Lovingly crafted but parts are disparate in delivery

Milieu 2015 had lovingly crafted sections, but they were placed incongruously next to each other. PHOTO: SISTIC

Collaboration has become all the rage in recent local dance productions, but Frontier Danceland's show last weekend is proof that such projects need to be thought through more thoroughly.

Milieu 2015 had lovingly crafted sections, but they were placed incongruously next to each other.

Artistic director Low Mei Yoke had described the work as one where ideas from herself and company artist Christina Chan were woven together under the theme of heritage.


  • MILIEU 2015

    Frontier Danceland

    Esplanade Theatre Studio /

    Last Friday

The evening's performance, however, would have worked much better as a double bill because their respective parts were disparate in delivery. Low focused on heritage loss by telling the tale of the ma jie, Chinese domestic helpers of yesteryear. All the sign posts were there - the achingly tender strains of the erhu played live by Ding Yi Music Company; the Chinese dance-inspired steps; the hair combing ceremony uttered in Cantonese - it was nostalgia central.

Guest performer Jalyn Han gave an arresting performance as an elderly ma jie reminiscing about her younger days as she sat stoic at a table eating a bowl of rice. Her contemplative presence pervaded the entire space.

Chan's section was an abstraction of the elusive and impermanent quality of heritage, showing a fluid montage of bodies that constantly rearranged themselves in loose groups. The company's quirky and increasingly gaga- inspired style was evident and showed off well.

For this section, Ding Yi played long sweeping riffs of rolling sounds.

It is a pity then that when considered as one work, the strong points of each section ended up giving off an awkward energy.

Even long-time lighting collaborator Gabriel Chan, who had come up with unique and innovative lighting designs for Frontier productions, failed to find coherence here.

On its own, his design had many gorgeously stylish moments, but when layered onto this per- formance, many lighting cues seemed superfluous.

The only thing that tied the show together was Ho Wen Yang's assertive music composition for Ding Yi.

From start to finish, it provided a continuous and sensitively calculated ebb and flow of energy in the midst of discordant images.

Collaboration is trendy because it rides on the positive values of information sharing and exchange.

But why do some feel the need to collaborate if what they say already stands firm in its own right?

There is as much merit in being comfortable with diversity as there is in finding ways to work together.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline Lovingly crafted but parts are disparate in delivery. Subscribe