Release 4.0 by Maya Dance Theatre was a showcase of the good and the not-so-good. The audience was treated to a smorgasbord of dance styles and choreographic concepts with nine short-format dances crammed into the intimate 10 Square performance space on Saturday.
As with most things that offer variety, some choices end up standing out much more than others.
This time, it was the invited international dance artists that did not live up to this reviewer's expectations. While there was merit in each of their very committed performances, there was also something lacking.
Sanchita Sharma from India performed an impassioned solo that overflowed with abandon. However, this abandon was not rooted in a body that was grounded and solid enough. Thus, the contrast between movement and stability was lessened significantly. Her performance, while expressive, did not manage to move beyond the superficial.
On the other hand, American-based Korean, Jin Ju Song-Begin, and Israeli, Gil Kerer, each performed solos that went heavily into the internal, to the point of self-indulgence. It also failed to engage the audience in any memorable way.
Also not so good were the young and emerging choreographers who committed so many choreographic faux pas in their works, from plots that tried to say too much to debatable music choices.
Nadhirah Razid and Rayedem Roumimper, from Malaysia and Indonesia respectively, tried their best but created works that offered, at best, run-of-the-mill perspectives.
On the bright side, the locally based dance artists who showed a great amount of artistic development due to their time spent honing their craft in the past few years. In what was one of the more memorable works of the evening, German-based Malaysian choreographer Raymond Liew's The Benefit Of The Doubt showed off the maturity of the dancers trained by Maya.
Their chemistry was evident as Sheriden Newman, Shahrin Johry and new addition Bernice Lee (formerly with Frontier Danceland) went through a poignant journey of soul-searching.
Liew's choreography offered us a fluid succession of images that ebbed and flowed throughout the space like a gentle tide. Trios dissipated into solos and melded back together again. This constant shift in the combination of the dancers created a lovely sense of relational coincidence among the three dancers.
Johry and Sufri Juwahir, another dancer who trained under Maya, also choreographed a work each that showcased their increasingly evident individual styles. Both relied on a group of relatively experienced locally based dancers who have worked closely with them on several previous projects.
Johry's and Juwahir's continued efforts are beginning to pay off as their works become increasingly clear in concept and technical precision.
Lee also featured her brand of madcap, devil-may-care choreography in a scathing commentary about society. Although the overstated the obvious, her choreographic elements point towards the development of a unique personal style that will mature in time.
Despite uneven artistic quality, Release seems like a suitable series in Maya's annual performance calendar because it allows the team at Maya to discover new talent for future development.