a-the-bird

a-the-bird

Interaction 2001 – The Asia Contemporary Dance Festival ( Indonesia)

Date & Time: 19 Oct 2001, 8pm

Venue: Auditorium of Vocational Education Development Centre for Arts and Crafts  (Pusat Pengembangan Penataran Guru Kesenian, PPPG Kesenian) Yogyakarta, Indonesia

 

About the festival:

Ecnad Project presented a-the-bird at the 4th Interaction Asia Contemporary Dance Festival, organised by INTERAKSI Foundation Network of Performing Arts Space. The festival, which is in its fourth year since 1998, featured choreographers from Japan, Canada, Singapore, Indonesia and Germany who will not only presented their works, but also participated in a series of dialogues through discussions and workshops.

 

35th Belgrade International Theatre Festival

Date: September 2001

Venue: Belgrade (Yugoslavia)

 

About the festival:

Ecnad Project performed two works, a-the-bird and Floating Mirror (Caution: Hippo Crossing!) to packed audiences at the 35th Belgrade International Theatre Festival. This is the first time a Singaporean arts group has been invited to participate in the well-regarded festival known for its open-minded and appreciative audiences.

Press Releases (2)

ECNAD IN YOGYAKARTA

Ecnad Project participates in The Asia Contemporary Dance Festival

25 September 2001

Ecnad Project Limited (the former Dance Dimension Project) will present a-the-bird at the 4th Interaction Asia Contemporary Dance Festival, organised by INTERAKSI Foundation Network of Performing Arts Space. The festival, which is in its fourth year since 1998, has also been an important asset for Yogyakarta, strengthening the city’s image as the centre of art and culture.

In Interaction 2001 Asia Contemporary Dance Festival, choreographers from Japan, Canada, Singapore, Indonesia and Germany who will not only present their works, but also participate in a series of dialogues through discussions and workshops.

a-the-bird is conceptualised and choreographed by Artistic Co-Director Lim Chin Huat. The work was originally conceived in 1994 and saw its 3rd revision during its Europe premiere at the 35th Belgrade International Theatre Festival. It will be the 4th performance of a-the-bird at Interaction 2001. a-the-bird will be performed by Ecnad Team A, the professional division of the company that works on a full-time basis.

Founded in 1996, Ecnad Project is Singapore’s first full-time contemporary dance group. Its 6 full-time dancers are led by artistic co-directors Lim Chin Huat and Tan How Choon. Both Lim and Tan received from the National Arts Council the Professional Artist Grant in 1999. Lim also received the Young Artist Award in 2000.

About Interaction Asia Contemporary Dance Festival

The idea of “Interaction 2001 Asia Contemporary Dance Festival” came in 1997 when Yogyakarta-based choreographer Bimo Wiwohatmo launched the idea to other choreographers from various Asian countries during the annual performing of “Bimo Dance Company” in the Jakarta Arts Building. The idea was implemented in 1998 as “INTERACTION I Asian Modern Dance” involving choreographers from Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Then, the term ‘Modern Dance’ was still used. But, the definition only presented a meaning which shows a more developed stage compared to that of traditional dance. Meanwhile, the definition of ‘Interaction’ is emphasized on the process of a more wider inter-cultural communication, beyond the border that of ‘tradition’ and ‘modern’. As such, the term “Asia Contemporary Dance Festival” is now used as from the fourth annual interaction.

About a-the-bird

a-the-bird, performed at the Pavilion at Far East Square in 2000, explores the human condition in a contemplative, ritualistic-like manner that draws the audience into a deep engagement. Images of birds symbolise the human longing for freedom. To realise that, humans sometimes need to shed their protective coverings. Underlying such conflict is a subtle, poignant beauty.

The visually moving piece revolves around a large piece of cloth and is set to custom-made pre-recorded sounds and an original musical score played by an unlikely ensemble of keyboard, gong, bell, flute, drums, Australian didgeridoo and Chinese tongqin (a metal bowl used by monks to chant).

