Imaginative trip into inner psyches

REVIEW / DANCE

INDICES OF VANISHMENT

Raw Moves

Aliwal Arts Centre Multi-Purpose Hall

Last Saturday


Indices Of Vanishment explores banal domestic reality and dark personal spaces. PHOTO: KUANG JINGKAI

Edith Podesta's Indices Of Vanishment, created for dance company Raw Moves, was an imaginative journey into the inner psyches of a man and a woman; a revealing of thoughts and feelings often hidden away from the ones close to us.

It was refreshing to see Podesta, who has spent a lot of time in theatre here, bring in elements that are seldom seen in local contemporary dance.

There was a clear narrative thread. The entire work was bookended by a scene of a soured relationship between a man and a woman.

Three wooden tables joined together, with chairs neatly tucked in, suggested a domestic situation. The energy in the air was flat as a woman (Jeryl Lee) cleaned and dusted the table incessantly while a man (Matthew Goh) read a book, not once glancing up at her. Two people present in the space, yet distant.

The large middle chunk of the work then plunged the audience deep into the inner worlds of the man and woman. A cryptic character (Melyn Chow) served as a metaphorical bridge between banal domestic reality and the dark personal spaces one usually keeps out of view.

Besides the narrative thread, Podesta's choreography was also illustrative and expressive. For example, fingers were employed generously in combination with arm gestures, creating the performers' own sign language. Conversations were set up as the performers took turns responding to one another's gestures.

These specific designs were also worked into the larger movements, therefore preventing the movements from shifting abruptly into more formal aesthetic. They made inner emotions visible.

The emotive expressivity of the performers was also apparent. Mindful that relying merely on formal physical expression would not be enough, Podesta made the performers conscious about how they managed nuanced expressivity in their faces and bodies, thereby making their stories and situations readable.

Especially engaging were Chow's seething smirks as she hovered constantly around Goh and Lee, the harbinger of ill will in the man and woman's stale relationship.

Admittedly, the performance became a bit melodramatic. The performers lost their ability to further develop their emotive states towards the end of the performance. Their faces ended up freezing in a single expressive state of vague crisis as they powered through the increasingly frenetic choreography.

Goh was his usual powerful and engaging self. But in this performance, he made several decisions that caused him to appear slightly over the top.

Sections were also too tightly strung together as scene after scene rambled on with little punctuation. Longer pauses in between each section would have allowed the scenes to breathe a bit more.

Credit must be given to the set and lighting design by Allister Towndrow and Adrian Tan respectively. The warm tone of the wooden tables was complemented by the brown paper lining the floor.

On the ceiling, about 100 neatly arranged cardboard boxes of varying sizes became lamps that lit the space with a warm, diffused yellow glow.

Lights strategically placed underneath and on top of the tables created frames and spaces that were explored by the performers throughout the work.

Indices Of Vanishment was a wonderfully weird work. Within the warmly lit confines of a domestic space, a situational hurricane swept through, taking this reviewer into spaces of near transcendence, tenderness and furtive decay.

When the storm had passed, I was left with the same banal scene of that man and woman interacting nonchalantly as if nothing had happened - an image that was unsettling and calming at the same time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Imaginative trip into inner psyches'. Print Edition | Subscribe