Diverse Abilities Dance Collective (DADC) by Maya Dance Theatre (MDT) presents SEEDS: a digital dance production rooted in the values of care, connection and collaboration. Featuring 7 short works, 3 international and 4 local, SEEDS showcases the capabilities and potential of the DADC artists and associates as they uncover and present their unique individualities and identities.
The four local works were new pieces co-created by the DADC dancers and local choreographers. The collaborative, dialogical processes shone through clearly in each of the works as well as in the footage of rehearsals and interviews preceding each piece, introduced by host Judith Teo (DADC).
In Dusk Till Dawn – choreographed by Eva Tey (MDT) and Jaspreet Kaur (DADC); performed by June Lin (DADC) – they explored the themes of isolation and yearning, using the moments of darkness and dusk before dawn as an evocative motif for exploration. Visually, this was composed on stage with June situated in a sea of chairs, washed in dim lighting. Set to a deep, throbbing soundtrack by Korean choreographer and sound designer Kim Jae Duk, June’s movements feature deep, grounded pliés and hand gestures reminiscent of her Bharatanatyam training. Her frustration is palpable as she moves, confronting these steely, unyielding structures. Alone amongst the chairs, she begins to gravitate towards a warm, emerging spotlight. In its illumination, June smiles, seemingly beginning to discover that what she has been seeking had all along been herself.
In a similar overture of self-discovery and growth, Chrysalis, performed by Chen Wanyi (DADC) and choreographed by Subastian Tan (MDT), explores how one’s self-perception is constructed and conceived, and hence warped, through the eyes of others. Set against a recording of an interview with Wanyi (conducted by Imran Manaff), the audience becomes privy to Wanyi’s inner thoughts – how she sees herself, her body, and who she aspires to be – as we watch her examine herself on stage, surrounded by her reflection in mirrors. She physicalises her hurt and discomfort as she grapples with unkind comments and external judgement: wrestling with an outer denim shirt, she eventually sheds it, much like the shedding of a chrysalis as a caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. In a thoughtful costuming choice, worn in place of Wanyi’s denim shirt is the same shirt that choreographer Subastian wears in his interview footage – perhaps symbolic of how a mentor’s guidance can become his mentee’s wings.
The latter two of the four local works shift subtly into more technical choreography, pushing the dancers to greater heights of performance and skill. In Tandem II – choreographed by Shaun Lim and performed by Arassi Rajkumar (DADC) and Hee Yuan Shang (DADC) – sees the dancers in a contemporary duet that draws lines of connectivity between the dancers through spatial composition and repeated movement motifs. The complementary colours of their costumes seem to further affirm the relation. The piece begins with Arassi and Yuan Shang apart, although they quickly notice each other and then begin movement sequences in canon. Through movement developed from the dancers’ drawings of the notions of care and connection, a camaraderie emerges onstage; they gradually move in tandem and then in a concluding partnership. It is notable how the dancers were given space to each interpret and embody Shaun’s choreography for themselves, making for a sincere performance filled with an easeful presence.
Megan Tang (DADC)’s Gypsy Love, choreographed by Antonio Vargas, carried a similarly captivating energy as Megan effusively performed the Flamenco routine, her confidence disguising the fact that this is her first exposure to the Spanish dance form. As the final piece of the digital presentation, it was a befitting finale and a rousing end with Megan’s infectious joy and spirit.
This edition of SEEDS also featured three international works: That Extra ‘Some choreographed by Liz Lea, performed by Katie Senior (Australia); Re:Imagine Home choreographed by Karina Syahna and Cedric Tanamas, performed by dancers of G-STAR Gigi Art of Dance (Indonesia); Swagatam Krishna choreographed and performed by Babli Ramachandran (India).
That Extra ‘Some consisted of a film that introduces Katie and her unique individuality that often gets overshadowed by virtue of having an extra chromosome, interspersed with footage of a previous performance of the same title. In another filmic approach, Re:Imagine Home was a dance film that looked at the boredom and frustration felt in lockdown, and the resultant creativity as the dancers challenged themselves to reimagine their surroundings. The sense of community between the dancers was clear as they interact candidly with each other, and the film whimsically captured the warped sense of time as the days of staying at home blended into one another. On a contrasting note, Babli’s Swagatam Krishna was a classical Bharatanatyam piece performed and filmed at her home in India, which proved an interesting re-situation – with the dance of devotion to Lord Krishna melded with an additional layer of birds and traffic noises. While all three international pieces reflect varying degrees of collaboration, they all successfully reveal the achievement of their performers in and beyond their artistic crafts.
It is clear that the value of a platform such as SEEDS lies beyond simply being a dance production: the platform is akin to a bed of fertile soil upon which sown seeds grow and blossom. The performance itself is not the end goal, and this is confirmed by the presentational choice of weaving interviews and rehearsal processes into the digital production itself. Rather, SEEDS offers an experience that develops greater capacities for care and connection for both artists and audience, and is an encouraging addition to the growing network of support and opportunities for diverse abilities and talents. With more diverse artists having a platform because of long-needed cultural shifts, the hope is that art also affects culture, as audiences’ perspectives shift and grow.
SEEDS premiered online from 17 – 19 June 2021.
Yixuan is a movement creative who enjoys dabbling in multiple disciplines and capacities through an embodied approach. She graduated with a BA First Class Honours in Dance and Choreography from Falmouth University (United Kingdom), and now freelances as a performer, maker and teacher amidst other in-betweens. Her artistic practice stems from a sense of curiosity and urgency towards the self and the world around, and she finds the body to be a way of seeing through which new perspectives and greater understandings emerge.