Dance review: Strong focus, lush visuals from choreographer Ebelle Chong in R.e.P 2015

This weekend, Raw Moves presents R.e.P 2015, a doublebill performance featuring works by Chang Chien-Hao (Taiwan) and Ebelle Chong (Singapore)

Many Taiwanese dance artists are known for their high level of physical clarity. This was present in Chang's work, Floating Box. However, his concept could have fared better. Floating Box did not float so much as drift aimlessly from scene to scene.

What was clear were the shapes formed by the dancers. They grouped up to form still images, following which one dancer would drop out, leaving a gap in the picture. This idea of absence and leaving traces was apparent throughout the work.

What was not clear were the intentions behind their actions. Yes, contemporary dance allows us to appreciate the arbitrary, but the problem with Chang's work was that it seemed undecided between wanting to be abstract or situational. Through movement, facial expression and gesture, life's many scenarios were recognised, but the dancers would suddenly break into long, seemingly unrelated passages of dance.

The dancing was engaging though. Large, sweeping movements sent bodies sliding across the floor. Generous leg swings shifted off-balanced bodies from one spot to another. Neo Hong Chin was particular adept in the execution of the movement. Her moves had a sense of release, yet were nimble and accurate. This visually translated to a body that looked liberated yet was strong at its core. Another long-time Raw Moves' dancer, Kong Wei Jie, had an engaging presence on stage, though he could do with more polish in terms of technique.

Ebelle Chong's work, SSLD:7, brought focus to the evening with its strong concept and delivery. SSLD:7 (the acronyms standing for Standing, Sitting, Lying Down) was an intricately nuanced observation of domestic bliss.

Chong transported the audience into a kitchen by setting up a baking station upstage. Throughout the work, Neo was tasked to bake cookies. Chong resisted the common choreographic temptation to add dance movement to such a plain scene. This was a wonderful decision, for it put immense focus on the movement of daily life - the abrupt pauses as Neo decides how much sugar to add, or the glow of a smart phone screen on her face as she checks it while waiting for the cookies to bake. It was like peering voyeuristically into one of the many windows of HDB flats and watching the comforting beauty of the rhythm of daily routine.

Juxtaposed with the domestic image were three dancers downstage who shifted very slowly from one pose to another. Dressed gorgeously in fashionably colourful outfits, they inched about glacially, giving significance to the most microscopic detail. Were they Neo's drifting fantasies and thoughts as she waited for her cookies baking in the oven? Were they mannequins coming to life? Were they kids playing silly make-believe in the living room while Mummy baked in the kitchen? The possibilities were endless with this multi-layered work.

The visually sumptuous work had a cinematic quality to it and halfway through, I could not help but think of the works of Hong Kong filmmaker, Wong Kar Wai.

R.e.P 2015 proved that more movement might not necessarily translate to a better work. While Chang Chien-Hao scored on effort, Ebelle Chong's work left a deeper impression simply because it was so clear with its intentions. If this is what Chong is capable of even after recently emerging from a long hiatus from the scene, I am definitely excited to see what else she will offer in the near future.

book it

R.e.P 2015

Where: Goodman Arts Centre Black Box

When: Friday and Saturday, 8pm

Tickets: $30 from rawmovesrep2015.peatix.com