Exploring tensions and harmonies

The item Corollary by Germaine Cheng has some light-hearted moments.
The item Corollary by Germaine Cheng has some light-hearted moments.PHOTO: BERNIE NG

REVIEW / DANCE

M1 OPEN STAGE 2 + DIVERCITY

M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival Esplanade Theatre Studio

Last Saturday

Open, diverse and accessible.

M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival's first ticketed programme of the year ticked all these boxes, with six performances that dealt with tensions and harmonies between and within bodies.

The show combined two platforms - M1 Open Stage, comprising four open-call and one invited performance (a different group of five was shown the day before), and commissioned pieces such as Corollary by Singapore dancer-choreographer Germaine Cheng under the developmental DiverCity platform.

The home-grown T.H.E Dance Company organises the eight-year- old festival.

Opening the evening was the hauntingly beautiful movements of Australian-born dancer Yarra Ileto, in the gothic romance-inspired Mist, choreographed by Singapore dance academic Stephanie Burridge.

Channelling famous tragic literary heroines such as Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, Ileto clawed her way into states of despair and longing.

She was paired with violinist Kailin Yong, who symbolised the ghostly male presence that seemed to haunt her.

Unstructured Time by American dancer-choreographer Gabrielle Revlock was a delightful exploration of momentum and sound, with a hula hoop acting as both prop and dance partner.

Revlock can definitely move with the hoop, but the best moments were when she subverted this relationship, especially at the end, when she let the hoop spin almost balletically to the floor, echoing her own body, at peace and at rest.

The third piece, Can't Look Through Your Eyes by Dutch choreographer Katja Grassli, struck the only false note of the night, dragging on for far too long.

Malaysian dancer Lau Beh Chin played a woman seemingly possessed by an ancient traditional dancer. That tension between modernity and tradition was interesting, but required more careful editing.

Touch, by Singapore choreographer Albert Tiong, provided a strong finish to the open-call performances.

The duet by silver-suited dancers Shaun Lim and Shawn Tey was assured, with an impressively synchronised segment. Featuring a long table, the piece seemed to be about the need for flexibility even while demonstrating strength and power.

But the night's strongest performances were by the invited artists.

South Korean dancer-choreographers Hwang Dasom and Park Shin Jung's BAN featured the pair as a half-human, half-animal life form. Almost always in contact with each other, the duo found endless ways to create beautiful organic shapes, paired seamlessly with dreamy music and sparse lighting.

Corollary ended the night on a delightful note. The piece is inspired by the Rube Goldberg machine - a series of devices which trigger other devices, showing cause and effect. This concept was explored fully by Cheng, alongside dancers Chan Weizhi, Chen Jiexiao, Kwan Yue Tong and Neo Hong Chin, with some moments of levity.

One exciting segment saw the dancers play a human wire loop game, where they each had to extricate themselves from a tableau without touching any other dancer.

Overall, the evening's performances were engaging and enjoyable. Covering a spectrum of emotions and themes, they offered something for everyone and showed the power, potential and universality of contemporary dance for all audiences.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'Exploring tensions and harmonies'. Print Edition | Subscribe