(D) Elephant in the Room - 2 January 2009
Kwang Tung Dance Troupe & Mind Production
Pentas 2, KLPAC
THE elephant in the room’’ is an English idiom which describes a problem that everyone knows about but nobody wants to address. It suggests people in the room would rather pretend the “elephant’’ is not there by busying themselves with small issues instead of the looming one.
That said, the recently-concluded Elephant in the Room performance comprised two pieces of work, I Can Almost See the Light by Jay Jen, and No Exit by Amy Len. In all honesty, there was no way the audience could have ignored the “big picture’’ in this showcase.
Dance can be used as a means of social critique and Jen addressed this idiom with a farce, the more uncouth twin of satire. This was the only way to “see the light” in his piece, characterised by Chinese humour that few could appreciate, and the deliberate use of absurdity and broadly stylised dance movements.
Jen returned to Malaysia from Hong Kong in July 2005 and his experience as a professional dancer with the Hong Kong Dance Company, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company probably shaped the distinct Chinese flavour of his choreography.
In the story, as the idiom goes, the main problem was the society at large but the people could only see the magnified antics of the lunatic Lu Bao Bao, the main character. Her occupation was to blow balloons “with her head”, it seemed.
However, the voice-over for Lu displayed superb diction. Coupled with good acting, one could almost empathise with Lu’s innocent albeit twisted personal convictions.
But since not all the dancers could act, the performance was not as refined as that of professional farce actors. On the whole, the choreography was overshadowed by the theatrics of the piece, but one must praise the idea behind it.
The artistic direction of Len’s piece, No Exit, was remarkably simple but effective. Who would have thought that fluffy tutus could project the image of an elephant’s ears? With very little light on a somewhat dusty stage, the dancers, hunched forward in a horizontal row, projected a slow-motion scene of an elephant stampede.
The gentle swaying motion of their dangling arms imitated the movement of the elephant’s trunk. To show entrapment, fast and furious movements ensued with hands wildly pushing and shoving the head until at last the hands came to a rest, clasped together in front of their faces. Accompanying the flashing movements were desperate and sharp breaths of air, clearly audible to the audience. The tone of the music was dramatic and cinematic; and together with the lighting, Len succeeded in presenting the struggle for the unattainable.
What was exciting to see was that the number of dancers of both genders had grown, and that the overall production quality of the 28-year-old Kwang Tung Dance Troupe continues to improve.
And the troupe also stayed true to its objective to cultivate and promote local performing arts by providing a platform for the newly established dance company, Mind Production (founded in 2008 by Jen) to showcase its work.