Talking Dance Series (the Performance) – Urban Portraits

Talking Dance Series

Date: July 1999

Venue: Guinness Theatre, The Substation
Choreographic Director: Trina Eby

Choreographic processor: Tan How Choon



This process-based work is the culmination of several improvisation sessions that involved audience participation in its creation. The sessions began with the dancers moving and reacting intuitively to each other. Audiences were invited to interact with the artists and give their ideas on how they would like to see the dance evolve. The result: a full-length performance that left the audience with greater appreciation for dance-making.


Reviews (2)

Let’s Talk Till The Cows Come Home

By: Tan Shzr Ee
Source: Life!, 29 July 1999

IT’S good to talk.

Take it from Singaporean experimental group Dance Dimension Project, which will put up its Talking Dance Series this weekend at The Substation.

From a blank canvas of literally nothing, the group has improvised, created, moulded and refined a series of choreographic gestures to infinity through talk, talk and more talk.

“It all started with a rehearsal, where we videotaped ourselves just moving around to no theme, no subject, no inspiration,” says company-member Tan How Choon.

“Our choreographic director, Trina Eby, then reviewed and revised movements, and talked it through with us.

“Finally, we invited friends and interested parties to watch what we had done. They told us what they thought, and their input was added to the work.”

The result so far: a series of vignettes that recall the alienating, bustling and corporate-climbing world of urban Singapore.

“Our first viewers called it an urban portrait,” Tan said.

“It’s like collaborative theatre, involving three parties -dancer, choreographer and audience.”

Abstract movements, he explains, all have inherent meanings.

These meanings, in turn, could be vastly different to each of the persons viewing the movements, and the finished product to be shown at The Substation is just one of many possibilities.

So far, apart from the three parties involved, two more artists have been roped in to further mould the final work.

A composer, Earl Norman, will “give pacing to the movements and lift the dance into an additional dimension” with a contemporary soundtrack featuring strong-impulsed tones alongside noises made by screeching metal.

A set designer has also come up with a visual concept using tin cans as backdrop and props.

Viewers can expect to see “a bizarre interaction between dancers who are first stuck to a slab representing a wall”. This later collapses on the performers.

The dancers also rattle the tin cans, generating more noise in the real-time element of the live performance.

Too avant-garde, too imprecise, too amorphous?

Fear not, says Tan, for the beauty of the work lies in the many interpretative possibilities it accords.

True to the interactive, experimental concept of the dance itself, the piece does not stop growing even with the slated “final” this weekend, and audiences may alter the direction it takes as an artwork after that.

“We welcome feedback to our choreographer,” says Tan.

“She may actually make use of your comments and adjust and remould the work.”


Be Open And Receive

By: Chan Kah Mei
Source: The Flying Inkpot, 30 July 1999


“Come see and hear the Talking Dance Series” urged the posters from Dance Dimension Project’s latest performance. And so I did. True to its title, we did a whole lot of yakkity yak.

This, I felt, was the epitome of post-modern dance whereby the process was more important than the end product itself. The performance actually marks the end of a series of interactive dance sessions. A fresh idea by guest choreographer Trina Eby, the series was meant to help the public understand dance through seeing and participating in the dance process. The team from Dance Dimension Project (DDP) roped in a motley crew of students, architects, designers, business executives, etc. to throw in their ideas.

Basically, the idea behind Modern dance is to liberate. Instead of following a set of rigid and defined motions a la ballet, it draws inspiration from improvisation of body movements. The five dancers contorted and twisted their bodies under the direction of Eby’s command to “move”. These become the building blocks of the dance. The participants on the other hand had the fun bit- watching videos to pick out their favourite parts, moulding the dancer’s bodies, criticising and even having a go at dancing.

The final product was Urban Portraits – a reflection of our sordid corporate society. The cozy Guinness Theatre was simply decorated with gleaming tins of turpentine. The dancers executed the moves with dexterity – swift slides one moment and pushing, pulling and rolling the next. As it was a multi-media art form, your senses were bombarded by the OHP and video clips together with original new age music by composer Earl Norman.

Despite its unpolished look, I still enjoyed how the piece expressed the angst of the working world as told through segments like ‘Human Factory’, ‘The Corporate Ladder’ and ‘Photocopy’. It began with tense, wound-up ‘workers’ in tight metallic suits. Happily, though, there is hope in our pathetic corporate lives as these workers rediscover their colourful, buried selves (aided by reversible coloured outfits). Video images of budding trees and butterflies were juxtaposed with the former sterile tin landscape.

Those who missed out on the discussion sessions will not lose out too much. There is a short discussion with the dancers before and after the show where you can actually suggest changes to the dance. Remember, this is modern dance. Be ready to throw out your staid ideas of romantic ballet. Be open. Watch your thoughts come to life. Understand dance for once. Come, see and hear the Talking Dance Series.



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