From lifts to backflips, Project UpSideRight is a triple-bill dance production that seeks to find that delicate balance between acro dance, circus and contemporary dance.
Initiated by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts’ graduates Beverly Wan and Xenres Kirishima, who are both trained and specialising in inversions, the production is a good attempt at choreography, storytelling and pushing the boundaries of what dance can be.
Nascent is the introductory work that kicks off the night. Choreographed by Wan and Koh Jia Sheng, it is a romantic duet that marks the beginning of youthful love that seems to be cut short due to national obligations. The dance has a strong focus on circus elements and partnerwork, such as cartwheels and other partnering tricks. These moves are not easy to execute, which relies a lot on mutual trust and reliance—a further metaphor for romance, perhaps—and most moves are done in good rhythm. I enjoy the evolution of springy steps, playful uses of the dance moves to wipe mimed windows and sorting of clothes, to steps done with more urgency and speed to reflect the yearning and heartbreak. Wan is also a joy to watch, her movements and facial expressions successfully telling the audience a story.
This melancholy is transformed into desperation and survival in the next piece titled Terminal. Choreographed by Wan herself, the audience looks on as four dancers are pit against each other in a game of survival. Acrobatics at the forefront, this piece also has some physical theatre inspiration to carry the survival narrative forward. Repetition is evident in this piece, with some hits and misses, but the suspense and excitement fails to build in tandem with the fast-paced music. It will help with a tightening of the choreography and more clarity with the moves done. However, Koh stands out in this piece with his clean and consistent movements.
Tempest choreographed by Xenres Kirishima closes the night. The piece captivates right at the beginning as Kirishima combines flow and disruption beautifully in his solo moment. It is a breath of fresh air from heavy-lifting and hard-hitting moves that dominate the dance pieces thus far. Drawing from experiences of an individual living with bipolar disorder, the work has micro-acrobatic elements with a bigger focus on flow, rhythm and embodying the music being played. Although seemingly haphazard and slightly confusing, I appreciate the solo moments all the dancers have, to add their own personalities and style of moving into the work.
Fresh, raw and bare for the audience to experience, all three works are still in their incubation phase. Their ideas are bold and bright, but more polishing needs to be done for them to truly shine and stand on their own as distinct works. However, it is promising to see a self-initiated project staged, as it speaks of a beginning. A beginning to having more platforms dedicated to making original work, showing them and evolving them.
This act of making things happen, self-reliance and ambition will carry these dancers far in their careers, as well as change up the local dance scene to something more varied and flavourful.
But what truly stood out from Project UpSideRight is the atmosphere of warmth, support and encouragement.
Brownies and flowers sold right outside the Studio Theatre are done by Wan’s friend and mother, while her younger sister stands by the door to let audiences in. Observing the wide smiles on everyone’s faces as they exit the theatre and into the foyer, it leaves a comforting feeling in my heart that dance will continue to evolve and grow—with this show of unconditional belief and support for our next generation of dancers.