Thursday, September 16, 2010

(D) Tribute to Kazou Ohno, Butoh Legend

On 1 June 2010, Kazuo OHNO, co-founder of Butoh passed away at the age of 103. His work has inspired several generations of artists and audience alike. After his passing the global Butoh community mourned wondering what to do, what was the future for Butoh. Many felt as though something should be done to honour his gift to this life. So, on 21 August 2010, Democrazy Theatre Studio, Butoh Co-Op presented a Kazuo OHNO Tribute performance and a workshop entitled “The Body in Time and Space” by international artists to honour their sensai.

The artists wereJoao Roberto de Souza(Brazil), Terry Hatfield (USA), and Ampinee Suwunsawet (Thailand). There will be another series in December featuring artists Michael Sakamoto (USA) and Rocio Fernandez Fraile (Spain).

"Every time we say goodbye
I die a little
Every time we say goodbye
I wonder why a little
Why the Gods above me
Who must be in the know
Think so little of me
They allow you to go..."
(Cole Porter)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Celebrating Malaysia Day with Wayang Kulit

A Wayang Kulit performance by the renowned Kumpulan Wayang Kulit Anak Baju Merah from Machang, Kelantan will be held in conjunction with the MALAYSIAKU: CELEBRATING MALAYSIA DAY festival.

Led by Kelantan’s most popular Dalang, Saupi bin Isa and drummer Abdul Rahman bin Dollah, this wayang troupe are heirs to the late, legendary Dalang Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollah Baju Merah).

This performance is also being held to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the passing of Dalang Dollah Baju Merah.

Details of the event:
Venue: Jalan Bangkung, Bangsar
Time: 9pm
Date: 16.09.2010

The MALAYSIAKU: CELEBRATING MALAYSIA DAY festival is organized by a group of Malaysia, who care deeply for the country and believe that this country is “My Malaysia” (Malaysiaku) for all Malaysians.

Through exhibitions, talks, discussions, performances, poetry reading, art, music, books, food, and other ways, the festival celebrates all that is unique and beautiful about this country.

(D) Final Showcase of SPROUTS 2010

Winner of SPROUTS 2009, Gianti Gadi

After a vigorous pre-selection process and Preliminary Round, 8 promising individuals will have yet another taste of the limelight for the Final Showcase held on 18 September 2010, 7.30pm at the University Cultural Centre Theatre.

The 8 final contestants - Phua Chiu Teng, Rebecca (26 years old),Chen Guohu, Max (26 years old), Cheiw Peishan (27 years old), Fan Yaohong, royston (33 years old), Basu Mallick Koustav (25 years old), Fong Huey Jun, Liz (27 years old), Tan Ting Feng, Kenneth (23 years old) and Tan Xian Lin, Seren (20 years old) are nothing short of talented individuals. All presented contemporary dance works, and one Chinese traditional folk dance.

The jury will also be graced by international talents like Bilqis Hijjas, a well-known Malaysian dance producer, Claire Sung, Senior Manager of International Programming for the Seoul Performing Arts Festival and Yang Mei Rong, a lecturer at Taipei National University of Arts. The jury is also made up of local industry leaders and creatives, such as Mr Janek Schergen, Artistic Director, Singapore Dance Theatre, Ms Norhayati Yusoff, Arts Programmer, Esplanade and Ms Gillian Tan, Dance Lecturer, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

Proudly organized by the National Arts Council (NAC) together with Frontier Danceland, SPROUTS provides a platform for debuting fresh and exciting choreographic works by budding choreographers.

Previous winner of SPROUTS 2009, Gianti Gadi, will also perform her new work during the Final Showcase of SPROUTS 2010.

An array of exciting opportunities and prizes await the winner of the “Most Promising Work”– a cash prize of $2000, along with an Arts Professional Development Grant of up to $3000 to pursue further training in dance choreography. The lucky individual will also get to perform a new or expanded work at the Finals of the next edition of SPROUTS.

Winner of “The Most Popular Work”, determined by audience votes, will stand to win a cash prize of S$1000, while “Best Dancer” will receive a cash prize of S$500.

In addition, 2 SPROUTS participants will be selected to receive scholarships to Contact 2010 – A Week of Dance, organized by T.H.E Dance Company in partnership with National Arts Council and co-presented by the National University of Singapore, and Centre for The Arts held at the University Cultural Centre.

Admission to the Final Showcase is open to public. Ticketing information and prices are available through SISTIC at $15 and $10. Schools may use the Tote Board Arts Grant in purchasing tickets. Limited 50%-subsidised Keppel Nights tickets are available. Visit for more information.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dentyne ConfiDance Movement Grand Finals

Opening act performed by Dentye dance partner
and founder of Urban Groove JoelTan and his team

Ms. Yee Pek Kuan, Group Brand Manager of Cadbury
and grand prize winners Votion Force

Sunday, August 15, 2010

(D) Balik Kampung - 8 August 2010

Exciting show by trio on brief balik kampung

Three Malaysian talents show exciting potential at a show designed to welcome their brief return.

