By Ezekiel Oliveira
(573 words, 5-minute read)
Subtle lighting can enhance any dance piece, but the gloom that pervades this triple bill too often leaves the fine choreography lurking in the shadows. The decision must have had an artistic impetus, but the result often leaves everyone – performers and audience – dancing in the dark.
Kuik Swee Boon, restages Water Bloom, a dance piece initially created in 2009 for NUS Arts Festival. A green bamboo cane hangs from the ceiling, parallel to a pendant lamp, providing a visual counterpoint to the athletic moving ensemble of six. According to the programme, “water bloom is a rapid increase of accumulation in the population of algae in freshwater or marine water systems.”
In washed-out green dresses, three light as feather female dancers move in perfect harmony and unison, precisely portraying this idea of mutation, expansion, and appropriation of the environment. The choreography bounces across from the female dancers to the male cast, and in each exchange and repetition, the choreography flows with a liquid-like quality. At times, they look as though they are descending in slow motion within the deep ocean, securing nutrients from the depths and swelling into gigantic, malleable dancing anemones. I know that the bottom of the sea is murky, but I wish Swee Boon would shine a light so that we could see the full potential of the dance.
This devotion to gloominess continues into the second installment of Three Kin. Choreographer Kim Jae Duk proposes a conversation in Mark1 – dialogue and dance. This trio has a central duet, but sometimes it proves uncomfortable as the third shadow performer joins in. A tug of war unfolds between Brandon Khoon and Billy Keohaving, fighting with a quality that borderlines gesture and martial arts, pulling and pushing off one another. Ng Zu You looks like the third wheel in this situation integrating either side of the team in a chain of consecutive actions and reactions. The most exciting aspect of this trio is its composition that arises from the music. Loud banging sounds introduce every new section of the dance. Jae Duk produces a liberation from the body, traditionally the principal instrument and source of dance, to focus instead on the composition of light and sound of the choreography – ultimately creating a dance piece in tune with all its elements.
Perhaps someone… by Dimo Kirilov Milev, opens with a delicate and delightful duet. Anthea Seah and Keohaving lend a helping hand to one another in a weightless exchange of movement with arms swinging in an arc-like motion. Keohaving suspends Seah from her pelvis; upside-down hovering over the stage. In each sequence there is a suspension mid-way, allowing us to witness the attachment and close connection they have, only for the connection to be broken with a fall to the floor, taking the performers back to where they started. The piece extends to a cast of six who crawl out of the shadows and start to manipulate Zu You to lift the pelvis up, drop the head down, swing the right knee up to the right, and continue to assist in his movement. These orders escalate quickly into an argument with exact staccato movement responses from Zu You.
But again the lighting makes it hard to see, and as the evening draws to a close, and I can’t help feeling that I have only been allowed glimpses of what is hiding in the shadows, denied an opportunity to enjoy the entire choreography.
Ezekiel Oliveira is a choreographer and dancer. Originally from Portugal, he has performed in Europe with Tamzin Fitzgerald, Hofesh Schechter, Stephan Koplowitz and Fleur Darkin amongst others. He choreographed Skin – A Choreographic Response for Singapore Art Museum. Vent for Maya Dance Theatre, ONWARDS for NAFA and more recently Punch Me for ‘The Next Generation’ – da:ns festival. He writes extensively about dance in Singapore at FiveLines.