Friday, August 03, 2007

(D) Three Sisters - July 27, 2007

IT was a dance-drama featuring an intense, insane and chaotic journey by three brilliant performers. Three Sisters, staged by the Japanese dance theatre company Pappa Tarahumara in Kuala Lumpur recently, encapsulated the contradictions of unfulfilled yearnings and mature acceptance.

It captured the essence of the original play written by Anton Chekhov, first staged in 1901, which is about the decay of the privileged class in Russia and the search for meaning in the modern world.

This is conveyed through the story about three fatherless sisters, refined and cultured young women who grew up in urban Moscow; however, for the past eleven years they have been stuck in a small provincial town. The sisters are always dreaming of going back to Moscow, hence the feeling of frustration and disappointment, and of being trapped.

By elevating these emotions and showing anything but the refined and cultured side of these ladies, director Hiroshi Koike brought to fore a universal theme of a young woman's unfulfilled aspirations .

The props used were basic. The red kitchen utensils and a doll hinted of home but these and the wooden chairs that occupied the stage were not specific to any era.

And within the confines of the small square dance space, all hell broke loose. The dancers let go all pent-up frustration as if the characters were inherent lunatics.

The presentation took on a graphic, in-your-face approach, laying bare on the stage everything we (women) are in the privacy of our bedrooms (and worse, bathrooms!) including nose digging, masturbating, faking a cleavage, scratching (yes, even women!); things that we would never for the world, publicly admit that we do.

The in-your-face dance laid bare everything that women
are in the privacy of their bedrooms, and worse, bathrooms!

With high adrenaline all the way, the dancers combined aggressive movements in their jumps, kicks, falls, and turns with a myriad of facial expressions, vocals and narratives.

The first of three segments in the dance theatre piece depicted a child’s world at home where the sisters played cooking, and explored their sexuality and identities with youthful curiosity.

The second scene was drastically different, featuring the sisters in shredded black lycra acting out their world of fantasy where they see themselves physically perfect and capable of doing anything - and flexing their muscles to that effect. However, their clumsy uncouth demeanour show them up as mere wannabes.

The final segment rang a tone of resignation and pessimism. The sisters, donning simple dresses, decide to come to terms with and accept the lives they have.

The pink balloon that was blown and released on several occasions was a metaphor for the sister’s aspirations shrivelled and flown away.

Three Sisters' complex choreography looks at every single element in detail – right down to casting based on physical stature. Besides their natural physique, Rei Hashimoto, Mao Arata, and Sachiko Shirai as the eldest, middle and youngest children respectively, danced their roles brilliantly and convincingly, drawing out the essence of what it means to be a young woman growing up.

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