Longing and loneliness brought to life on screen

Dancers Anthea Seah (above, left) and Brandon Khoo in Pur(e): An Experimental Virtual Performance.
Dancers Anthea Seah (above, left) and Brandon Khoo in Pur(e): An Experimental Virtual Performance. PHOTO: T.H.E DANCE COMPANY

Push and pull, yin and yang; these came to mind when watching grey-clad dancers Anthea Seah and Brandon Khoo leap across the screen.

They peered at each other through the lens with such yearning that it made this reviewer uncomfortable. While it is unclear if they were playing lovers, friends or strangers, their movement exuded the familiarity of a subtle bond.

Clean extensions and strong chemistry were staples of T.H.E Dance Company's debut virtual show, Pur(e): An Experimental Virtual Performance, which was screened live last Friday and Saturday.

A tranquil music score and engaging live visual edits elevated the hour-long screening, which included an engaging post-show dialogue on the making of the piece.

Choreographed and directed by Kuik Swee Boon, festival director of the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival and artistic director of T.H.E Dance Company, the performance draws on original material from an earlier work that premiered at the 2016 festival.

Seah and Khoo brought the themes of companionship, loneliness and self-existence to the fore through the piece, to which audiences could readily relate amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Playing with screen instead of space, the show's technical team complemented the choreography with peculiar overlays of the dancers' environments and drastic changes in colour tones, signalling a shift in mood.

While the music itself lacked a climactic peak, it was a perfect complement to the parallelism between the dancers.

But the team could have added greater depth and dimension to the performance by dabbling with more lighting techniques.

Seah had performed the piece before and her familiarity with it was evident. She distracted her audience from a mundane living room by using a cushion or a curtain as a prop for a fleeting second, before crouching low on her couch. These elements of surprise nearly came off as clever improvisations of the choreography on her part.

Khoo, who was performing the piece for the first time, made a valiant effort to match Seah's seasoned performance with his earnest expressions and crisp execution. Both dancers hit the nail on the head with enviable transitions in and out of their floorwork.

  • REVIEW

  •  DANCE

    PUR(E): AN EXPERIMENTAL VIRTUAL PERFORMANCE

    T.H.E Dance Company

    Last Friday/Zoom

Devoid of frills and laden with fluid, internalised movement, Pur(e) delivered an authentic contemporary dance performance through a digital medium.

While many arts groups have jumped on the digital bandwagon to engage viewers, Pur(e) brought something new to the table by introducing multimedia not to compensate, but to complement sturdy technique.

As the dancers fell low onto the ground, hands outstretched, they took audiences with them while sinking into an abyss past the edge of the screen.

In one way or another, people have all been them while isolating at home.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2020, with the headline 'Longing and loneliness brought to life on screen'. Print Edition | Subscribe