Dialogue full of ideas

Young powerful bodies in an unceasing onslaught of rapid and intense movement in Dialogue 2.0.
Young powerful bodies in an unceasing onslaught of rapid and intense movement in Dialogue 2.0.PHOTO: JINGKAI KUANG

In Dialogue 2.0, Sigma Contemporary Dance piqued the audience with a slick and well-executed production, on a par with the other home-grown professional contemporary dance companies.

This is an important validation for the relatively young company whose deeply passionate leaders have only recently left their corporate lives to pursue dance full time.

Growth was evident and ideas abounded in this work.

From an immersive pre-show performance installation and video projections to physically demanding choreography, text and even the use of drones, Sigma was eager to show that it took itself seriously in its desire to be positioned within the local professional performing arts landscape.

  • REVIEW / DANCE

  • DIALOGUE 2.0

    Sigma Contemporary Dance

    Goodman Arts Centre Black Box

    Last Saturday

From the beginning of the work, the body was set into a state of physical and emotional crisis with an unceasing onslaught of rapid and intense movement. Dialogue's choreographers Jessica Christina (formerly with T.H.E Dance Company) and Hong Guofeng's penchant for explosive, razor- sharp movement was evident.

The group was sensitive to space and timing, resulting in seamless transitions. Their presence on stage was strong and assured.

However, because of the way the choreographers chose to pace the first half of the work, I was left wondering about the need for this rather drawn-out crisis.

Young powerful bodies dashed about cutting urgent diagonals in space, doors slammed, groups formed only to be torn asunder.

It had been established quite clearly that there was a struggle between man and his increasingly technologically mutated environment, but as the first half wore on, the unchanging choreographic structure and rhythm ceased to yield fresh insights after some time.

It was only in the second half, which featured a tender duet by Hong and Chua Chiok Woon, that things began to crystallise.

Only then did it become apparent that Chua had been a sort of a central figure in the work.

There had been instances in the first half that hinted to her protagonist status, but not quite enough to lift it out of ambiguity.

It was also in the second half that technology's intervention in people's lives was discussed more thoroughly.

Sections of the duet cleverly choreographed to happen in part live and in part via video projection alluded to how the same technology can not only bridge gaps across physical distances, but also alienate.

The ingenious idea of attaching a GoPro camera to Chua to film the same duet that was performed live at the same time on stage literally provided fresh perspectives to the dance and, as a member of the audience implied through her comments during the post-show dialogue, a sense of emotional and psychological disorientation.

The show ended with Hong striking an abject and lonely figure, string tied around his neck like a noose attached to a drone hovering ominously in mid-air like some hegemonistic, god-like presence that one could not escape from.

Hong tumbled and twisted, finally relenting to the drone in a solo that was poignant and submissive.

It was a pity then, that just as the lights were fading to black, he found a sudden renewed energy out of nowhere to remove the noose and run off stage.

Perhaps that was a choreographic decision that needed more thought. How could one break free that easily after building up such an intense idea of being inescapably shackled?

This has been a month when several young local groups and individuals showed their initial attempts at tackling the idea of full-length choreography.

While a lot more honing is needed, most signs point to positive development if their creative momentum continues unabated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2016, with the headline 'Dialogue full of ideas'. Print Edition | Subscribe