Dance review: Dancers and non-dancers eventually unite in 75-minute show

Mark by Daniel Kok ends in a riot of colours as the performers toss coloured powder in the air.
Mark by Daniel Kok ends in a riot of colours as the performers toss coloured powder in the air.PHOTO: JEANNIE HO

REVIEW / DANCE

MARK

Daniel Kok

Singapore International Festival of Arts

*Scape Playspace/Last Sunday

Put nine dancers and non-dancers together in a space. Let them be themselves. Add colour, then more colour. What do you get?

Apparently, you get life - and more than you bargained for.

  • BOOK IT / MARK

  • WHERE: Marina Bay Sands Event Plaza, 10 Bayfront Avenue

    WHEN: Thursday and Saturday, 5.30pm

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: www.sifa.sg

Commissioned by the Singapore International Festival of Arts, site- specific performance Mark by Berlin-based Singapore choreographer Daniel Kok tackled multiple opposing concepts - individualism versus collectivism, control versus freedom, audience versus performers.

The work started off with a slow burn before gradually building up to a burst of colour reminiscent of the Hindu spring festival of Holi.

The performers initially moved in disparate ways, some in languid dancerly sweeps, others in erratic jerks.

But they started to unite in the second half of the 75-minute show, working together to unfold a giant white canvas before proceeding to make a large collective drawing using coloured powder and chalk.

A segment in the middle involving spools of colourful thread - though a tad long - was effective in its exploration of artistic boundaries, whether because of personal or political limitations.

While some performers appeared to enjoy the "dance" with the unnamed oppressor, others seemed overwhelmed and ended up being tied in knots.

What held the performance together was how Kok enlarged the performance space, blurring the boundaries between artist and audience in clever ways.

Held outdoors at *Scape, the performance featured a thumping, industrial soundtrack, which could easily have been an everyday cacophony of sounds from a construction site.

Kok also had the performers moving in close proximity to the audience. At times, they even sat among them, their casual grey outfits allowing them to blend in seamlessly.

Audience members also got directly involved. Some were linked to the performers by a string and could exert control by giving or withholding it from the dancers.

This seemed an apt metaphor about the relationship between artists and the public - they are not separate, but connected, and can achieve interesting things if they work together.

Others were part of the highlight of the performance, where they were given crayons to draw on the artists' creations on the canvas.

Referring to the title of the show, Kok wanted to explore how dance is a form of mark-making in a space and this finale seemed a fitting and visceral exploration of this concept.

Dancer Jereh Leong created beautiful concentric circles as he tumbled on the paper, while performance artist Patricia Toh played with white powder, creating a white-on-white artwork, and dancers Lee Mun Wai and Phitthaya Phaefuang "Sun" had powder smeared on their bare bodies and faces.

Despite the riot of colour, the performance ended on an ambiguous note.

Sure, they appeared triumphant as they tossed handfuls of coloured powder in the air, but as they left the space, the dust quickly disappeared.

Once we have left our marks, who is left to discover them and what will they learn?

Mark gives us no easy answers, but reminds us that life, no matter how imperfect, has magic and moments of beauty.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Stringing life together in beautiful colours'. Print Edition | Subscribe