Aug 4-5,
Experimental TheatreAkademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan

ASWARA’s Faculty of Dance, supported by MyDance Alliance, recently produced a contemporary dance performance to celebrate the Balik Kampung of its diploma graduates. The three, now full scholarship holders for Bachelor of Arts programmes, are home for the summer holidays and what better way to let the public glimpse their potential than through a performance.

The works are not about “returning home” but a series of solos and group works created by the young artists about themselves.

On that note, it would seem that Liu Yong Sean’s works, Uncertain Love and A Million Kisses to Your Skin, implied that the young man faced a relationship problem, though I could be wrong.

The former is a male solo, and the better work of the two. Uncertain Love opened with an aura of mystery with traditional singing matched by Liu’s contorted movements and hand gestures that lent only a hint of Khon or traditional Malay dance.

It was not clear if a cross-cultural schema was intended as those gestures did not reappear. For most part, Liu maintained his position within a horizontal line backstage. And when he finally left his comfort zone, he motioned his hand as if opening a door into another world.

Exploring a whole new space, he included little details into the dance that filled up every moment and pleasantly engaged the eye. At the end, he even threw in bits of acting with a fearful expression and used his hands to ward off something unseen at face level.

In this piece, Liu proved the strongest dancer of the evening, having fulfilled the criteria required of a solo artist – technical competence, grace, strength and charisma.

Choreographically, the piece conveyed uncertainty in the new world of love and fear of commitment.

A Million Kisses to Your Skin mashed a million ideas into one dance.The piece attempted to explain “something that’s not meant to work”, ironically, through a choreography that didn’t quite work.

The performance featured snippets of Fame, High School Musical, J-Pop club dancing, Michael Jackson’s Thriller MTV and even Malay theatre. Liu used text to explain away the trouble with the world today, and further illustrated choreography with cooking – that one can’t cook something that pleases everyone. Although the piece was fun to watch, it was conceptually puzzling.

The best choreography of the evening was Jame Kan’s Utopia. The word was coined by Sir Thomas Moore for his 1516 book of the same title, to describe a fictional island with a perfect society. Of course, Moore was utilising the concept as allegory and did not consider such an ideal place/society to be realistically possible.

Kan’s Utopia was simply a ray of light barely squeezing itself into a miserly spotlight at the front of stage. Throughout the dance, one or two dancers, hungry for a dose of hope, would make their way towards the spotlight, only to return, whether by force or by self-persuasion, to the group or “society”.

The conformist and the rebel are evident in society, as can be clearly seen in formations where one dancer is always isolated from the group. Kan orchestrated the group work like a well-timed musical fountain, maintaining group musicality with the constant crouching and rising movements.

The dancers took the mid-height as a place of retreat after rising or stooping, either individually or in unison. The middle ground that they took relayed the strength of the conformist position. Holding their stomachs and gyrating in pain, the dancers moved backwards disappearing into the darkness, as they hush-hushed any dirty secrets into oblivion.

In Utopia, I was convinced of Kan’s maturity as a choreographer, the way he used dance as a social voice.

His second piece, She, was somewhat underdeveloped and overly prop-dependent. Supposedly “a story about her”, the choreography actually reveals very little about the supposed subject.

Kan got it right by using a strong red theme in both costume and prop. The red cloth is symbolic of celebration in Chinese culture and it decorates the home on auspicious occasions. I liked the idea that “she”, dressed in red, is a celebration of life. However, as the dance went on, the relationship between “her” and the red cloth failed to be autobiographical in any way.

Lee Wen Yan’s rather ambiguous -ing, was a female duet that mostly walked and jogged stiffly side-by-side in circles. The dancers, looking like cone-headed aliens in their red hoods, were emotionless and somewhat mechanical in their demeanour. The dance ponders where one is going and seems to be lost. Although it gets the message across, the lacklustre approach diminishes its entertainment value.

Besides the graduates, Aswara students Fione Chia Yan Wei and Denny Donius presented noteworthy choreographies.

In Shape, a solo performed by Kan, Chia questions whether we, as humans, shape events or is it the other way round. The answer is both.

Chia first choreographs movements defined by shapes (circle, square and rectangle) created by lighting. In the circle, Kan moves in graceful, circular motions, which are sometimes reminiscent of tai chi. His eyes are fixated on his hands, which lead his movements.

In the square, Kan drew straight lines by flexing his body and rolling about, outlining the shape of the box. In the rectangular box, he ran from one end to the other, while stretching out his hands and legs – attempts to reach both ends of the rectangle.

In the conclusion, all three shapes appear at once, but Kan dances outside them. Finally, we see deliberate movements that are not defined by shapes.

This was an enjoyable piece with thematic clarity, poetically performed by Kan and easily understood by the audience.

Denny Donius danced his own choreography, Hometown, a melancholic and nostalgic solo. He created the right mood and expressions and used his body entirely and wholeheartedly to speak of the love and memories of the place he calls home. As he disappeared backstage into the darkness, a sense of longing lingered in our minds long after this beautiful solo had ended.

