Tedious replay of music and moves

Dancers performed a series of repeated movements in Re/Play Dance Edit 2016.
Dancers performed a series of repeated movements in Re/Play Dance Edit 2016.PHOTO: LAW KIAN YAN

REVIEW / DANCE

RE/PLAY DANCE EDIT 2016

TheatreWorks

Wednesday

In the middle of the show, an audience member let out an involuntary but unmistakeable sigh during a lull in the music.

We had just watched eight people perform the same movements to the same song for the fourth or fifth time.

Re/Play Dance Edit, the latest dance-not-dance offering by theatre company TheatreWorks in collaboration with Offsite Dance Project started off, unsurprisingly, with dancers entering the stage and striking poses. They then moved into a series of repeated movements individually conceptualised for, and performed unfeelingly by, each dancer to the audio backdrop of a popular song.

It was a very literal interpretation of the concept of replay and, sure, it was meta, but with The Beatles singing "obla-di-obla-da" at full volume over and over again, it had also descended into ear-ringing monotony.

Gradual changes to the movements came deliberately with each repetition, with the dancers slowly becoming increasingly frenetic and dishevelled, quite a contrast to the (by now) annoyingly chirpy Beatles chorus.

And so it went until their last performance barely resembled the first, having mutated like a game of Chinese Whispers. When the music stopped, the dancers started to talk, conversing as if they had just finished a run of performances, which technically they had.

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It was made amusing by how slice-of-life it was. In the midst of their conversations about clubbing and grabbing food post-show were refrains of them celebrating the end of the performance: "Finally, no more obla-di!"

This meant that choreographer Junnosuke Tada knew exactly what he was doing in subjecting his audience to such dreariness. The cast talked without so much as meeting one another's gaze, friendly in interaction but physically like ships passing.

This respite was brief, as the audience was later treated to another series of repetitive performances, this time to a jazzy version of Save The Last Dance For Me and perky Japanese techno-pop.

It is not difficult to see what Tada wants to achieve. But the audience is not privy to his process. We are left with only the end product of an interminable number of stoic stone angels being swept on the floor, sit-ups, plies and tours chaines, and dancers crumpling in heaps randomly, only to get up and continue; all of it successfully numbing the audience's collective consciousness.

Whatever message he was sending - that process, life and death are lonely and mundane, that art is not truly original or creative, that immutability is a farce felled by the inexorable passage of time, or that dance is really hard and it makes people get super-sweaty and collapse - it was lost in the fact that he tried to achieve this through the impossible medium of tedium, and took down a perfectly good Beatles song with him.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'Tedious replay of music and moves'. Print Edition | Subscribe