Alternating between bird and human, the dancers play out Lim’s reflection on existentialist issues like freedom and human nature. “My work is all about the conflicting sides of humanity,” he says. “Although we may crave freedom and individual space, we also unconsciously stop ourselves from doing the things we want.”

Lim’s unbridled imagination and fine arts background results in a stage design that resembles a piece of installation art – gunny-sack packaging as backdrop material and a huge 8m-by-14m strip of white cloth hung loosely across the stage. Furthermore, the dancers are transformed into living sculptures through the stiff, fibrous white-coloured rice sack costumes that produce swishing and crunching sounds as they move about.

Performance Details

Date: 19 October 2001
Time: 8 PM
Venue: Auditorium of Vocational Education Development Centre for Arts and Crafts
(Pusat Pengembangan Penataran Guru Kesenian, PPPG Kesenian) Yogyakarta

With Support From

International Touring Grant of Singapore National Arts Council
LEE FOUNDATION

 

Ecnad Goes To Belgrade

Singaporean contemporary dance group participates in prestigious festival

1 August 2001

Singapore scores another first, this time in the arts.

The 35th Belgrade International Theatre Festival in Yugoslavia has invited Singaporean contemporary dance company, Ecnad Project Limited, to perform two works, a-the-bird and Floating Mirror (Caution: Hippo Crossing!). This is the first time a Singaporean arts group has been invited to participate in the well-regarded festival known for its open-minded and appreciative audiences.

Ecnad Project is Singapore’s leading contemporary dance company and has earned a reputation for cutting edge and highly visual productions.

Having toured regionally for the past few years, Ecnad Project has previously performed in cities such as Yogyakarta (Indonesia), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Auckland and Wellington (New Zealand). Ecnad Project’s trip to Belgrade is its 4th overseas tour.

Founded in 1996, Ecnad is Singapore’s first full-time contemporary dance group. Its 6 full-time dancers are led by artistic co-directors Lim Chin Huat and Tan How Choon. Both Lim and Tan received from the National Arts Council the Professional Artist Grant in 1999. Lim also received the Young Artist Award in 2000.

About a-the-bird and Floating Mirror

a-the-bird, performed at the Pavilion at Far East Square last year, explores the human condition in a contemplative, ritualistic-like manner that draws the audience into a deep engagement. The visually moving piece revolves around a large piece of cloth and is set to custom-made pre-recorded sounds and an original musical score played by an unlikely ensemble of keyboard, gong, bell, flute, drums, Australian didgeridoo and Chinese tongqin (a metal bowl used by monks to chant).

Conceptualised and choreographed by Artistic Co-Director Lim Chin Huat, a-the-bird was originally conceived in 1994 and sees its third revision during its Europe premiere at BITEF.

Floating Mirror, a new work from Lim, debuts at Victoria Theatre on 24 and 25 August 2001. It will be performed by Ecnad Team A (E.T. A), the professional division of the company that works on a full-time basis. The production is also Ecnad’s first staged performance since its name change in April this year.

Floating Mirror is a bold and highly visual production that blends the expressionistic and the surreal. It explores the subtle aspects of human relationships in a unique and mesmerising manner. Throughout the performance, the subconscious manifests itself in various forms ­ dance, multi-media presentation, music, images and stagecraft.

The work draws inspiration from an unlikely source ­ a crystal-like hippopotamus that ran into the choreographer’s bathroom 3 years ago. The image of the hippo appears throughout the production in exaggerated forms, as do other elements from the urban landscape. The result is a complex argument that teases the senses and confronts our perception of ‘real’ life.

