Across Oceans

Across Oceans

Date: January 1999

Venue: Drama Centre

 

Guest Choreographer: Maxine Heppner (Canada)

 

Synopsis

A doublebill featuring two works, “Steel” and “Snow”. “Steel” was a special world premiere performed by DDP dancers, while “Snow” was a solo performance by Heppner herself. The latter featured music by the Singapore-based American composer, John Sharpley.

 

Reviews (1)

Nothing Literal, Something Gained

Sherrie Lee
Source: The Flying Inkpot, 8 January 1999

It wasn’t quite like dance but then, that is what the contemporary dance group, Dance Dimension Project, seems to be all about with an alternative name like Ecnad, the reverse spelling of “dance” which signifies the group’s approach. Movement, sound and lighting fused to create intriguing work in DDP’s 12th production, with Canadian Maxine Heppner as guest choreographer and soloist.

Maxine Heppner opened the evening with her solo piece, SNOW, which was created and performed in close collaboration with composer-pianist John Sharpley. As in most cases of contemporary abstract pieces, the more insistent on plot and linear progression, the more frustrating the experience. Determining meaning at any one point defeats the purpose of an all encompassing form like dance. Heppner herself describes it as “a duet of movement and sound, stillness and silence.” Wrapped up in white rags and with hair done up in mop-like fashion, Heppner became snow, half literal, half allegorical, but always poetic.

SNOW was an insight into the facets of a life force, not just in meteorological terms, but also in terms of complex human survival. The foot stamping and rhythmic piano accompaniment seemed to suggest an unrelenting ego force at work, particularly present in frantic (but controlled) instances. Where there were slow and contemplative moments, they were gentle and soothing, although a bit bewildering for me as well. Throughout the sea change of emotions and movements, Heppner’s energy was focused and her poetic vision bore fruit.

The ensemble piece, STEEL, choreographed by Heppner with contributions from the DDP dancers as well, carried on in the fashion of fluidity and imagery. The opening bit, however, was more of a warm-up session than an artistic enquiry into the nature of steel. These familiar stretches, jumps and coordinated movements were a bit out of sync wit the rest of STEEL which engaged in original explorations of the properties of steel like sharpness and strength, as well as less obvious ones like playfulness and gracefulness.

About twice as long as SNOW, STEEL was also metaphorical and poetic. With a lot more images and ideas romping across the stage, it was more difficult to assimilate and process. There were times where I could appreciate inexplicable detail yielding thought provoking moments, like when a dancer was enacting a tea time scene while other dancers were engaged in a ground bass of mutters and chants. But there were times where I was lost in the dancers’ world of leaps, turns and sways. It was difficult for my mind to concentrate on a non-programmatic content, especially when it was a case of scene after scene of movement and sound. Nonetheless, it was still a treat to watch the various permutations on the subject of STEEL, concrete or not.

The imagination was captured, the senses teased; the world seemed another place.

 

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