Intermezzo 2014 – Singapore Dance Theatre – Part 1

I write “Part 1” because I won’t be done by tonight.

Intermezzo had 3 premieres of works by 3 choreographers. I had a lovely time, and I really did want to cheer at the end of each and every piece, but for the fact that I was kind of shy because the audience was really close to the stage.

The performance was held in a smallish theatre, a little movie-theatre-like in that the seats cascaded downwards, rather than stretching out sideways. I don’t want to say the words “intimate setting”. The theatre’s used for a number of purposes — last we were there, we were watching National Theatre Live–so I believe there was a special floor laid out for dance purposes, grey and smooth. You could sort of see the ridge of the floor in front, like the top rim of a projector screen.

At Passages 2014 (the platform for showcasing works from a choreographic workshop), Mr Janek Schergen, Artistic Director of SDT, said that different choreographers have different styles, and their works say something about them. Different things of different people. With that in mind, let’s begin.

Traces We Left Behind by Christina Chan (Music – George Gershwin, Yo-Yo Ma)
Dancers: May Yen Cheah, Uchida Chihiro, Heidi Zolker, Sun Hong Lei, Timothy Coleman, Etienne Ferrere, Yorozu Kensuke, Huo Liang, Jake Burden

Quick visual summary– dancers all wearing hats, in shirts and casual pants. The brochure says that this reflects where we are right now and …about the realisation that each instance or encounter that we have will never completely disappear or be forgotten.

Lilting, nuanced, controlled.

Frankly, I am not always a visual metaphor person. But a few times, you could sense, or see, a few times, how the people onstage sort of yearned for their hats, for the little pieces of themselves. The phrase for “yearn” that I am thinking of is “眷恋”, which the Chinese internet says means “be sentimentally attached to [something]” / something you can’t bear to leave behind”. At one point, after reaching out for others’ hats and swapping hats in a little huddle, as a body, the dancers throw their hats behind them when Etienne Ferrere gives a swooping shudder–as if at a signal, tossing everything behind without a second glance; and then they pause, and return to their hats, as if drawn on a magnetic lure.

There’s a lot of detail and careful control in the choreography and dancing.

For instance, to the sound of an orchestra tuning up, everyone, in a carefully orchestrated moment, swaps hats. Sometimes someone wears two hats, and there’s even the pulling of hats with teeth.

And, after a pas de deux between Timothy Coleman and Heidi Zolker leaves them crouched at the edge of the stage, May Yen Cheah enters, and they watch as she starts dancing, clean lean moves, as are her style. And slowly, slowly, the others enter, and watch, and then slide into the motions easily, mirroring someone else on the stage, in different synchrony. It’s a treat watching how, say, Kensuke’s moves eventually time themselves with Etienne’s, or how Heidi casually examines Chihiro and Hong Lei who are at the back of the stage, and then faces the audience and, back to the others, starts moving in tandem with them.

There are also little touches that stick in the mind, and they’re too nifty and nuanced to say that they are quaint, or too deliberate.

A dance set to light lilting summer-time music begins the piece. Picnic music for a delicate pas de deux involving Uchida Chihiro (braids and an Anne Shirley hat), and Jake Burden. Little moves: he holds her by her hunched shoulders; slowly, gently, he kicks her legs forward so she steps ahead; holding hands when they slid across the stage; he lifting her lightly above his head so she sails across the stage; him cupping her chin gently while she leans forward, wobbling slightly.

Pure silence, and Huo Liang taking centrestage with clean moves.

The pas de deux between Timothy Coleman and Heidi Zolker, which starts when they are left standing, staring at each other, each wearing the other’s hat. The light playful paired moves, the sudden disappearance of a hat that you don’t notice until Timothy pushes Heidi’s face lightly into his hat and she draws out, her red hat between her teeth. The tossing of Timothy’s hat in the air, captured lightly on his head, as he leaps up.

Yet at the end, as they gather in little groups and slowly disperse without looking back, leaving their hats behind, Timothy Coleman shrugs and disdainfully tosses his hat so that it strikes the air sharply, and he and Heidi march off, and all that remains is a circle of unwanted hats alone in the light.

There’s quite a lot of detail and control in this piece. This piece was two inches of ivory, carefully done. Parts of it are a bit slower, and I admit I’m partial to something light and interesting. Also, I was a little unclear about the meaning behind parts of the work, so I just sat back and watched the dancing then, and tried not to think too hard: why were dancers frozen in these poses, and why did he knock the hats or rearrange them? Shifting memories? Losing thoughts?

Something I’m quite excited about now, when watching works, is how entrances and exits are handled. I’d never thought about it until Mr Janek Schergen commented on it during Passages 2014. Simple and deft moves, shifting people in and out smoothly, (in Traces) advancing dancers across a stage till they vanish and hardly cease to be the focal point.

I remember he mentioned the use of music, as well—and of silence—and it’s weird how enjoyable watching something can be, with this little thought in mind. But I really know very little. I did peek into a book on choreography (it’s a little like peering into a book on film direction). There’s a book on Balanchine Then and Now in the exhibit in the library, together with the Don Quixote costumes. I wonder if I can disrupt the display—I don’t even know if it can be borrowed.

This is all for now. The other two pieces were Ma Cong’s Shadow’s Edge and Shimazaki Toru’s Blue Snow. Visual sweeping epic and big paintbrushes, and movement through music. I had a lot of memory space for the first dance, so any lesser detail on the other pieces are likely to be due to my brain’s hard disk drive running out of space 🙂

To be continued…


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