Germaine Cheng choreographer, dancer and critic with the Straits Times has been commissioned for a new dance work for DiverCity, a platform of M1 contact Contemporary Dance Festival running this Summer. Corollary 《知执止•秩》looks into human behaviour, expectations and social order. Germaine Cheng took her inspiration from Rube Goldberg machines; a complex system of chain reactions, with cause and effect on each other, as shown in this OK Go music video. ‘It didn’t take much research for me to discover the whimsical side of these machines.’
On the one hand, it seems that Germaine Cheng is examining human behaviour and expectations and on the other perhaps looking into social order, obedience and specific outcomes, like humans have with a machine. ‘The society we live in is like a machine, albeit with human parts. Each of these human parts is so conditioned to “behave” to serve the machine, but what happens if they don’t? What can drive these human parts out of their places or keep them ticking away?’
I am curious to understand how you work with machine versus human emotion? Did you strip your dancers of their feelings to create an emotionless but effective chain reaction?
‘It is important that the dancers have a personal relevance to the concept, but I am not concerned with emotion or the lack thereof. There can be emotion where necessary.’
Germaine Cheng furthers the idea of Rube Goldberg machine in choreography kinetically, working with the notion of chain reactions as a way of, ‘transferring energy or momentum from one person or one body part to the next, causing a physical response to another person’.
How do you deal with human error and accidents in this creative process? Do they become part of the performance? Will they perform the same piece exactly for every performance?
‘Human error and accidents are integral to the process and the piece since I am interested in investigating the idea of a machine with human parts – one which makes mistakes, but one that can also adjust and carry on. So rather than mistakes, I like to see them as doorways to new possibilities. The work will be different each night as we will be operating within certain improvisational structures.’
What is the role of the dancers versus music in your process?
‘I have had several Skype conversations with Hilary Long, who is designing the sound, about the concept and she too undergoes a similar process of thinking and improvising. As I take on both roles of a dancer and choreographer, it is important for me to create and maintain a feedback loop with the team so I understand each person’s needs and what cues help them.’