Insightful works-in-progress

Atishoo, Atishoo, Who Falls Down? (To Be Continued, above) by Chia Poh Hian takes a trip back to one's childhood.
Atishoo, Atishoo, Who Falls Down? (To Be Continued, above) by Chia Poh Hian takes a trip back to one's childhood.PHOTO: BERNIE NG

REVIEW / DANCE

NEW VISION 2016

T.H.E Dance Company

Goodman Arts Centre/Last Saturday

New Vision is T.H.E Dance Company's experimental platform for its dancers to present new works-in-progress within the comfortable space of their rehearsal premises in Goodman Arts Centre.

Often, the dancers execute the vision of a choreographer on stage, but here, in their own choreography, they reveal their concerns and sensibilities as artists.

Chia Poh Hian's playful Atishoo, Atishoo, Who Falls Down? (To Be Continued),  harks back to the naivete and carefree nature of childhood - a theme she has explored in previous work.

Here, she colours the mundane use of tissue and toilet paper with musings on maturity and independence. One dancer mummifies herself with toilet paper, while another pads the floor with pink tissue as he crawls around. In a delightful game, they all try to keep a piece of tissue afloat by blowing at it.

The work is engaging and fires up one's imagination, but it loses steam towards the end.

Pieces by Evelyn Toh and Billy Keohavong deal with reality and perceptions of it.

Keohavong's The Break refers to an eerie track by English electronic musician Planningtorock, which the dancers sing throughout the performance, evoking a sense of predators on the hunt. The space is anchored by a sculpture of interlocking chairs, which collapses as the dancers bash their way through it.

All movement is broken down to little tics and shifts and the ensemble breaks up into solos.

In Toh's work, And The Trend Of The Day Is..., the dancers pulsate with stunning energy, especially when seen in such close quarters. Dressed in white coats, the quartet, seized with cult-like devotion, chant and bound through a narrow corridor which the audience sits on either side of. They repeat shouts of "red light, green light", alluding to being buffeted by invisible forces of society and the restless need to keep up and keep moving.

In stark contrast, But... Fly by Wu Mi and his partner, Cui Chen, is a serene, romantic duet, complete with harmoniously extended limbs and an upright grace. Suspended within an aerial silk cocoon, Chen rolls in and out of splits in a nod to the flexibility associated with such aerial acts and Wu shows himself to be a reliable partner, manoeuvring Chen with tenderness and ease.

Closing the evening is Anthea Seah's Practice, a pensive, heartfelt homage to the very studio New Vision is performed in.

She starts by introducing an installation of old costumes and artefacts, then remembers where people left their marks in the space - a spot where Wu always stands in the studio, the place where dancers stretched with their feet on the barres, spaces where particular visions about dance came to life.

Chia and Wu then dance a medley of pieces created for the company by Iratxe Ansa and Xing Liang, which are spliced with movements from their daily technique classes. There is process in this work as videos of rehearsals are projected on the walls and ceiling, seeming to reflect what the concrete has absorbed.

But Seah's work is not all sentimentality. There is wit and an overwhelming sense of the present and the history that she is creating. Watching this puts the programme in context - the dancers and dances are a result of the who and what that have come before them and the programme transcends itself.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2016, with the headline 'Insightful works-in-progress'. Print Edition | Subscribe