If you’re not used to reading the program notes of a performance, it’s easy to miss out that this is the second stage of a three-year incubation of works by the choreographers. It’s clear to me that each choreographer takes a slightly different approach to the meaning of development. While Marcus Foo worked a lot with “practice” and retained much of his imagery, Anthea Seah’s work seemed to refocus on different imagery while continuing her efforts at connecting non-narrative ideas. Goh Shou Yi continues his obsession with “MA”, the in-between, the simplicity of his aesthetic matched by sound and design. For the latter, the live-ness of sound artist Ng Jing melded superbly with the sparseness of Liu Yong Huay’s lighting design. These artists’ contribution to the staging of space and liminality highlighted the necessity for giving space to the act of dancing.
Each choreographer is on a journey and the richness of their process presents itself on stage — the level of detail in movement and staging is meticulous, though at times the bias towards action allows intention to take a backseat. With each shift of the body (and there are many – these dancers can seem to move at faster than my eye can capture) their relationships, the sense of space, and the choreographer’s focus seems to shift. Even when all the dancers are focused on one task, for instance in Anthea’s work where they all climb and leap on chairs – their bodies fragment the space, presenting angles and speeds, virtuosic feats of agility and strength, I pay attention, though I am not sure what I am really paying attention to. This is perhaps both the joy and frustration of watching contemporary dance — there are so many codes and rules to choose from, that where we are at the beginning might be very far from where we end.
The works seem to reflect the nature of living in a pluralistic, urban society like Singapore, where we turn a corner and the architecture might suggest a different era, a different culture, a different set of rules. Our minds frequently fail at keeping track of multiplicity and watching these works reminded me of this fact. While I was busy interpreting the intentions behind a costume, an action, a musical switch, I was forgetting the amount of attention a dancer might have paid to how they were moving their limbs, or how the choreographer made the audience turn our heads to look left.
There are simple pleasures within the works. Sometimes I take a rest from trying to make sense or understand, and just enjoy the movement of a quicksilver solo, the “incidental” touch of lips as heads tilt together, a unison of expansive, breathy motion. When the choreographers take a step back from their work and prepare for the final phase, they will be able to reframe and communicate their intentions once more. Perhaps discovering and working at elements where they are each different, would hone their unique choreographic perspectives even more.