Saturday, February 02, 2008

(D) Patches of Dreams - Dec 21

Capping the year in the local contemporary dance scene was Patches of Dreams, a German-Malaysian dance collaboration organized by the Kwang Tung Dance Troupe and sponsored by Gothe-Institute Malaysia, The Ministry of Culture Arts and Heritage, and Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac).

This performance is the output of a dance workshop for the troupe held in September 2007. Choreographers Amy Len (Malaysia) and Ben J. Riepe (Germany) shared their experiences from their Asian and European perspective respectively.

Ben J. Riepe

For Reipe, the multi-cultural heritage is a big draw for him. He said, “When you are a foreigner, naturally you will find the local culture extremely interesting. I was interested to see what these dances had in common and what was different between them. In Europe, we had ballet, then expressionist, and then contemporary. The dance we have today has no connection to our heritage. You may say we have either lost it, or you may say that we are free from it. It depends on your point of view.”

Ben J. Riepe studied dance and choreography at the Folkwang Hochschule, Essen. He worked at the Neuer Tanz, Dusseldorf and was a guest-dancer in the Ensemble of Pina Bausch at the Tanztheater Wuppertal before forming the Ben J. Riepe Company in 2004.

As a tutor for the dance production, Riepe focused on the technical side of arts. According to Len, “We learnt many new methods that help us to enlarge movement possibilities and translate it into dance. We also learnt how to work with material, make good choreography, focus our thoughts and create the right ‘taste’ and theme.”

Len, the winner of Best Performer award at the 4th Annual BOH Cameronian Arts Awards 2006, was trained by the Kwang Tung Dance Troupe. She is one of the founders and the Artistic Director of the Youth Studio of Dance. Len is a full time dance instructor, choreographer and dancer. She is active in promoting dance art and dance education through dance productions and projects. This project is the latest that she’s embarked on.

The program comprised of two collaborative works and two dance videos.

One would have thought it was Len who choreographed “LAH,” the first dance, as it had every flavour of locally assembled thoughts, memories and movements. But it was in fact Riepe who choreographed this piece, assisted by Len. The dancers, all from the Kwang Tung Dance Troupe, dressed plainly in black sleeved shirts and tight-fitted slacks that threatened to rip, danced to classic Chinese oldies reminiscent of the romantic ‘Shanghai Tang’ times. The dance schema, progressing from non-movement, to slight movement, to large movements, and back to slight movements, is common but done tastefully. The vision that remains of this piece is the moving lips in bright pink lipstick lip-syncing to the lovely melodies. The appeal of this piece is its boldness in simplicity.

“Winter at 33°C” was choreographed by Len with Riepe as dance tutor. This piece, not unlike other strange contemporary works, did give me a feel that it was battling the Asian mindset of what dance ought to be. Use of material was evident; the robotic caterpillars with blue-lit antennas were indeed the highlight of the dance. What wasn’t clear though was whether the material inspired the caterpillar-like movements or vice-versa. However, thematically it was weak as it was difficult to relate the ideas in this dance, though interesting, to a scorching hot winter.

Given the outcome of both works, an interesting thought came to me: should we ask, “Who’s the better choreographer?” or “Who’s the better teacher?”
Dance Videos

The concept of dance videos (not MTVs) is new to Malaysians. If not for the 10th Annual “Dancing for the Camera: International Festival of Film and Video Dance” that I attended in 2005 at the American Dance Festival, I would not have seen such film.

Reipe’s “Amour Espace – Le Film,” which was created towards the end of this year, was a lengthy film (although it was called ‘short’). His experimental film combines the surreal and real world and draws its parallel with clear continuity of ideas from disjointed scenes. However, the film drags on, there’s more theatre than dance, and the acting could be more refined.

Len’s “Wall,” created in 2006, was a test of patience as we watch Len, who also danced in this film directed by local filmmaker James Lee, literally rolled (against the wall) in and out of ‘frame’. Thankfully, this was not repeated. The silhouette of a man appears and begins a monologue about the inability to communicate with his true love, hence the ‘wall’. Unfortunately, this monologue was repeated until it drives you up the wall!

Patches of Dreams was like the year (2007) that just flew by. There were moments of fun, pain, boredom, anticipation, but yet, hope; especially for those who dare experiment.

No comments: