Dance review: Stories from the corridors of Singapore flats, cleverly conveyed

Seeing Through The Corridor, a full-length choreography by Re:Dance Theatre's assistant artistic director Dapheny Chen, was a triumph of distinct elements coming together.

Performed at the Gallery Theatre of the National Museum of Singapore on June 12, the work, which drew inspiration from the stories which unfold in the common corridors of flats all around Singapore, benefited greatly from a versatile set and an artful soundtrack.

The eight-panel backdrop was a brilliantly flexible creation by interior and architecture designer Gene Tan.

On the movable metal frames, white tube lights traced clean outlines of doors, windows or railings, which the dancers rearranged, leaped through, or leaned on for support.

By simple reconfigurations, the set called to mind a variety of residential settings, such as long corridors, lift landings, void decks or the interior of flats.

The soundscape, which Chen pieced together, made music out of sounds which we hear every day on our journey from door to door, but never quite notice.

The jangle of keys, the high-pitched whine of a construction site drill, the lift beeping before its doors softly whoosh and close - they turned from nuisance noises into an evocative, rhythmic chorus.

Against such a backdrop, Re:Dance Theatre's six young dancers tried valiantly to fill the Gallery Theatre stage, and succeeded on most counts.

However, the sextet - which included an apprentice dancer, and three project dancers - were not the most steady of movers, or the most consistent at working with Chen's score.

This was especially evident when the music lacked a regular beat, or when the choreography was huge and sweeping.

However, this is forgivable, considering that most of them are fresh graduates from Lasalle College of the Arts, and also that Re:Dance Theatre is not a full-time company.

Chen smartly choreographed to the strengths of her group, utilising a lot of repeated motifs, drawn heavily from daily movements such as a sharp nod of the head, or waving a frenzied goodbye.

The choreography and the dancers fared better in the faster ensemble segments such as the opening and closing portions, which showcased the sharpness and synchrony that they were capable of.

There were also other sections of the dance which felt deliciously familiar to anyone who grew up in a Housing Board flat, such as playing hide-and-seek among the pillars of the void deck, or eavesdropping on the neighbours quarrelling.

The pace of the piece flagged a little in the middle, however, when the ensemble fragmented into solos or pair work.

Then, the choreography began to feel a little unfocused, and lacking a strong intention.  

Fortunately, the performance picked up pace again at the end when the personal stories of the dancers really shone through - tales such as an old grandmother who wanted to borrow soy sauce to drizzle on her meal of plain white rice, or befriending a stray chicken in the corridor and keeping it as a pet.

In Seeing Through The Corridor, Chen and her group of dancers really did manage to capture what goes on in these common areas all around Singapore, which are the first and last places of human interaction before the privacy of home.

This is a follow-up to another full-length work by Chen last year, A Box Full Of. This, which was also inspired by urban landscape and space.

If this performance is anything to go by, I am sure Chen's next foray into the densely populated concrete jungle that is Singapore will also be a success.

lting@sph.com.sg