Showroom of possibilities

Dancers worked with chairs and other furniture in their performance. PHOTO: JUSTIN KOH



Frontier Danceland

Mobler showroom warehouse

Last Saturday

Frontier Danceland is decidedly stepping out of its comfort zone this year, organising a dance battle event which attracted an astonishing variety of dancers and, now, capturing an antique furniture showroom with the troupe's quirky sensibility that has steadily emerged in recent years.

The Mobler showroom is cloaked in adventure, with large maps and antlers mounted on its walls. Around a central pillar, chairs and chests of drawers are strewn all over the floor, each bearing the imprint of homes, owners and travel on its surface.

This seems like fertile ground for Frontier Danceland's Improv-tu, a site-specific improvised performance as part of its dancers' choreographic season this year. However, the work lacks depth as it seems to disregard this for the pure spatial possibilities the charmingly haphazard landscape provides.

Helmed by dancer Joy Wang, the 45-minute work is a collaboration with an independent musician who goes by the performing name sullen, a brooding presence on the guitar and loop machine.

The dancers begin by discovering their surroundings, draping themselves over and snaking around any surface they can find. Some do this gingerly, while others playfully stand on and vault over pieces of furniture.

Human and chair legs tangle, open drawers are sat on and audience members shift as they sense the action inching towards them.

There is an irregularity between the performative states of the dancers that dogs the performance.

Some are wide-eyed, navigating the world of Mobler like children. Others are on a voyage, their steely gazes capped by chairs raised overhead.

A trio play hide and seek, while a duo stake claim over a mountain of chairs they have built. There is much happening, yet the air is still.

In the work's final section, a clarity of purpose surfaces and it unites the ensemble's performance.

Placing chairs one in front of the other, they create a passage to the world beyond Mobler, one where they can walk unhindered. Slithering between legs and treading on backrests, the dancers are finding their feet before they hit the cold reality of solid ground.

Where Improv-tu provides a vivid image, it sparks the imagination and allows the unique Mobler furniture to perform its own history.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline Showroom of possibilities. Subscribe