Choreographer Mew Chang Tsing used soft, golden cloth to great effect in trying to capture qi, the energy that surrounds us invisibly. The cloth took on the form of anything with substance, be it a dancer’s body or the qi around the dancer – thus, shapes outlined by the cloth in the air.
This was Qi.vi, the sixth in Mew’s series on qi, presented in Pebbles 3 at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre in Kuala Lumpur last weekend.
In this version, the dancers try to heighten their sensitivity to surrounding energies by being lightly blindfolded. By reducing the sense of sight they hoped to increase their sense of touch. Standing around a swath of the cloth encircled on the stage, they tried to draw from the qi chang (arena of energy). They stood relaxed and allowed the qi to gently sway their bodies. Two dancers, Kiea Kuan Nam and Liu Yong Sean, continued in this meditative state throughout the performance, even as they climbed the “stairway to heaven”, which comprised “steps” created entirely by lighting. In contrast, Gan Chih Pei seemed to be in turbulence, travelling across the stage, fighting the energies. Only Amy Len “became” the cloth, bent and swayed by the surrounding pressures of qi.
Kiea, Liu, Gan and Len are some of Malaysia’s more matured and accomplished dancers.
Unlike the earlier Qi.v that drew its vocabulary of movement from Chinese dance, this version offers a South-East Asian interpretation of qi.
Mew created motifs with gestures, adding subtle texture to the otherwise purely improvisational technique used by her and fellow dancers. But in this interpretation, I noticed a clash: – entering rasuk, a trance (a common phenomena in several South-East Asian dances), is not the same as being connected with qi. The former is a state of unconsciousness while the latter is a state of consciousness. In the end, Mew spins and spins in confusion, and finally hurls the cloth over her body. Symbolically, qi escapes her – and then, black out! The dance ends.
Qi.vi is set to hauntingly beautiful gamelan music composed by Sunetra Fernando and Michael Veerapan for the album Rhythm in Bronze. However, the power of this piece leaves a gap the dance struggles to fill.
Pebbles 3 also featured two other performances, Catch That Thought and 1+1.
Catch That Thought comprised three items, presented by students from Mew’s Children’s Creative Dance classes – Picture Comes Alive (by children aged four to six), Look at Me (by children aged four and below) and Mark My Moves (by children aged eight to 12). 1 + 1 was an improvisational dance in which the dancers starts off in a position determined by the audience.
This production was aimed at raising funds to allow dancers of Qi.vi to perform at the Global Assembly of World Dance Alliance, which will take place in Toronto, Canada, in July. The dancers, who also make up the committee members of Malaysia’s MyDanceAlliance, will also bid for Kuala Lumpur to host the Global Assembly 2008.
(Break-a-Leg spent a year studying Qi Gong with folks double her age. Undoubtedly, they are all healthier than she is!)