Saturday, April 11, 2009

(D) A Delicate Situation

A Delicate Situation
Rimbun Daham, Lina Limosani

12-13 December 2008 (8.30pm)
14 December 2008 (3pm)
Pentas 2, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre

Rimbun Dahan’s dance residency programme featured its third resident choreographer, Lina Limosani, in a full-length contemporary dance performance entitled A Delicate Situation. Limosani graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in Australia in 1999 and shortly after became a member of the Australian Dance Theatre from 2000-2005. She is more familiar with comedy but decided to dabble with the horror genre instead having been inspired by the story of our Malaysian Pontianak.

Apparently, she walked into her room at the residence one day and caught a glimpse of something white floating in the air. Coming out of her shock, she bravely ventured closer towards the ‘thing’ that caught her imagination. To her relief, it was just a piece of white cloth hung on a clothes hanger flapping away due to the wind sweeping in from a nearby window. She then decided to ask about Malaysian ghost stories and finally settled on the Pontianak, the ghost of a woman who dies while giving birth.

That ‘close encounter’ at the residence certainly had an effect on Limosani as she went on to use a lot of white cloth on set and for costumes; so much that even textile superstore, Kamdar, could have run out of supply! The clever use of material and lighting created a naturally creepy ambiance on the dim stage. The audience was held in suspense, anticipating the sight of the horrifying creature wrapped and hidden in the white cloth cocoon as it tries to claw through it. The back light that cast on the ‘creature’ created a shadowy hint of what it might potentially look like. I always take my hat off to those who can do so much with so little.

Thanks to show producer Bilqis Hijjas, Limosani had the benefit of working with four of Malaysia’s best contemporary dancers - Suhaili Micheline, Rathimalar Govindarajoo, Elaine Pedley and Low Shee Hoe.

Low played a young man eaten alive by the pontianaks. Humans are crunchier than I thought, from the crunchy sound chosen by composer Hardesh Singh in the scene where the pontianaks happily mauled Low. It injected a comical feel, which I felt, was wrong for this scene. Low did a good job in playing the victim and was very passionate in his role. However, I thought that the show could go on quite well without this character (and this has got nothing to do with Low).

Micheline and Govindarajoo both played Pontianak while the very pregnant Pedley played the pregnant obsessive compulsive housewife and pontianak victim. Limosani settled on insect-like movements as the core dance vocabulary for the pontianaks. This worked particularly well in the scenes where the creatures were hidden and semi hidden by the cloths and in the scene where the Pontianak attacked the pregnant lady. The ‘unhumanly’ and contorted movements created visually disturbing images of the dancers.

Between Micheline and Govindarajoo, Micheline was the more convincing pontianak of the two. This was partly because of the characterisation – Micheline had the opportunity to become the only true pontianak as she attacked and devoured the pregnant lady; and for Govndarajoo, it was partly because of her winged costume. It gave her a certain stiffness that made her look like a predatory air-borne alien. And at the end of the Alien vs Pontianak tussle (in her character), the aliens won.

A delicate situation does apply to the amazing Pedley, who, 8 months into pregnancy, and against advice from well-meaning friends and family, insisted on performing. At the rate she was moving and shaking, she could have fooled the audience into thinking that she was simply acting the part. Her role was a breath of fresh air introducing theatrics proper into the dance. As the pregnant lady, she displayed a knack for keeping her house in order and does so by perpetually cleaning and shifting things around. She began to sense an evil presence in her home when she noticed that the item she moved was not in its place. It could be basic maternal instinct at play because Pedley acted out with conviction the fear and attempts to protect her unborn baby.

When I spoke to Limosani after the show, she said that there were areas that she felt can be improved on and felt quite relieved that everything went well despite the short time she had to put up the show. She praised the Malaysian dancers for their dedication and excellent work. Having enjoyed the process of creating this work, she has this to say to the audience, “Watch out for more horror!”


Anonymous said...

Hi Su Ling,

Stumbled upon your blog while doing my bit of research into the contemporary dance scene in Malaysia. Really enjoyed the blog entry you posted on dance criticism!

Was wondering if in the future you would like to share your reviews to a larger arts audience?

A few friends and I have started an arts blog - ARTERI. It's located at

While the blog is primarily focused on the visual arts, I'm such an arts glut that I would like to see artists being informed about the things that go on in other disciplines rather than just focusing within their own field.

I hope you'll agree to share with us some of your writings in the future. Perhaps cross posting all your future reviews for ARTERI as well?

Let me know. Best.


Break-A-Leg said...

Dear Simon,

Most certainly. It would be my honor. I would like to extend dance to a broder audience. You may also link to your website.