Dance review: T.H.E Dance Company's Organised Chaos has too much chaos and no organisation

Dancers perform in T.H.E Dance Company's Organised Chaos. -- PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR
Dancers perform in T.H.E Dance Company's Organised Chaos. -- PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR
Dancers perform in T.H.E Dance Company's Organised Chaos. -- PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR
Dancers perform in T.H.E Dance Company's Organised Chaos. -- PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR

I really wanted to like Organised Chaos, which I caught on Thursday as part of the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival. The work had so many things going for it - different perspectives (literally, with a live feed from a video camera), exciting, thumping use of body percussion and vocals, and T.H.E's signature meld of power and precision.

But although the title promised some organisation to the chaos, it ended up being more mess than management.

Each segment seemed to be cast adrift, floating along in its own sea of significance, sometimes lightly bumping corners with another, but nothing more. In this case, the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

The piece, which was created by the company's artistic director Kuik Swee Boon and resident Korean choreographer Kim Jae Duk, was shaped out of an ongoing conversation between the two about the inner workings of the human condition.

Seven dancers - a mix of veterans and newbies - were tasked to pull together a raft of different fragments. Each portion in itself was interesting, creative and executed to perfection.

Dancers holding a wireless microphone turned it from a mere conduit into a musical instrument, tapping and thumping it on the body to make sounds, while keeping to a strict metronome of beats. The reverberation added to each strike turned the everyday noise menacing, pulling the tension in the theatre up several notches.

Another microphone then descended from the ceiling, attached to an elastic cord and shrouded in shredded newspaper. As a stern-looking Zhuo Zihao stood upstage, a video camera trained on his face, and projected a massive live feed onto the backdrop. In front of this Big Brother-esque setup, a gaggle of dancers fought over the dangling microphone.

The microphone was then replaced by the video camera, which was hoisted up to the ceiling, giving us literally, a different perspective of what was going on on stage.

In another section, the dancers raced around the stage, counting backwards from 100, and stopping inexplicably at nine; after that, apprentice dancer Evelyn Toh sat in front of a newspaper-covered board, spouting truisms such as "our knowledge has made us cynical, and our cleverness unkind" and "the only thing constant in life is inconsistency".

Organised Chaos seemed like an arbitrary assemblage, an assortment of parts randomly tacked on to one another. Just when I had started to unpeel a set of movements, the piece would shift, and it did not feel like progression on any plane, but a quick shuffle sideways.

There was rarely a time where the eye was just drawn to a single spot, and instead the stage was furnished with a full band of movement. It was easy to pick out the bassline - a dancer counting, playing the harmonica, repeating a set of movements - the reliable keyboard and the more explosive melody, but the harmony never quite came together.

While there is beauty in chaos, there is also beauty in symmetry, structure and form. Organised Chaos needs to find a way of striking a balance between the two, to piece together its electrifying parts into a cohesive whole.

Organised Chaos

Where: Esplanade Theatre Studio

When: Dec 5 and 6, 8pm

Admission: $32 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)