Dance platform's growing pains

REVIEW / DANCE

RELEASE 5.0

Maya Dance Theatre

10 Square at Orchard Central & The Substation/March 5 & last Saturday

In its fifth instalment, Maya Dance Theatre's annual Release season was held over the first two week- ends of this month at two different venues - 10 Square at Orchard Central and The Substation.

It seems to be growing in size, but it was not without its problems.

There was a lot of choreographic honesty in the solos this year. Each solo artist told his or her story unapologetically and uniquely.

Phitthaya Phaefuang, better known as Sun, presented a body that attempted to tire itself out by a tedious series of repetitive squat lunges. What was left at the end of the gruelling routine was a body sapped of all extra energy, presenting its very existence in a plain and unfettered fashion.

Opting for a more schizophrenic style was Martina Feiertag's Anamnese, in whch she switched violently from one psychological state to another - it looked as if she was trying to condense her experiences into 10 minutes. Sometimes puzzling, sometimes unsettling, her performance ended with her slamming her body against a wall, cartoon style, as the lights went out.

Indonesian dancer Bokir started strongly with jumps that were explosive and landings that had the supple agility of a cat. His broad chest and chiselled abs stretched sensually as his fingers fluttered deftly with the movements of Javanese dance forms. But it eventually descended into an unfocused display of physical dexterity.

Esme Boyce from America also faced similar issues. There was clear bodily concern that she was addressing. But I failed to read anything more than concerns of technical achievement.

Also problematic were the Maya dance artists who were cast in at least four works. It was clear that they have strong and consistent performance qualities. Newer dancers such as Eva Tey showed a more agile body than previously. But they did not quite manage to overcome the challenge of according each piece its subtle difference. They looked similar in every piece they performed in.

In particular, long-time company member Shahrin Johry, who is undoubtedly a strong and confident performer, must find more ways of performing, presenting and inhabiting a space. In Release 5.0, his various appearances tended to be one-dimensional.

Two works stood out in this instalment. Singaporean Adam Lau's I Have Nothing To Do With Explosions was a pensive, glacially sparse work that featured two bodies relating to each other at a most fundamental level. The minimal duet was meticulous in directing and shifting the energies present in the space, creating a work that gave the viewer space to ponder.

In another duet, Danish choreographer Simone Wierod presented WWW, a rhythmically sensitive and slapstick dance performed to a carefully edited soundtrack of weather reports. The two dancers bounced energies off each other with impeccable timing.

The concept of space was also expanded from listening to the soundtrack. Upon hearing weather reports that talked mostly about winter on a balmy March evening in a theatre in Singapore, I was suddenly very aware of the size of the world I live in.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2016, with the headline 'Dance platform's growing pains'. Print Edition | Subscribe