Floating Mirror will be performed on 17 September 2001 and a-the-bird on 19 September 2001. Both performances are at 8 pm at ATELJE 212 at the Belgrade International Theatre Festival. For more information, please visit www.bitef.co.yu

The Belgrade International Theatre Festival

Founded in 1967, BITEF (Belgrade International Theatre Festival) has survived 35 years as a festival of new world tendencies that keeps pace with the tumultuous evolution of performing arts. The revolutionary 60s and 70s saw avant-garde research make its way into repertory theatres. The 80s was a decade of postmodern theatre expression. From the mid-90s to the present day, theatre continues to explore the limits of human physical abilities, the artistic outlines of which are still hazy.

BITEF is committed to promoting intercultural influences in theatre and is one of the rare theatre festivals in the world that presents avant-garde, experimental and emerging forms of performing arts, as well as large mainstream productions.

A number of the artists who have participated in BITEF in the past were then unknown, or hardly recognized, but have later gone on to shape the history of 20th century dance and theatre.

The list of luminaries include Jerzy Grotowsky, Alwin Nikolais, Ingmar Bergman, Lindsay Kemp, Merce Cunningham, Peter Brook, Robert Wilson, Pina Baush, Meredith Monk and Wim Wandekeybus. The list is but a modest representation of the highly regarded artists who have emerged from BITEF.

BITEF has been awarded by PREMIO EUROPA PER IL TEATRO, Taormina Arte, the SPECIAL PRIZE FOR 1999. BITEF is the first international theatre festival awarded by Premio Europa.

 

In the News (3)

 

Imagination Takes Flight

By: Felicia Yap
Source: Business Times, 8 July 2000

Dance Dimension Project’s a-the-bird has its roots in the call of the wild, its choreographer Lim Chin Huat tells FELICIA YAP.

HEEDING a call to return to nature comes easily to Lim Chin Huat, a choreographer whose pursuit of dramatic lines and forms is aptly manifested in his creations for Dance Dimension Project. Turning to suggestions of the wild, he has been inspired this time to craft a-the-bird for his contemporary dance company.

Listening to Lim’s enthusiastic description of his choreography, one suspects that his piece may well resemble a piece of installation art. With gunny-sack packaging as backdrop material, swathes of soft, flowing silk drape the set, contrasted by the dancers’ stiff, fibrous costumes made from white-coloured rice sacks. “They make a nice contrast -each material brings out the qualities of each other,” he explains in earnest.

Dance will revolve around the fabric, he says, as his troupe of dancers translate themselves into living sculptures by alternating between bird and human. “Combining both raw and defined movements, they move slowly but gracefully at times,” explains Lim. “However, their stiff outfits create an unusual dimension to their movements. Why, you may even hear sounds of swishing fabric as they move. But energy builds up rapidly in some sections, for instance, the third movement peaks with spirited conflict.”

Perhaps the most striking thing about this production is Lim’s use of contrasts, not only in terms of costumes and movements, but also in the music and environment. The performing venue, the Pavilion at Far East Square is equipped with glass walls and metal pillars, thus allowing Lim to counterfoil his organic materials with modern surroundings. This venue also permits numerous vantage points in line with Lim’s belief in “alternative perspective” -an audience seated at different points will thus be treated to wholly different experiences as a-the-bird unfolds.

Besides creating a visual impact, this piece is also Lim’s reflection on deeper existentialist issues like freedom and human nature. “My work is all about the conflicting sides of humanity,” he says. “Although we may crave freedom, space and individual room, we unconsciously stop ourselves by our actions at times. Also, this piece explores human fragility and how humans are able to adjust to their environment.”

The performance will be augmented by live music composed by Samsudin bin Majid, played by an unlikely ensemble of keyboard, gong, bell, flute, drums, Australian didgeridoo, Indian vase and Chinese tongqin (a metal bowl used by monks to chant).

Lim explains that he hit upon the idea of using the bird as a symbol in 1993. An experimental version of a-the-bird was performed a year later, he says. “It was a very strong image that stuck in my mind,” he says. “In fact, I like to imagine things -all of us need to get away from reality so there is no harm in daydreaming a little at times. With my imagination as a starting point, I let my feelings go and my works gradually develop from that point.”