I was very excited about our home-grown talents and the potential they showed. But will they balik kampung when they graduate, or will they find appeal and better prospects on the international stage?

Well, I have yet to hear of talent-drain prevention programmes here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

AsiaDanceChannel Magazine, 1st Issue!

Finally, the first regional dance magazine for Asia - one that would truly give more exposure for Asian dance and dancers!

Now available in major bookstores and newstands in Malaysia nationwide or purchase online at

Saturday, January 02, 2010

(D) Re- Parts I, II and III (da:ns Festival 2009)

Re- Parts I, II and III
Shen Wei Dance Arts
da:ns Festival 2009
Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay
31 October 2009

By Choy Su-Ling
Photographs: Courtesy of Esplanade Ltd Co.

It is exciting times for performing arts in Southeast Asia when such an acclaimed name as Shen Wei premiers. Re- Parts I, II and III, a festival highlight, was created in response to Shen Wei’s journeys in Tibet, Cambodia, and China between 2005 and 2008.

China-born and New York-based Shen Wei studied Chinese Opera from the age of nine. In 1991, he became a founding member of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first modern dance company in China. In 1995, he moved to New York to study, and later (2000) he formed Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA). The choreographer- director-dancer-painter-designer is widely recognised for his defining vision of an intercultural, interdisciplinary, and original mode of movement-based performance. And, he has received too numerous recognitions, awards and commissions (the latest being the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics) to mention.

On the large Esplanade proscenium, Shen already sketched a larger-than-life Tibetan mandala as audiences began to trickle in for Part I. The geometric shape becomes more defined as dancers, some sitting and some kneeling, and those walking about slowly, continuously sprinkled white confetti on the floor. This tedious construction was soon undone by the very same creators in hushed gliding and sweeping movements to the rhythm of their own breathing; and in the process, raising a storm of “snow”. The travelling across the “snow” has a floating quality, not unlike those in traditional Chinese dance. When the whole backdrop became a video wall of clouds, the stage was instantly “elevated” and the dancers seemed to be dancing on snow-capped mountains. Set to music of exiled Tibetan nun, Ani Choying Drolma, the dancers immerses in a meditative mood. As if dancing the breathing technique of qigong, the dance is very much like quiet breathing. The secret to the fluidity lies not only in the graceful restrain, but most critically, in finding the right and precise moment of release; the relief, the exhale. The second soloist in this piece was exceptional in doing so. While some made best efforts, a few dancers were too stiff for this temperament. These actions of weightless dropping and rising, and turning at mid-height, were no doubt mesmerizing; but it went on and on, leaving a conclusion wanting.

In contrast, Part III chugs along like a train charging across industrial and urban landscapes. Everything in this piece projects a progressive China; almost like watching a propaganda video for aggressive growth. Those who do not keep up or oppose to this development are “tossed about” within an impenetrable forward-moving phalanx formed by dancers, dressed in green, and marching militaristic-style, advancing resolutely with building momentum towards gains of economic power. But then, Shen sneaks in an element of caution, warning of the dangers of moving ahead too fast. Those who buy the propaganda soon find themselves like mechanical robots as depicted by the stiff marionette-like and staccato movements to the artificial tinkling sounds of music box music and the tick tock of Fayolism. In the partnering sections, we see pairs leaning against each other as they pushed themselves upwards like high-rise buildings. It’s a fragile dependency and the dancers soon fall like crumbling buildings. To reflect the darker side of progress, dancers change into black costumes and the silhouette skyscrapers in the background stretches gradually into indistinguishable vertical charcoal strokes. Shen’s warning is not headed. In the end, dancers stood in a file to cartwheel two dancers flipping them like wheels of a brakeless train.

Aesthetically, Part II is sculpturesque, visually showing Shen’s awe of Angkor Wat’s ancient splendour and timelessness. Light-footed dancers dressed in royal blue and purple flit like little birds against the backdrop of a blown-up image of the temple surrounded by thick foliage. They travel horizontally across the stage in a perpetual link, each dancer always using some part of their body to “catch” one another; all this to the peaceful soundscape of birds chirping and the distinctive rings of the nattuvanar’s cymbals, a reference to Hinduism. As they did so, a belt of traditional motif and temple engravings run across the backdrop. The first half of this piece has an endearing crispness in the well-coordinated group work, which is interspersed with movements that has a melting quality. On the other hand, the concluding scene was simply a vision to behold. Although this part of the world is less comfortable with nudity, there was nothing lewd about Shen’s human sculptures. He laid out a sensual display of dancers with painted bodies luxuriously outstretched and with their heads dropped way back in hiding. The dancers basked under the spotlights in a pose that reminds of the thick tree roots that protrude proudly on the temple grounds.

Re- Parts I, II and III was successful in demonstrating Shen Wei’s artistic originality and each “part” fully justifies his talent for creating unique movement language. However, as a whole, the piece fails to deliver the “re-“, which was supposed to “…invoke concepts of return, reconsideration and renewal.” With this point sorely missing, I left the theatre feeling a tad disappointed. But then again, it could just be my inflated expectations.