Dance review: To Beat The Butterfly's Wings by Arts Fission

The diminutive, venerable presence of Angela Liong is unmistakable. The artistic director of Arts Fission introduces her latest project - a result of her long-time research on climate change - by inviting the audience into the performance installation.

The unconventional setting of an art gallery, Artspace@222 in Queen Street, means the audience-artist relationship is altered. Gone are seats and the need to stay in them, gone is the fourth wall. Yet, there remains no overt engagement with the performers. This deconstruction of a regular theatrical experience means the audience may miss more than they see, as the action takes place in four separate rooms. But it produces unexpected moments of intimacy for the unhurried, and begs a second viewing.

To Beat the Butterfly's Wings is admirable in its collaborative nature, with Liong assembling a formidable team which includes composer Joyce Beetuan Koh, sound designer Yong Rong Zhao, visual artists Sai Hua Kuan and Wang Ruobing, and lighting designer Genevieve Peck. The work evinces rigorous dialogue and rumination on the central theme of the Butterfly Effect, which states that a small change can have drastic effects in a later state.

Sai and Wang create two seemingly holographic panels on either side of a room, depicting dancers in various stances. These shape-shift mesmerisingly, as the audience moves around the space, giving the performance an added dimension.

Peck creates different moods in each room, from cool blue to clinical white, and excels in a room where she simply places five bulbs on a diagonal. Delineating the space, the line of light causes the audience to cast larger-than-life shadows on the gallery's walls, spookily seeming to devour a solo dancer writhing and struggling for freedom.

There are some striking images throughout. The Arts Fission dancers, ruggedly clad in combat boots, are determinedly focused. Whether being swept along by a wave, repeatedly exploding from a central volcano or tumbling out of a shoulder stand, they emanate a fierce stoicism.

Much of the movement depicts being in a confined space, but some of it descends into the literal as dancers pivot around a mimed wall or cause their hands to flutter and tremble. Dancer Mimie Tavivoradilok fragments her body into awkwardly jagged angles in a sequence that unfolds like the pages of a flipbook being thumbed through.

Koh's soundscape is a brooding presence, her sinister strings and whirring winds resonating all through the gallery. The unsettling storm brewing in her composition uncannily leads to a downpour outside, the sound of it pelting the ground enhancing her immersive work.

To Beat the Butterfly's Wings is perhaps best summed up by its ending, in which a ring sensor worn by a dancer triggers the generation of white noise with the smallest of gestures. While this cleverly represents the work's central concept, there is an over-emphasis on the technology, or indeed the means of expressing the complex idea, rather than the idea itself.

stlife@sph.com.sg

book it

TO BEAT THE BUTTERFLY'S WINGS

Where: artspace@222, 222 Queen Street

When: Apr 18 and 19, 3 & 8pm

Admission: $20 from www.peatix.com

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