Intense, deeply moving journeys

REVIEW / DANCE

MEETING-MELTING, IKUYO KURODA
Sota Studio Theatre/ Last Friday
WALL DANCING, PADMINI CHETTUR
72-13/ Last Saturday

Two dance shows at the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2015 contrasted each other diame- trically, sending audiences on intense journeys that were deeply moving as well as introspective.

Last Friday, Ikuyo Kuroda presented a distressingly immediate and provocative work titled Meeting-Melting in the Sota Studio Theatre.

The characters, danced by Mamiko Oe and Kumiko Yajima, were emotionally draining.

Manoeuvring within the expressionist style, they went through a visceral roller-coaster ride of emotions that ranged from sheer agony to unbridled joy.

Extreme juxtapositions highlighted the vastness of the psychological territory they navigated. The gentle agility of ballet was often interrupted with treacherous body slams onto the floor; dreamy Muji store-like songs were interjected by Stravinsky's jarring Rite Of Spring, each loud, rhythmic boom corresponding to a mangled facial expression or a taut, tense limb pierced into the space.

At various points, one of them would repeat the words Okasan and Otosan (mother and father), alluding to a deeply personal place. Through the numerous images conjured up with props as disparate as toy honks, straw hats, a snare drum and even an urn to contain a deceased's ashes, the dancers displayed resilience and strength, tackling their difficult situations with bravery and a dose of humour.

In this work, two beautifully tragic yet powerful female figures braced themselves constantly for whatever life threw at them.  

The next evening, in the 72-13 performance space in Mohamed Sultan Road, Padmini Chettur calmed me down with Wall Dancing, an austere three-hour performance that brought dance back to its barest basics.

Here, any sort of sensational technique was removed, leaving only essential movement. Wall Dancing was performed predominantly in silence, punctuated occasionally with simple beats, as if reminding the audience gently of the potential of dance despite the esoteric durational unfolding of the art form's most fundamental structures.

The audience could change positions any time, resulting in constantly changing perspectives when viewing the dance. This was perhaps the most important aspect of the work. Even the performers took turns stepping in and out of the dance, further blurring the spectator-performer divide.

The pace of the work provided space for the audience to open up their focus to the room. I did not feel compelled to fixate on the dancers' movements.

I could take the time to consider the warmth of the lights, the meditative silence and the incidental spatial compositions created by the different bodies of the audience, some slumped languidly onto bean bags, others leaning against pillars.

Everything in the room became a part of the performance. Because of the work's stillness, the other existences in the room were highlighted. It was a selfless, non-egoistic work that, through meticulous planning, allowed itself to share and just be without trying to prove too much.

• Lee Mun Wai is a founding member of T.H.E. Dance Company and a Young Artist Award recipient.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'Intense, deeply moving journeys'. Print Edition | Subscribe