Fluid, athletic and exhaustive

Review Dance

CO:LAB 2015

Re:Dance Theatre 
Goodman Arts Centre Black Box 
Last Friday

Co:Lab 2015, the third installation of Re:Dance Theatre's choreographic platform for its dancers, delves into the domestic.

The triple bill of new work by Rachel Lum, Adeline Ee and Dapheny Chen unfortunately does not illuminate the mundane and the result is a listless, uninspired evening.

The platform is commendable in its collaborative nature, pairing each dancer-choreographer with an artist from a different field. This installation features the involvement of film- maker Khairulhakim, composer Vick Low and theatre practitioner Edith Podesta.

As with previous editions, the collaborators can be counted on to bring variety to the programme, which is otherwise largely in the conventional steps-saturated style of artistic director Albert Tiong.

While there is much to admire in the tireless performances of the dancers from Re:Dance Theatre's first and second companies, the choreography is much too similar across the evening's three pieces. 

Alternating between full-bodied physicality and repetitive gestures, Lum's No Corners and Ee's What's Behind feel more like extended prop studies rather than pieces with a clear drive.

Sofas are flipped on their sides, vaulted over and pushed across the floor. Dancers balance with their legs extended in supermarket trolleys. These manoeuvres are blunt showcases of movement possibilities without much regard for the respective stated themes of comfort and consumerism of the pieces they belong to. 

By contrast, the contributions of Lum's and Ee's collaborators, though subservient to the choreography, are more distinct. Khairulhakim's short film for No Corners portrays Lum's trio of dancers as dysfunctional Addams Family-type characters, seated po-faced on a bright yellow couch. One repeatedly lifts a mug but does not drink from it, another nods off while her hair is being tugged at.

Vick Low's multi-textured soundtrack for What's Behind suggests a crowded marketplace, gunshots and heartbeats. But onstage, there is scarcely any integration or acknowledgement even, of these elements.

Khairulhakim's film plays in tandem with extensive terpsichorean action on the opposite end of the stage and Ee's pacing falls flat even with the variation Low offers.

The evening's final offering is by Re:Dance Theatre stalwart Chen. A striking performer, she opens Inadvertently Housed Together with a slinky solo, tantalising with the delicacy of her fingers and hips. The recorded text suggests a poet, a definite romantic, descending into melancholy.

She combines an effortless dynamism with sensuous ambiguity, resulting in an almost hypnotising effect. 

Then, she is joined by Lim Mingzhi and the work regrettably deflates almost immediately as it falls back to the movement vocabulary that features all evening - fluid, athletic and exhaustive.

The soundtrack races along, while the pair launch into impressive but vapid unison sequences. Inadvertently Housed Together peters out, coasting to its introspective end.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Fluid, athletic and exhaustive'. Print Edition | Subscribe