Before we begin, have a look at this, from Another Energy.
4. Jabula, by Natalie Weir
Good choreography, as always. Interesting pairings this round, though the group pair-work could have been a bit smoother. This is a short work, suitable for BUTS and Passages. Brought to mind longer works like 4Seasons, Age of Innocence and Lambarena — they carry a similar emotional quality.
The men emerge first, led by Nakamura Kenya, through a gap between black curtains. Legs open squarely as the men jump; clutched arms behind the back and one arm straight out behind, ala the dance move known as the dab (though not quite). Very cool, and powerful. They’re wearing very thick knee guards, perhaps to protect them from the strain.
Elaine Heng and May Yen Cheah, too, wear knee guards in their alternating role as Mother Earth / Mother Nature (imagination, life is your creation…i.e. all this is made up by the viewer). Like the men, they wear huge billowing pants, which make for absolutely stunning images when they kick up a leg (e.g. behind in attitude) and swirl. Mother Earth, kneeling to the ground at the start, and rising up, bright-eyed, breaking into a life-giving dance.
Elaine Heng’s is a pure, sensuous, strong, nurturing Mother Earth, and her every move reminds you that there is no substitute for good technical execution, which brings joy into the heart of the viewer. May Yen Cheah bursts into dance with the electrifying vitality of Mother Nature; hips in a circle Lambarena-like, hand drawn up to the chin as if she is drinking from the spring of life — the glory and the light, startling the men into action after she leaves the stage. I write this review now (as opposed to majorly belatedly) solely for the purpose of bringing you these 2 paragraphs, before they exit the memory. Also because Passages was much shorter than the other SDT things for the year #excusesawordthatcannotberepeatedtwiceinahashtagasitlooksawkwardthen
When the curtain is pulled aside, we get the entrance of the emperor (Etienne Ferrere)…until he lies down and rolls over on the ground while the others watch (which makes him the … sacrifice?), before dashing off, so that we can launch into the Etienne Ferrere Show (in an absolutely positive sense). Good clean movements and single-hand flips, and the like. A charismatic spitfire solo. This must be the rite of passage spoken of in the booklet.
One of the best parts of Jabula follows: Yorozu Kensuke and Jason Carter join Etienne Ferrere, and become his supports for a variety of acrobatic moves, flipping him so he rises up in the air, holding him high above their heads — almost playground antics, but also tremendous displays of teamwork.
Two pas de deux that must not go unmentioned:
a) A brief show of trust and strength from Miura Takeaki and Yorozu Kensuke, e.g. rolling off one’s back, a quick balance on the other’s back etc.
b) Chihiro and Kenya. Not for the faint-hearted: a one-armed lift — his arm, holding her up by hers. I love how this segues into a group dance with the other pairs, with a great number of eye-popping, startling, sharp moves. Natalie Weir’s works always have quite stunning moments, and Jabula is chock-full of beautiful pair-work moments that have a beautiful freedom to them: ladies leaping up backwards, arms starburst-open, onto the outstretched impaling supporting arms of the gentlemen; ladies swinging up and leaping off the upper thighs of the men, arms open wide; ladies held by the waist as they bow (hands folded like dove’s wings, or fingers meeting in the centre in first) and then lift their heads. Staggered timing in the turns and twists and lifts make for an intriguing pattern onstage.
And, closing the performance, when all the pairs are looking down at the stage (ladies kneeling and men bent-kneed behind them), Chihiro and Kenya recreate that iconic moment that was seen in an earlier act, from all the pairs: Chihiro, kneeling on the ground, hooks her left arm into the crook of Kenya’s left arm, and swivels herself round on her knees, toes pointed to the sky, and stares up into his face yearningly.
You’ll see that a lot of the above description was more motion- rather than story-based. There’s a great deal to see.
Shoskatovich was a cheerful way to start the day/night. Timothy Harbour’s work was slick and sharp, Christina Chan’s felt quite intimate and personal, like a person standing in a circle of light and narrating a story, and Jabula was quite a feat.
For rewatching, I’d pick Another Energy and Jabula, I think. The latter for its rush of energy and shapes, and the former, just to better understand it. Because, looking back and comparing the pairwork for the two, I was struck by how very different the choreography and dancing were, and how well it fitted into whatever piece was being performed. You’d have the same folks, perhaps (Chihiro and Kenya) in a pas de deux, and it would be slick and nick for Another Energy; and it would be energetic and a little more direct in Jabula. And that made me long to watch Another Energy again, to see how the choreography worked with the music.