Borderline by T.H.E Dance Company & Muscle Mouth looks dangerous from the outset, the absence of light creates mystery and anxiety, but it also hides the choreography.
Encompassing two new dance pieces in one production, Borderline starts the evening with Ross McCormack’s Area2. Set in what it feels like the inside of a cave; a dancer becomes the source of power, like a magnet attracting all the dancers to his centre but keeping the ensemble on the periphery of the body like scavengers looking to feed off a carcass. The sentiment is animalistic, the movement, however, is more alien-like. Throughout McCormack’s piece, it’s impossible not to draw parallels to science fiction cinema like Prometheus and Alien, partly because of the cinematic and mesmerising soundscape of Jason Wright, the other half of Muscle Mouth.
The movement is set with no room for uncertainty and segmented into smaller portions. In here, dancers map out short distances down the thighs to reach the floor at a fast speed. These precise instructions are a smart and stimulating device – fragmenting movement like this in a group of six dancers changes our perception of volume adding to an underlying narrative where perhaps the dancers aren’t humans.
To counterpoint this animalistic movement and very dark setting a big grey rock grounds the choreography and reminds us that the dancers are elsewhere, in a foreign land, an outer planet. The latter becomes a significant transition for the second half of Borderline, elegantly moved by a naked dancer of the stage.
Kuik Swee Boon is responsible for the choreography in the second half of Borderline with Vessel. Exploring his “hollow body” a movement philosophy present in previous works such as Helix in Progress and Pure.
Swee Boon’s investigation with the body is impressive, providing a platform where the dancers cast aside the unnecessary from within, finalising with a performance unique to each of them full-bodied and replenished with human sounds. However, this experience of humanistic dance value was very well crafted previously in Pure. But, in Vessel, the philosophy takes centre stage, devaluing the underlying narrative, a story where a small box is a source of sound and inspiration or reason to move.
Billy Keohavong manages to embody this philosophy beautifully, in a different costume he takes the floor with utmost resilience, talent and determination conquering the action and the audience with a spellbinding performance.