Lim’s prior training in fine arts may well have accounted for his strong focus on visuals in his dance creations. “Most of the time, I start off with an image in my mind that gradually multiplies. When I link these pictures together, it becomes a dance form.” “Contemporary works are a reflection of our individual experiences -we interpret them differently based on what we have encountered,” he feels. “So I believe that the audience will get something from this work even though it may not be exactly what I set out to portray. But the different points of view that we elicit from the audience is what makes contemporary works interesting.”

His dance troupe, the first full-time contemporary dance group in Singapore, is not style-specific, he says. “We like to try and explore different approaches to dance, which is why our works are quite different from each other. In fact, the reason why we named ourselves Dance Dimension Project is because we view each individual production as a new project for us.”

With their promise of aesthetic appeal, unusual costumes and engaging movements in a-the-bird, their very own twist to Icarus, Dance Dimension Project may well have hit upon a winning formula.

 

A Flight of Imagination

By: Clarissa Oon
Source: Life! 14 July 2000

Get set for unique music and strong visuals in this weekend’s dance performance, a-the-bird, which explores the loneliness of human beings.

FEW dance groups have the luxury of performing with live musicians, like the Singapore Dance Theatre did with a classical-music trio at last month’s Arts Fest.

It is difficult to put musicians through long rehearsals ironing out the musical arrangement and tempo with dancers, says Dance Dimension Project’s artistic director Lim Chin Huat.

But over the weekend, his full-time, contemporary-dance group will resurrect a six-year-old piece, a-the-bird, with the raw, original sounds of live gongs, bells, Australian didgeridoo and Chinese tongqin (bronze bowl usually played by chanting monks).

Freelance composer Samsudin bin Majid and musician Charlene Tan will also be playing keyboard, guitars and drums, while two male and three female dancers perform a piece that grew out of Lim’s image of a “big, clumsy bird”.

a-the-bird took four months to recreate for dancer-choregrapher Lim, who studied both fine arts and dance at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

He spent more than five years doing set design and movement choreography for a theatre company, Toy Factory, before starting Dance Dimension Project in 1996.

Thanks to Lim’s background, expect not just unique music but also strong visuals from a-the-bird, which he says is about the “space human beings need for their imagination to fly”.

Dressed in white A-line tunics, the dancers will be negotiating with a huge, 8-m-by-14-m strip of white cloth, hung loosely across the stage.

They move on it, dance underneath it, and in one of the performance’s five segments, twist and manipulate the cloth around their bodies.

In another of the segments, the dancers are dressed in stiff, fibrous costumes -made from the textured material of rice sacks -that crunch as they move.

It looks like the musicians are not the only ones making noise on stage.

By the end of the 55-minute production, says Lim, audiences will get a sense of the “loneliness of human beings”.

“We are so similar in certain ways, but whether between good friends or even twins, there are ways in which we can never reach across to each other.”

 

Flying Forward

By: Malcolm Tay
Source: The Flying Inkpot, July 2000

It has been more than five months since they were last seen onstage, but the people who make up Dance Dimension Project (DDP) have been everything but idle. Instead, they have been bringing contemporary dance outdoors with their colourful outreach series of ‘Visceral Vim’, launching their dance publication Ecnad in April, touring Malaysia with their 1999 production of ‘Four and a Half Rebels’, and recently completing a three-week crash course in dance production for students during the June holidays.

But despite their busy schedule, they have shown no signs of slowing down and in July, DDP will be presenting a new work entitled A-THE-BIRD. Except that A-THE-BIRD may not exactly be ‘new’ in every sense of the word. Lim Chin Huat, the artistic director of DDP and choreographer of this piece, first conceived the idea for this piece way back in 1993, when he was still a student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. A year later, it was performed at The Substation’s Guinness Theatre, under the banner of Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble’s presentation of ‘QFWFQ’ in 1994. Lim assured us, however, that it would be completely different from its predecessor.

