Hurrairah Bin Sohail|hurrairah@gmail.com
the ridge transmedia
A NUSSU Publication

Dance Reflections 2007
University Cultural Centre
15 & 16 Sep 07, 21 & 22 Sep 07, 28 Sep 07
8pm
Ticket Prices: S$15, S$20, S$30

Dance Reflections is an annual event organized by the NUS Center for the Arts, providing a platform for a wide variety of traditional and contemporary dance performances by the NUS Dance groups, their alumni and world renowned performers. This year, the three shows conducted under the banner of Dance Reflections showcased the intrinsic diversity and vastness of the art of dance.

Hybrid Moves

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Photo Credit: Patrick Tung & Kelvin Chew

For the first show, the six dance groups of NUS presented their interpretation of Peranakan culture in their own distinct and unique fashion by focusing on different facets of its rich culture and history.

NUS Dance Blast chose to give the theme a modern twist with their performance which was aptly titled Rentak Funky (funky beats). From the tongue-in-cheek coyness of the staged act where mannequins came to life and danced; the funk-laden background score (most of which was instantly recognizable to the younger members of the audience), to the styling and moves borrowed from hip-hop; the entire performance dazzled from start to finish.

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Photo Credit: Patrick Tung & Kelvin Chew

The performance by NUS Indian Dance that followed could probably be deemed to be the diametric opposite of the preceding act and was the perfect juxtaposition. The dance adroitly melded with Heng Siok Tian’s poem Sayang Airwell, the longstanding dance traditions of Bharatanatayam and Kathak along with the potent, present-day imagery of dilapidated Peranakan houses delivered a sense of nostalgia and loss with haunting effect.

NUS Dance Synergy chose to trace the life journey of a young Nonya through life, from child to matriarch with focal significance on the Nonya’s hair. The chosen theme was established at the start of the performance, as the opening scene was of a Nonya woman combing her hair, and as the performance progressed the theme was developed and expanded.

The NUS Ilsa Tari and the NUS Chinese Dance continued with the motif of receding Peranakan heritage, with the former presenting traditional Malay dances such as inang, lambak and silat. Both troupes highlighted the vibrancy and richness of Peranakan culture with their performances . The latter especially livened up the almost somber mood that had been set by preceding acts with the clever and carefree twirling of colorful umbrellas.

The show ended with Samsara by NUS Dance Ensemble. The performance was a fusion of Javanese, Balinese and contemporary dance. Choreographed by resident choreographer and founder of The Dance Ensemble, Zaini Mohammad Tahir, the dance was an intense routine, pushing the boundaries of all the aforementioned forms of dance. The martial drum beats, elaborate choreography, sharp dance moves and the golden haze of light set against an ornate backdrop was a befitting end to the spectacle.

The Next Wave

As well as being part of Dance Reflections, The Next Wave 2007 Fifteen was also the flagship event for the NUS Dance Ensemble. The event comprised of an eclectic selection of works by a diverse list of choreographers.

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Photo Credit: Vaidehi Shah

The curtain-raiser for the event was a sublime piece by Shahbirul Zaki Ahmand, who was amongst the pioneering members of NUS Dance Ensemble. The next performance staged was Dyschordia, which keeping true to its name, presented the states of inner and outer turmoil, conflict and indecisiveness. The skipped beats and frantic beeping heard intermittently along with the inventive use of props such as nets enhanced the feeling of tension and strain while also conveying a sense of teetering at the brink of insanity.

The piece Cosmic Warriors was a contemporary take on classic Indian dance while taking great care to stay true to the original art form’s vivid facial expressions and hand gesticulation.

The somber and introspective mood is lightened by Ryan Tan’s Enter More Black and White. The dance chronicles the dreams of youths and the eventual realization of the aspirations that the young cherish. The switch from a black and white theme to colorful getups with balloons onstage underscored the shifting mood of the piece.

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Photo Credit: Vaidehi Shah

The Next Wave also decided to showcase the talent of young dancers who could very well be the future of the performance industry.

The dance group from Methodist Girls’ School performed a piece titled Unsung, for which they won “Gold with Honors” at the recent Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging Competition and was well received by the audience at the University Culture Centre.

Unsung dealt in stark fashion with the trials and tribulations a woman has to face and overcome. With bold imagery of blood-smeared fabric across the floor; covered, meshed facial features and the bound, connected dancers onstage as though they were connected through an umbilical cord; the piece conveyed the story of a female’s burdens and also highlighted the unspoken connection these build among all women.

The penultimate piece was Swan Song by Xu Jei and told a romantic love story with the help of dance. The performance led one through the highs and lows, ups and downs of a romantic relationship with jetés, batteries and falls. The oscillation between the love and hate of the two central characters were mirrored by the inventive dance moves and the wardrobe which would also periodically reverse itself and flip upside down.

Once again Samsara by Zaini Mohammad Tahir brought an end to the proceedings for the night.

JAMUAN Bisu …PARAdis_e…?

Jamuan Bisu (‘Silent Devotion’) brings the whole theme of a female’s life, a matriarchal society and consequently Peranakan culture to fruition. The performance is a collaboration between Gerard Mosterd and Boi G Sakti based on the West Sumatra Minang myth of Bundo Kanduong, a powerful matriarchal head.

Gerard Mosterd who has been schooled in European, contemporary and academic dance searches for a way to liberate himself from the confines of traditional male structured forms and movements with Jamuan Bisu.

In this search of his, the collaboration with Boi G Sakti is apt since the latter is the son of Suid Gumarang; who was an acclaimed choreographer in her own right. Boi G Sakti’s work characteristically provide a contemporary feel to the traditional dances of his homeland.

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Photo credit: Jainita Dadlani

The performance was defined by traditional elements such as Randai (matriarchal circle dance) and Suntiangs (local headdresses) which symbolize both the burden of life and the gift of life that a woman must bear and bestow.

The droning soundtrack which reminded one of white noise cleverly erased all meandering thoughts so that the abstract ideals delved into by the performance can be duly pondered.

The dance itself alternated between feral, animal-like movements and robotic, precise, programmed sequences showing the chasm that separates a human’s nature and his progressive vision for himself.

Jamuan Bisu
was by far the darkest and most avant-garde of the three performances in every aspect. The dance moves, stage, lighting and sound all were highly experimental. The performance, due to being highly abstract forced the audience to engage and interpret and take with them their individual unique opinions about the show.

A most fitting conclusion, Jamuan Bisu brought a close to Dance Reflections 2007.


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