In a space purpose-built for the energetic leaps and tricks of youth on skateboards, a group of performers kneel, stand, contort with determined tension in MARK. Sometimes their eyes widen, aghast. It is an arresting sight. A bubble of stillness in the middle of Orchard Road bustle.
For no obvious reason, one performer might rush to join the cluster. Another might stumble away. At irregular intervals, someone’s fingers would form a shape reminiscent of South Asian/Southeast Asian dance. Their bodies will build so much tension that they start to glitch, like robots, or like they are hitting against a wall. The rules of the game are known only to them. They perform as if their lives depend on maintaining this single-minded focus as if theirs is the only world that matters. The dance, a work that interrogates the body in Singapore’s public spaces, becomes transportive at points. I forget where we are, I forget that I can move away, and am drawn into the internal worlds and imaginary things the dancers might be seeing. The audience’s attention barely flags. A pair of young boys with their scooters are riveted from start to end. It is surprising, considering these dancers are almost statue-like for a long time. A large white object lays in the corner, waiting.
The dancers start to throw thread. The thin strands tangle people together, and they must extricate themselves. Sometimes the dancers help. The audience responds in different ways, but mostly with delight and surprise. It is a literal network, but there is no room to be cynical about its overt symbolism. Balls of colourful string form, stuck to shoes and edges. It is a wonderful mess.
The dancers gather at the large white object and unfold it. The big payoff of the show is coming. Members of the audience are invited to join in as the dancers draw on the paper, with their hands and bodies, leaving traces of themselves behind. Finally, inspired by the holi festival in India, colourful powder is thrown into the air. The dancers are now beautiful, multicoloured animals, exhausted and energised by their efforts to leave a piece of themselves with us.
MARK leaves plenty of room for me to ponder, to change where I see things from, to observe other people. It turns out that the audience, the people across the road waiting at the bus stop, even the cars whizzing by, are all wrapped in the same stillness. There is both a lot and very little, going on at once. My sense of time warps.
In this multiplicity of perspective, choice, and possibility, there is true magic in the performance’s ability to create a singular world. The performers exert psychic forces, create magnetic fields, fully intent on their purposes. Perhaps, after all, theirs is the only world that matters.