“Basically the idea and the concept is the same, but the whole choreography is totally different Š [including] the music, the structure,” says Lim.

This time, it will be staged at The Pavillion in Far East Square, giving audiences a unique perspective of the dance from the front, side or top. In keeping with DDP’s fascination with the human condition, this full-length work uses the bird as a metaphor for our “spontaneity and the sub-conscious self”, a journey into our fertile imagination and longing for freedom. “Sometimes everything is so squareŠ and you need some space for yourself or for your mind to run wild,” says Lim.

With its outspread wings and ability to fly, the bird not only represents a desire for our own physical space, but also a yearning for another world that is devoid of the harsh realities of life. As for the seemingly grammatically awkward title, it was a result of Lim’s many attempts to come up with a suitable title: “Because the bird image [was] so strong and it [kept] repeating in my mind, so I decided to have a “bird” in the name. But none of the words [suited] the danceŠ and so I went “AŠ”, “TheŠ” so it came out like that.”

In addition to an original musical score and custom-made pre-recorded sounds, A-THE-BIRD will also feature live musical accompaniment by two musicians (Samsudin bin Majid and Charlene Tan). This, though, is not the first time that DDP has performed to live music – that honour goes to their outdoor performance series of ‘Ontogenesis’ in 1997. Samsudin, who worked with Lim on the composition of the score, had previously performed in ‘Visceral Vim’ as a musician. Tan was roped in by Samsudin not only as an extra hand, but also to take charge of the string and vocal parts of the score. The “two-way traffic”, as Lim calls it, between choreographer and composer may have lengthened the choreographic process, but it has proven to be a satisfying challenge for DDP to live up to. As a universal phenomenon, budget constraints in dance have made live music the exception rather than the norm, but DDP seems determined to supplement their future productions with live music or at the very least, original compositions. Despite its convenience, music that is commercially available in compact discs dictates the duration of any choreographic creation, making it difficult for choreographers to modify the length of the dance when the need arises. “As an arts practitioner, you wish your work to be more originalŠ it’s easier to come up with the structure you want.”

For A-THE-BIRD, audiences can expect their ears to be treated to a collage of melodies and sounds from the synthesizer to the didgeridoo, brimming with promises of an aesthetically rich yet emotionally intense experience.

 

Reviews (3)

 

More than Just the Flapping of Wings

By: Ma Shaoling
Source: The Flying Inkpot, 14 July 2000The setting is already prepared for apparent flight as white clothes drape the airy stage that can be viewed from the top, front and sides. Curiosity mounts as one awaits the commencement of the performance; one is expecting an evening centered around the metaphor of birds; of flying; of freedom – themes that have always been popular in dance and theatre alike…

The idea for A-THE-BIRD was first conceived in 1993 by artistic director, Lim Chim Huat, and the first experimental performance was produced in 1994. Six years later, A-THE-BIRD is reborn, with extensive revisions in choreography while retaining that sense of simplicity and directness.

The entire production evokes a single word – ‘mood’. There is a different mood for every breakdown of the 5 scenes, namely ‘People’, ‘Birds’, ‘Conflict’, ‘Harmony’ and ‘Loneliness’. Visually, the dancers blend and merge the transitions skillfully, ensuring a smooth flow from one mood into the next. In the first scene, four dancers appear as they are, walking, sitting, and engaging in the usual daily activities. A fifth dancer takes his place above that “humanistic” plane as he hovers on the upper level, flapping his arms, just as we have always longed to; our dream to fly without wings. Once the theme of freedom was opened for exploration, the first scene morphed into the second. The sub-conscious self that we witnessed before was transformed into the symbol of birds, and this was achieved with theatrical simplicity by the three pairs of white wings worn by the three dancers. The choreography in the second scene created a mood that was truly unique, with each move carefully detailed and naturally performed. There was no room for big superfluous movement and the three dancers did not just use their wings as props, instead, they were worn like a second skin; as a result, the image that they conjured up was, indeed, that of the quaint graceful creatures inthe sky.

