Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia
"Zero" by Humanhood. Image: Bernie Ng

“Binary” at M1 Contact Festival 2017: Dream States

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By Chloe Calderon Chotrani

(870 words, 8-minute read)

Culminating the M1 Contact: Contemporary Dance Festival 2017 at Esplanade was Binary: International Artist Showcase. It featured two exquisite pieces Broken Lines by husband and wife, Dimo Kirilov and Tamako Akiyama of Kirilov-Akiyama Dance Projects (Spain) and Zero by Humanhood (U.K) that transported the audience from the black box into dream-like states.

The performance opens with Kirilov standing on stage reaching for a hanging strap from the ceiling, bringing with him a small cassette player. It feels like we’re underwater and he is fish bait. He moves with an aquatic quality in silence. Ironically, he has a sense of surrender as he’s reaching for that strap. A balance between both freedom and focus is at play.

How do you hold space in silence? How do you surrender? How do you fall, freely? Ideas that are difficult to grasp in everyday life, more so as verb and action. Here, we’re watching and experiencing it. To reach that sensation of surrender is his relationship with the ground and gravity that is seamless.

As Akiyama enters the space, she commands the theatre instantaneously with her allure and maturity. She too, is in an altered oceanic state as she waves and teases rhythmically across the floor. Because she’s so mesmerising, I almost forget she can stand, until she stands on her two feet to approach Kirilov. Akiyama has an alpha presence as she simply walks towards Kirilov; almost demanding, but gently. Her unapologetic command of attention is striking in its bravery. Her maturity in movement gives me a sense of almost yearning to age, because she reveals so much pleasure while dancing.

Akiyama and Kirilov throw themselves toward, away and with each other. They have conversations purely through specific gestures that we could and could not configure, but that doesn’t matter. By seeing beyond the movements, there’s a willing sense of trust and suspension with each other. More than anything, they’re playful in their nuances, interactions and initiations.

I can’t help but remember that this is their life beyond the black box, too. They share this relationship of playfully diving with each other in real life. Towards the final scene, Kirilov plays a nostalgic song from the cassette player. As they dance in duet, they playfully tease, finding crevices within the shapes they were making with their body to swim through and between each other. Shamelessly and with full trust, they throw each other around, holding moments of suspension and strength. Their love is a fantasy. They leave you in a dreamy state of hope and love for communication beyond our notions of understanding.

"Broken Lines" by Dimo Kirilov and Tamako Akiyama. Image: Bernie Ng
“Broken Lines” by Dimo Kirilov and Tamako Akiyama. Image: Bernie Ng

From one dream to another, Zero by Humanhood,  made up of Rudi Cole (U.K.) & Júlia Robert (Spain), takes us on a ritualistic, scientific and immersive experience. Humanhood brings us into a place that is other-worldly.

Their opening scene is of a dusted circle covered with white chalk on the floor. The warm light from the left focuses on Robert in a womb-like position as she is suspended in the air, carried by Cole. The sense of time for this second piece is continuous and prolonged, asking for more patience from the audience to allow the movements to sink in deeper.

They move in a ritualistically repetitive pattern, as Robert dances through cyclic floor work, following the dusted circle, making her marks on the ground. Throughout the piece, the lighting and sound has an impeccable effect. The lighting is explored in 360 degrees, giving the space more depth beyond the four walls, and into a more circular sphere.

There’s a moment of halt when Robert carries Cole on her shoulders, bringing us back to the opening sequence, where Cole was carrying Robert. Again, this shared sense of inter-dependency as bodies, as people, as individuals.

After such churning and stimulation, mid-way, they leave the circle empty and barren, giving space to the over-bearing 360-degree soundscape to take over. It felt like a sound bath washing over us through whispers, bringing me into a rainforest that was trying to tell me unearthly things.

They return to the barren space with a heightened presence, a deeper embodiment of the cyclic rituals that they had gone through. Their movements as a duo have a complete sense of connection with each other, even without contact. Their synchronicity in breath and energetic relationship is uncanny and has a dervish quality to them. Their patterns are mirrored on the floor as the dusted circle breaks its lines and form floral shapes with their feet.

Potentially durational, they keep going to the point of no pause. The over-bearing rhythms seem to give them the conviction to continue. Amidst their virtuosity, they close the circle by surrendering, kneeling down, weary but with open chest and heart.

It feels like they still continue on even after the closing and applause, as they leave you with a reverberation that we all embody these rhythms, patterns and cycles.

Two dream-like states: one of aquatic and playful communication in Broken Lines by Kirilov-Akiyama Dance Projects, and the immersive virtuosity of Zero by Humanhood. It’s a powerful way to close the festival, with a memorable note on inter-dependency and partnerships, not only with people but our internal and external landscapes.

 

Selected Reviews

Binary: Intense Introspection” by Bernice Lee (FiveLines)


Binary: International Artists Showcase took place on 29 – 30 June 2017 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, as part of the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival 2017.

Guest Contributor Chloe Calderon Chotrani (b. 1992, Metro Manila) is a dance artist, teacher and writer based in Singapore. She works with the belief that our artistic skills should be deeper integrated with society. She was a dance artist scholar with Romançon Dance in Manila and has worked with B Supreme London, Evidence Dance, Movement Research and Gibney Dance in New York. She holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She is interested in interdisciplinary research on topics of eco-feminism, decolonisation and ancestry as a Filipina culture-bearer artist of the Diaspora. Find her on her website.

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