Shadow’s Edge by Ma Cong (Music – Bryce Dessner)
Dancers: Rosa Park, Li Jie, Tanaka Nonoko, Chua Bi Ru, Alison Carroll, Maughan Jemesen, Kwok Min Yi, Elaine Heng, Chen Peng, Nazer Salgado, Zhao Jun, Etienne Ferrère, Jason Carter, Nakamura Kenya, Shan Del Vecchio, Stefaan Morrow
The general sense is of the great, grand and slow, the orchestra, the symphony, before it breaks into about ten minutes of frenzied, articulate motion. There’s control, but of a different sort from the first piece. High-scale vision, stepping back and giving moves that draw out the music, without being overwhelmed.
I’m always a bit hesitant about writing anything too negative. (Unless it’s a Japanese drama that has wasted everyone’s resources and time…)
There are so many scenes one can’t record them all. Rosa Park enters and is held aloft by two men, one trembling leg straight in the air, while Chen Peng lies on the floor at the front; when she is lowered, Rosa Park and Chen Peng enter into a short pas de deux. When the music picks up, men leap in, their orange outfits making them flames to the eye. The arms are streamers, are beats to the music.
Parts of it summoned Edward Liaang’s sweeping epic Opus 25 to mind. The group gathering in the middle while Rosa Park circles it, before the dancers break and split by gender and fall back together, couples embracing; how Chen Peng lifts his hand and a spotlight falls on him and Rosa; how the group is still for a moment, and, at a sudden move, the music starts again, in frenzied intensity.
There’s sheer strength and grace when Elaine Heng and Chua Bi Ru are lifted by men high above shoulder level so they may do splits, or leap in the air across the stage, or are lowered to trail their feet on the ground and bow towards each other, mirror reflections. The men, in leaping towards each other (I think Shaan, Stefaan, Jason, Nazer) in the centre of the stage, arms outstretched; three couples on the stage turning.
Nazer is a strong, capable dancer, and he is partnered with Li Jie, and when the lights go out on their end of the stage, she is poised as an eagle en pointe, wings curved to strike; long, clean, fluid lines.
Maughan Jemesen and Nakamura Kenya also dance together a few times. I’ve seen them in other dances, but not partnering each other, I think–and they are experienced and always hit the mark (for want of a better phrase). Somehow, I don’t know why, I felt that I could see their individual strengths a little more clearly in those (other) pieces. This is not to say they weren’t good in this, or that this didn’t suit them. But I think I am thinking of, amongst other things, Shostakovich and Swipe (Maughan), and Theme and Variations (Nakamura Kenya). Probably, I am thinking of solos with nostalgia.
There’s no holding back, nothing sparing, but nothing too lavish in the choreography. It reminds me of what the mangaka of the Japanese comic Kuroko no Basuke essentially said about his (excellent) comic: “I was worried it would not be serialised [i.e. continued] in the magazine, so I threw in everything I wanted to say, and gave it my best shot”. You can see it in the intensity of the dances, the swift movements, dancers spinning across the stage.
At the build up to the finale, all the dancers gather, and dance in a ring, together and away from the shadow’s edge, before falling to the ground as Chen Peng lifts Rosa Park straight up and holds her aloft in the air, and the show ends with a bang.
The audience adored this piece, and cheered for it tremendously at the Saturday afternoon show. It really did sweep the audience off its feet. I’d be interested to see the other works Ma Cong has choreographed. I wonder, because there were parts that really reminded me of Opus 25, and I don’t know if his style is generally of this large canvas sort.
The link below appears to lead to the music for the second, quicker, portion. The Kronos Quartet with Bryce Dessner: “Aheym”.
I must say that I honestly enjoy watching everyone dance. To avoid lengthy passages on everyone’s moves, I have cut out things, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t see, or appreciate, all of it. I do hope that they’ll bring this back sometime. I imagine it will be at next year’s Ballet Under the Stars (BUTS), unless they bring in Giselle in the Park again. But I have enjoyed Neoclassical/Contemporary Night at BUTS this year so much that I hope they bring it back.
The dance is supposed to be about unity in the group against darkness at the edge of the shadows. I just enjoyed it as it was without noticing that theme too much.
Next up: Blue Snow.
Please note that the above picture is from the brochure and is of a work from last year. My mind thinks it is Shimazaki Toru-san’s Absence of Story, but I could be wrong.
In the meantime, here are pictures from the SDT website, of Intermezzo. Do have a look. Memories of a lovely day at the ballet 🙂