Dance Review: Tenuous connections between dancers and audience

The term intermezzo refers to a short linking passage between major sections of music, and in this case, Singapore Dance Theatre’s triple bill on Saturday afternoon was meant for forge a bond between the choreographers, dancers and the audience.

While that may have been its intention, the connection between the dancers and audience at the Esplanade Theatre Studio more often than not felt tenuous.

Despite moments of brilliance and beauty, the showcase, part of the arts centre's da;ns festival, was not breath-taking as a whole. It might be the confines of the Theatre Studio, or it might be the dancers’ unfamiliarity with the works (all three are new), but it felt like a trial run to decide where the pieces fit in the company’s repertoire.

Addressing the audience, the company's artistic director Janek Schergen called the trio of works “radically different”, and he was right.

The afternoon began with Christina Chan’s Traces We Left Behind. Chan, who is a dance artist with contemporary dance company Frontier Danceland, has developed a distinctive choreographic style: gentle, fluid and pretty, but with a twist. This piece ran right along those lines.

Each of the dancers wore a different hat - “an indication of each dancer’ personality”, said the programme booklet - and exchanged them, dropped them, left them on stage and picked them back up again.

While it was a well-crafted and executed work, I don’t think she stretched herself beyond her usual fare. In an interview in the programme booklet, she says that she will be taking a break from creation after this, and I look forward to see what she comes back with.

Meanwhile, Ma Cong’s Shadow’s Edge was about not knowing what is in the darkness out there, and having to rely on each other for comfort and support.

This was demonstrated quite literally as the female dancers were drawn, carried and lifted around the stage by the male counterparts. This work also relished menacing silhouettes, with legs held stiffy at obtuse angles, and necks arched forward during leaps.

He used light and shadow to great effect, to guide the eye and to control the pace of the work. Just as a spotlight closed in a dancer and the pace seemed to slacken, then bam! the stage was flooded with harsh white light, and the action restarted.

Toru Shimazaki’s Blue Snow was a great foil to Ma’s work. Instead of isolation, there was a sense of community; instead of fear, there was joy. Schergen introduced it as being about “walking and never reaching there” and “about the journey”.,which made it sound a little bleak.

But dressed in shimmery red and blue, with the female dancers’ hair flowing free, Shimazaki’s work felt like a village celebration of a bountiful harvest.

Their movements was a mix of jaunty, bird-like flutters and exuberant extensions. When the dancers lined up in call and response, there was a sense of communal jubilation.

While the first outing for these works may have been bumpy, I am looking forward to seeing each refined and shown again, at future Singapore Dance Theatre outings.