Sunday, June 15, 2008

(D) Passion - Mac 28

Judimar Hernandez (Laura) and Steve Goh (Young Man)
Pix source: The Star

The passionate Tango from Argentina has enjoyed its share of popularity with Hollywood hits danced by Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman,” Arnold Schwarzenegger in “True Lies,” and Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in “Shall We Dance.” But none came close to Carlos Saura’s award-winning “Tango,” a film that was beautifully conceived and meticulously executed to capture the dramatic power and physical presence of the dance with unforgettable style.

This film also inspired “Passion,” a production brought together by two of the most respected artistes in Malaysia’s performing arts scene – director Joe Hasham and choreographer Judimar Hernandez. The dance drama, held last weekend at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac), featured a cast of Malaysia’s more popular performing artistes including Hernandez (Laura) herself, Joseph Gonzales (Maestro), Aris Kadir (Mario), Amy Len (Elena), Steve Goh (Young Man), Elaine Pedley, Nell Ng, Lou Chi Yu, and Thou Chun (dancers) and Dalili Azahari (student).

The dance format is contemporary: for most part, it’s Tango without shoes, signalling liberation from the clutches of tradition. It was also not Tango per se but draws the essence of the dance heavily as a metaphor to reflect the weaknesses of humanity.

The tango is a dance of sensual exchange: it is sexy, promiscuous and predatory. Its couplings and sudden isolations portray the complexities in gender relations. Tango’s innate physicality is in the interlacing of legs and the balancing of bodies as they collide. There is also the element of control and surrender – the man leads and the woman is led. But yet, there is also mutual dependence as two figures glides across the dance floor with legs dovetailing salaciously. Tango has both a light and sinister side. Of the two, the dark aspect was more thoroughly lubricated to ejaculate powerful, passionate expressions.

And so, under Hasham’s direction, the narrative thread which ties the whole performance together with this metaphor, explores the meaning of ‘passion’ going beyond the simple love triangle of requited and unrequited love; and going beyond safe, vanilla lives.

Mario, the principal dancer of a dance company is desperately in love with Laura. From the first moment he laid eyes on her he knew that he wanted her. For two years, they had the most passionate of relationships but one night, for reasons that Mario cannot comprehend, Laura announces that the relationship is over. Mario is devastated.

The story is set in a dance studio, similar to than in Saura’s Tango, where the company is in a rehearsal for a major production. Mario sees his lost relationship reflected in everything that happens during rehearsals: he sees a competitor in the Young Man and tries to find solace in the sensuous and mysterious Elena.

In the dance studio scenes, we clearly see that not every dancer had the flair for Tango. And that was not deliberate: a certain ‘stiffness’ persists. ‘Sexy’ is just who you are and not what you try to do.

The smouldering sultriness of Tango comes (not from the swivelling of tight behinds but) from the passionate embrace of dance partners Laura and ‘the young man,’ whose faces were pressed intimately close and whose entwined bodies delight in sensual caress. The music evokes an air of romance with just a tinge of sadness, characterizing frustrated love; in which the only reprieve is release through wild abandon. However, this scene, which Mario looks on with burning jealousy, could have been more erotic had the Young Man fully reciprocated.

Mario, disgusted with the coupling act, conveyed the feeling of pain through the quiet poise of Tango, and showed his indignation through crisp footwork and aristocratic elegance.

Amy Len (left) a Elena
Pix source: The Star

Elena was portrayed as the slut that goes for any man, or woman - first Mario, then the Maestro, and lastly Laura. The ending was therefore, predictable. Laura was much better off in a heterosexual role versus a homosexual one. The relationship between Elena and Laura was more sisterly than intense, ending the drama with a fizzle rather than a climatic end that was suppose to follow a passionate ‘fore’ play.

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