Sunday, December 16, 2007

(D) Not Quite Right - Oct 19-20, 2007

Wonky furniture, nimble dancers

When is a table not a table? When it is actually a dancer who has a table lamp on her back. Here is a tale of strange homewear that simply won’t sit still.

THE revenge of IKEA rejects, that’s what this story was really about.

Titled table tops, three-legged chairs, a see-saw bench and other such furniture took centre stage during Not Quite Right, the result of the collaborative efforts of Melbourne-based set designer Justin Caleo and Tokyo-based choreographer Chie Ito, founder of Strange Kinoko Dance Company.

The performance was produced as part of the Australia-Japan Dance Exchange 2006 programme.

Caleo claimed that after talking to Ito and understanding more of her company’s works, he designed a set that suited their style.

Playful dance moves portray a carefree spirit.
– Photos by WEE LIN / Kelab Shashin

The set was made up of colourful and quirky furniture and unconventional lighting – light bulbs were screwed onto ordinary domestic items such as saucepans and coat hangers. A big bottle with a door formed the backdrop and this served as the main entrance and exit point for the dancers.

It seems that Caleo wasn’t the only one playing designer. Ultimately the performance was also about forming shapes, courtesy of the unconventional choreography.

Ito’s “chair’’ changed form as moving bodies dictated its final shape. A table lamp placed on a dancer’s back made her into a “table’’. Ito’s attempts to “make her own furniture’’ and explore shapes were executed through dance with a lot of body contact and “lifting’’ techniques.

Ito's dance style had a playful and innocent quality to it, and there was an air of casualness to the performance – after all, aren’t domestic oddities part and parcel of life?

The dancers, always smiling, also portrayed the essence of a carefree spirit. They were nimble and quick, hopping on and off furniture effortlessly without fear of toppling off the unstable tables and chairs.

These movements flowed very well with the lovely music made up of a combination of lounge, swing, jazz, Hollywood classics, Japanese pop and music by avant garde Japanese talent, Ammakasie Noka.

The dance certainly gave me the impression that domestic life could be a dull thing and that the occupants of a home are constantly trying to inject fresh energy with perpetual home makeovers. (Sure enough, the dancers reorganised the stage by moving the furniture around). Also, everyday household chores like cleaning and scrubbing seem to have been exaggerated under the scrutiny of a floodlight.

There were several sequences in the dance that was repeated once too often, and a sense of monotony set in which doused the initial novelty of the performance.

Just as I was starting to feel like watching a Desperate Housewives repeat (minus the naughty bits), suddenly, one of the dancers came forth with a puppet which grooved to a Nat King Cole number. This item was a departure from the rest of the dance albeit the cutest and most adorable.

Well, all said, there is no such thing as a perfect shape, home, or dance. It's what you make of it.

(M) Jumpstart - Oct 21, 2007

Those boundary-pushing musicians of Inner Space are back!

From left: Kumar Karthigesu, Prakash Kandasamy and Jyotsna Prakash
are all about jump-starting creativity without losing sight of their roots.
– Photo courtesy of the Temple of Fine Arts

IN 2005, the musicians of Inner Space created quite a stir when they began fusing classical Indian music with contemporary elements drawn from jazz, even hip hop. This was, for Malaysia at least, new ground indeed.

Inner Space – the professional performing wing of voluntary arts organisation Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) – was founded by four award-winning TFA stalwarts: dancer Umesh Shetty, keyboardist Jyostna Prakash, sitarist Kumar Karthigesu and tabla player Prakash Kandasamy. Their purpose was to push boundaries in Indian performing arts with dance and music that blended the classical and contemporary. Their debut show in 2005, Inside Out, certainly tried valiantly to do that – and received numerous Boh Cameronian Awards for its efforts.

The group has been pretty quiet since then, so I was delighted to hear it has a new show, Jumpstart, coming up at the end of the month (details below).

Concentrating only on music this time, Inner Space will present eight compositions, five of which are new. The repertoire is intended to make Indian classical music more relevant to the 21st century without losing its primordial essence.

According to Prakash, 33, “At first the purists had reservations. But they now realise that youngsters are attracted to pick up traditional Indian music after listening to our music.”
He adds that, “The one thing that we emphasise is that before you can explore fusion music, you must first have a strong foundation in classical music. With this foundation, one can play anything.”

In other words, know the rules before you break them creatively....

Well, there will certainly be a lot of enjoyable rule breaking in Jumpstart if the intriguing line-up is any indication. Joining Jyostna, Kumar and Prakash are old friends of Inner Space, Syahrizan Sahamat (djembe and rebana) and Bhavani Logeswaran (Carnatic vocals) and new friends Isyam Daud (guitar), Jazlan Noorman (bass), Pangasaasini Gowrisan (violin) and Eddie Kismilardy (saxophone).

Promising to be an exciting show with the potential to make stunning musical connections, Jumpstart brings together the classical Indian sitar, sarangi, dilruba and tabla, the Western guitar, saxophone and piano, the African djembe, the Malay rebana, and the Arabic darbuka to create a magical web of African and jazz rhythms.

Then there’s the rap connection: Yogi B. will be a guest artiste!

Also making a special appearance will be Indian maestro Faiyaz Khan on the sarangi, the rare and exotic instrument capable of mimicking the human voice.

“We are very excited about the new combination of instruments especially the saxophone,” says Jyotsna, 34. “We had one wind instrument, the Chinese flute, the last time. But the saxophone really changes the dynamics and gives the pieces a whole new dimension.” A new dimension of Inner Space? How apt....

‘Jumpstart’ will be on at 8.30pm from Oct 31 to Nov 3, and at 3pm on Nov 4, at The Actors Studio (Bangsar Shopping Centre, Jalan Ma’arof, Kuala Lumpur). Tickets are RM40 and RM60 for adults and RM20 for students. Astro subscribers can present their bills to get a 10% discount (this discount does not apply to student tickets).