It would, however, be superficial to interpret A-THE-BIRD as a mere flight of fantasy. For the next three scenes proved that there was far more depth to it. Also considering the seemingly grammatically awkward title, here, physical freedom does not necessarily imply actual freedom; a dilemma exists between the longing for freedom and an instinctive urge to protect oneself. ‘Conflict’ emerges in the third scene, as the five dancers become increasingly aware of each other’s existence, and the set was transposed into one of run, hide, and seek. The pulling of the white cloth was creative and useful in creating the mood of chaos and transformation. Dashing underneath the layers of confusion, it was an apt metaphor for the disruption of a previously-peaceful sky. However, it was a waste that the dance language was not further explored in this scene, for it could have better expressed the climax of the performance.

In the fourth scene, a wave of calm swept over the stage as the white cloth covered the four dancers. They emerged from underneath, tying themselves with the cloth, and in unison, they shared the symbolic piece of peace. Reaching together into the middle of the stage, the four dancers moved while standing closely to one another. From there, the last scene, ‘Loneliness’ was directly juxtaposed against the previous scene as the stage stood bare and the dancers stood in alienation.

The play on moods had finally reached a most powerful ending, as musician Charlene Tan played for us a most unforgettable melody on her guitar. Lights were shone on one or two dancers at a time, while the rest stood motionless in the dark. A mood of quiet charm ironically made the loudest impact, even if in the end, nothing was left. No wings, no sky, and what exactly is freedom gained and lost?

The evening prompted a string of questions – after all, it is up to us to determine what it costs to face up to solitude after struggling to combat it. As ironic as it may sound, some people might have desired the dance to have a more complete and definite end. Or less sedate and sparse. For me, despite the shift in moods throughout the performance, I felt DDP exuded a prevalent sense of action in stillness. Each dancer was in tune with the theme, and even when a minor flaw occurred in scene four, the dancer did not lose her concentration.

A-THE-BIRD added another dimension to dance with the incorporation of specially composed live music. While ballets have always been accompanied by live orchestral music, modern dance have the flexibility of fusing the visual with audio effects. In this case, the range of live instruments used ranging from the synthesizer to the didgeridoo gave the evening’s performance a colourful appeal. However, there were times when the music failed to emphasis the complexity of the atmosphere onstage, for example, during the scene of ‘Birds’, the monotone percussions did not compliment the layered movements of the dancers. On the whole, the live music performed by Charlene Tan and Samsudin Bin Majid proved to be an impetus for more such presentation in dance. With A-THE-BIRD, the dance is essentially about men, with or without wings. We can be sure that there will be more such meaningful flights from the Dance Dimension Project.

Flight of Fancy

By: Deng Fuquan
Source: Life! 18 July 2000

NOTED for its foray into nature themes, Dance Dimension Project found inspiration again -in birds. Its latest site-specific adventure, a-the-bird, was a reprisal of a performance in 1994 of the same title.

But this time, it took fresh flight with a modified choreography in the sanctuary of The Pavilion in Far East Square.

Hanging from the second gallery, a giant white cloth scooped into space to form a symmetrical bowl-sculpture. Sack-cloth panels draped at the back act as doorways for dramatic entrances.

This was the enchanting turf where both kindred and inimical encounters between Bird and Man played.

Executed in five parts -People, Birds, Conflict, Harmony, Loneliness -the dance was often an essay in distilled movement, plastic composition and ambient scenography.

At times, the content may be simple, even thin. But the dance group clearly flourished with its forte in the choice and sculptural use of organic materials and total space. It opened with the dancers appearing as urban-folks consumed in conflict between putting on daily masks and longing for transcendence.

Later, they personified birds -sheathed in origami-like costumes, a la Issey Miyake. With ritualistic grace, they contoured into fantastical shapes.

