Apparently missed out on an interesting show the previous night, with the Asian Emerging Artists series kicking off with works that involved an apple and erm, bodily fluids.
It was half-half for me at tonight’s AEA II, which featured Steve Goh’s Fuse and Yarra Ileto’s Spare Rm (above) as performed by the much improved THE Second Company.
“Very Pina Bausch,” commented the lady beside me during the intermission break, referring to the former. (Which wasn’t off the mark at all, as I later read that the Malaysian had in fact been a member of the late dance great’s Tanztheater Wuppertal.)
Not that I was particularly drawn to Fuse. While it all started promisingly – the dancers’ sensuously slow movements in the dim light seemingly transforming them into sculptures coming to life – it eventually went, well, nowhere.
There were some interesting moments – the dreamy sight of women “floating” or “flying” as it were, carried aloft by their male counterparts – but for a piece that primarily consists of abstract movements and patterns, it felt like the material demanded much more than what some of the performers could offer.
Or maybe I was expecting way too much of them – particularly since midway through the show, I got frustrated by what I was hearing.
An incessant string accompaniment that picks up and picks up and… you get the point. The great build up that never happened, its promise of some joyous climax transformed into something grating.
I thoroughly enjoyed Spare Rm, though.
Looks like THE hasn’t just been cultivating promising dancers but choreographers too. After Lee Mun Wai’s Vague Individual Situations last week, it was Ileto’s turn to shine.
In contrast to the emotional monotony of the first piece, Spare Rm’s jittery energy immediately clicked with me, its abrupt shifts in intensity (and yes, an equally jittery electronic soundtrack) kept me on the edge. There’s a rhythmic quality to the choreography as performers — who seemed more in their element in this piece than in Fuse — walked about nonchalantly, before collapsing in unison.
It’s also a rather eerie piece. To one side was a framed video of a bedroom. As dancers walked past, they tilted their heads in a that slow, measured manner not out of place in, well, horror films. They seemingly looked into this other world where the clothes in a half-opened wardrobe move ever so slightly to some unseen wind source.
There’s, of course, this whole thing with clothes going on. While the latter moments, where performers walked across the stage carrying bundles of clothes that they’d dump all over the floor, made me think of Salvation Army, the dancer’s constant act of trying to peel off their tops with difficulty was visceral, evoking an antagonistic relationship with their very bodies.
The nervous nature of the piece (echoed and reinforced by Anna Rouhu’s exceptional lighting contrasts) and its concerns about the Inside and the Outside made me think of just how anxiety has permeated contemporary life. The mental tic no longer a kind of strange Other that we confront but something internalised and normalised, as hard to discard as the clothes on our backs.
(There’s another show later tonight, Dec 1, 8pm. And there are other AEA shows as well until Friday. For more details on the fest, go here.)