Raw Moves’ dance work, Man Man Zou, highlights everyday items and movements

In the work Man Man Zou, which comprises everyday items and movements, dancer Jeryl Lee references her daily insulin injections for diabetes with a visual installation of surgical gloves (above).
In the work Man Man Zou, which comprises everyday items and movements, dancer Jeryl Lee references her daily insulin injections for diabetes with a visual installation of surgical gloves (above).ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

A woman mopping the floor, a fan whirring in the background and billowing curtains set the scene for a new dance performance by contemporary dance company Raw Moves.

Titled Man Man Zou, or "walk slowly" in English, this 45-minute work celebrates the performativeness of the everyday.

"This is not your typical dance performance with us flying across the space, doing pas de deux," says Ebelle Chong, one the main collaborators of the work. "I wanted to redefine movement - to look at daily movement and see if that could be staged."

The work is conceptualised by Chong, 42, who is also the company manager for Raw Moves, in collaboration with theatre-maker Pat Toh, 36, and dancer Neo Hong Chin, 43. The other performers are Raw Moves' dancers Matthew Goh, 24, and Jeryl Lee, 26.

The work is part of the dance company's Run Another Way platform, which is meant for non-dance practitioners to engage in creating dance.

Besides movement, Man Man Zou also includes non-dance elements such as text, visual installation and singing. For example, in the piece, Lee creates a beautiful installation when she hangs water-filled surgical gloves onto fairy lights.

The work is a pastiche of seemingly everyday activities, but done with a twist.

During the media preview last week, Toh mopped the room while singing British music icon David Bowie's dreamy hit, Space Oddity. Neo walked around with a stack of paper on her head.

While artful, the activities performed and props used are personal and significant for the performers.

Neo's papers are actually worksheets belonging to her children.

In the piece, Chong wears a stretchable red dress she had worn when she was pregnant. "My story is about being a mum of three children. People laugh at this dress because it looks frumpy, but it symbolises who I am."

An earlier showing in July which involved only Chong, Neo and Toh incidentally had a more womanly vibe.

"It was quite motherly then," admits Chong who, along with Neo, is one of the two mothers in the group.

"And about housewives," adds Toh, prompting laughs from everyone.

With the addition of Lee and Goh, the work looks at the ideas of home from a less feminine angle.

For example, Lee references her struggle with managing Type 1 diabetes and daily injections of insulin by poking holes in the surgical gloves, creating artful jets of water.

"The beauty of the fairy lights represents how I try not to think about the injections, like 'never mind it's okay, everything will be okay', but that beauty is juxtaposed against the moments when I do get frustrated," says Lee.

But Chong stresses that it is not so much about the meaning of the actions being performed. Audience members are free to interpret what they see onstage in their own ways.

She says: "We're giving the audience audience the freedom to collaborate with us and find their own story. We don't want to tell them what to think."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'In celebration of daily work'. Print Edition | Subscribe