In one moment, their gentle treadings suggested serendipitous birds by the lake. In the next, they created din by flapping their oversized plastic togs -an aviatory flock in exodus.

Such orinthic behaviours -set in an interplay of light and shadow -achieved a cosmetic transluscence throughout most parts of the hour-long performance.

Aural boost from Samsuddin bin Majid and Charlene Tan was a liberal and affective marriage of live instruments ranging from the didgeridoo to the guitar and electronica.

The ensemble -comprising Choo Leh Leh, Lim Peck Lee, Tee Guay Chiou, Lim Chin Huat and Tan How Choon -attempted interesting but minor vocalisations that needed fuller exploration in future works.

Meanwhile, the likeness of being between Bird and Man was enacted in a forest confrontation where the white cloth was pulleyed up-and-down, evoking tsunami-chaos. Harmony was restored when the four dancers slipped ingeniously into strategically-cut holes in the cloth -and swirled about in the collective skirt.

But in the final sequence, they adopted aestheticised and individual postures of grief and desolation.

Somewhat overwrought, it was nevertheless an earnest conclusion -of the essential loneliness binding earth-bound Man and the Bird-in-flight.

Finding inspiration in birds, Dance Dimension Project’s work was an essay on the loneliness of man and the bird in flight.

Review of a-the-bird

By: Caren Carino
Source: The Arts Magazine Nov/Dec 2000

Dance Dimension Project (DDP) fixed its signature once more on the Singaporean dance scene in a-the-bird. Under the artistic direction of Lim Chin Huat — trained in both fine arts and dance — audiences can always expect strong visual appeal in both publicity materials as well as the dances themselves.

a-the-bird’s simple, arresting visuals captivated the audience throughout the evening in what could have otherwise been hypnotically monotonous. The programme notes stated “a-the-bird is a dance composed of picturesque images and intense emotions”; the first part of that statement was perhaps more realised than the latter. There were some stunning design elements: from the sea of white that struck the audience upon entering the performance space — at once transported into a serene environment — to the Harmony section in which the dancers created an eddy in the white fabric by emerging through its openings, wrapping it around themselves then circling, creating a feeling of spiraling towards the centre of the universe.

Enhancing the strong visuals was the attractiveness of the dancers. Choo Leh Leh, Lim Peck Lee and Tee Guay Chiou radiated an inner spiritual quality of grace which transcended their physical elegance. a-the-bird’s visual effectiveness would not have been fully realised without the dancers’ humility which translated itself into beauty. The sea of white fabric was ingenuously transformed throughout a-the-bird, lending a gestalt to the full-length work of five parts: People, Birds, Conflict, Harmony and Loneliness. An especially enthralling moment was when the dancers ran around the fabric causing it to billow, before skilfully unleashing the fabric, setting the stage for Loneliness.

Samsudin Bin Majid and Charlene Tan unobtrusively wove their music’s quiet presence into the work Live music is always a welcome addition in dance performances, particularly when well performed and in the spirit of collaboration, as was in this case. To appreciate a-the-bird completely, however, the audience needed to emerge themselves in the ceremonious nature of the work. Unfortunately, like meditation, not everyone is willing or capable. In the first scene of People, the dancers moved solemnly — direct and with purpose. This ritualistic staidness prevailed throughout the evening. The movement dynamic was, for the most part, of a singular chord, only subtly rising and descending. For those that allowed themselves to be taken on a subliminal journey the evening was most satisfying. The one moment of discord was when DDP’s resident dance artist/dance master, Tan How Choon, broke into an expressive solo on the second level of the performance area — a welcome change in the solemn mood. a-the-bird’s effective use of design and ceremony is a powerful representation of DDP. The company is able to communicate to its audience with clarity, simplicity and directness; an approach they have owned and developed since 1996. DDP may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ in dance, but they contribute an alternative dimension in Singapore’s contemporary dance ‘voice’ well worth considering, respecting and supporting. – Caren Carino

Caren CARINO is head of dance at LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts

 

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