On 25 June, a small group of children gathered to watch T.H.E Dance Company’s Dance At Dusk together, at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. The children met with three dance artist-educators – Bernice Lee, Faye Lim, and Melissa Quek – to experience watching a contemporary dance piece together, and then to write about it.
Below are their dance reviews. We hope that readers will enjoy the insights into the show from their perspectives. The artist-educators certainly appreciated them. While the children were guided through a brief workshopping and editing process, the words and opinions are all theirs.
This children’s dance review project is a collaboration between Rolypoly Family and FiveLines. This initiative aims to deepen young people’s engagement with dance. We are grateful to the children, their parents, and people at cont·act Contemporary Dance Festival and The Esplanade for their involvement in this educational endeavour.
Review by Ellie, age 10
I found the show serious and confusing. I found the facial expressions boring. I preferred the first piece《起风了》Rising Winds to the second piece Kawayan, because it had faster movements in it. Why are the chairs in the first piece different colours?
The performers were better at dancing than I thought they would be.
Why are the performers barefooted?
How long do the performers practice for a show?
Do they find the show confusing?
How did the performers feel before, during, and after the show?
Review by Emma, age 12
What is dance? To me, dance is creatively moving in any formation and in any way. Dance at Dusk comprises of two contemporary dances: 《起风了》Rising Wind and Kawayan.
《起风了》Rising Wind by Albert Tiong is a dramatic and electric dance with plenty of movement and eerie narration. However, the eerie narration only lasts for the first part of the choreography. This contemporary dance starts off with 8 male and female dancers sitting on chairs, which they later use as props. Their black and white office wear as well as the narration and buzzing static in the background coming from the speakers creates a creepy yet suspenseful mood. As someone who has hardly watched contemporary dance and usually watches ballet dancing, Dance at Dusk is something that I have never seen before. It is more sorrowful and scary than the ballet performances that I have seen.
By comparison, Kawayan by Klievert Mendoza is a calmer dance that links to nature. The male and female dancers dance in the dim light, and usually there are two dancers facing each other and walking around in circles, staring at each other. Something different about contemporary dance than ballet is that the male and female actually both can dance the same moves, while in ballet, the female and male dancers dance different moves. At one point, the music builds up and the lights gradually turn brighter and more intense. Out of the blue, one dancer leaps over another. I noticed that no one was smiling except when one dancer briefly smiled at the audience, so quick it was hard to notice. This emphasizes the sad mood in the dance. Since kawayan means bamboo in Tagalog, maybe, the dancers were supposed to represent bamboo sticks. They wore green and brown clothing, which reminded me of greenery.
Unfortunately, in the background, the National Day Performance Rehearsal was going on, and fireworks lit up the sky in the background while the dance was going on. I felt sorry for the dancers as the audience was getting distracted, looking at the fireworks and taking pictures. I wonder how the dancers managed not to get distracted when the audience turned around to look at the fireworks.
Although I found both dances confusing and sad, all in all, the dances were interesting and unique. I found the dances confusing and sad as there was no exact storyline, so I did not really know what was happening. Nevertheless, I remained interested in the dances because the narration in the first dance was full of suspense, and the dancing in the second dance seemed like it carried a story that could be unravelled, so it caused me to use my creativity and think of a possible storyline.
Review by Sky, age 15
Both pieces in Dance at Dusk, performed at the Esplanade’s Outdoor Theatre, were confusing yet intriguing which kept me hooked to the performances.
Rising Winds had an eerie feeling to it because of its echoey and retro-sounding audio with the clipped speech and sound of static.
As the dancers moved on and around the different coloured chairs there was a voiceover with lines about “falling and only being able to stop if you force yourself to”. These lines made me think about falling into a rabbit hole or bad habits. It’s so easy to start something but pretty hard to get out of them. I also remember that during these lines some of the dancers fell forward in a plank, as if they were doing a failed pushup. They would stand, fall onto their arms and then flop on the floor.
Kawayan was even more confusing because the audio had no voices as compared to Rising Winds so it was a little harder to get the concept but I liked that they used different lighting colours to represent 2 different sides. With warm pink tones shining from one side of the stage and cool blue colours from the opposite side. There was a lot of dancing in unison but when a dancer would perform a solo or duet that was separate from the group, this made me also think about stepping out of the mould or comfort zone.
Perhaps Kawayan was more confusing because I was distracted by fireworks and a beautiful sunset. Despite these distractions both performances were danced very well. The movement was fluid and you could feel emotion from them.
Dance at Dusk, part of cont·act Contemporary Dance Festival, is a family-friendly series of contemporary dance works for the young and old alike. Dance at Dusk played from 24 – 26 June 2022 at Esplanade Outdoor Theatre.