M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival

M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival: Mind over body in motion

Dancers radiate precision, thought and authority

Iratxe Ansa's piercing splinter, The Sound Of The Body In Stillness.
Iratxe Ansa's piercing splinter, The Sound Of The Body In Stillness.PHOTO: BERNIE NG

As with previous editions, the performance platform for established international artists at the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival is highly anticipated.

In comparison with the majority of emerging, fresh voices featured at the festival, this showcase features ones which are deeply attuned to the sensitivity of the body and its rich expressive capabilities.

This year, artistic director Kuik Swee Boon has assembled a slightly different line-up. Previous iterations of this platform featured choreographers as dancers in their own intimate work, their bodies giving kinaesthetic life to the very ideas they had conceived. Casts were no larger than two dancers, yet the theatres they inhabited were filled with their presence.

Sandwiched between two pieces presented by South Korea's R.se Dance Company and Australia's Chunky Move is The Sound Of The Body In Stillness, a piercing splinter by Spanish artist Iratxe Ansa. Here, she is both painter and paint, dotting and dabbing the air she breathes with her hyperarticulate hands and feet. 



    R.se Dance Company, Iratxe Ansa, Chunky Move

    Esplanade Theatre Studio

    Last Saturday

Hers is a body that is balletically empowered and meticulously conditioned by dance and movement. The sheer clarity with which she employs her body allows for all sorts of impulses - a bouncing ball, thread tangled in her legs, an itchy back, a heavy head - to propel it. Imagination not only resides in Ansa's mind, it also courses through her sinewy physique and invites the viewer to consider a spectrum of possibilities within the exactitude of her movement.

Kim Dong-Kyu, choreographer and artistic director of R.se Dance Company's entrance into his piece, Perfect Idea, is a clever twist after his trio of impressively athletic dancers first establish a semblance of harmony. Slinking on, he demonstrates a physical eloquence that is superior to his dancers', isolating various parts of his body in remarkable sequence. 

The most vivid section of the piece is one in which the trio adroitly weaves under, over and around a jacket as it changes hands repeatedly, throwing light on the circuitous nature of formal communication. Ironically, this points to Perfect Idea itself as it meanders between each dancer performing a solo, none of which really correlate with one another.

Anouk van Dijk is the inventor of the Countertechnique system of movement, and if that is indicative, is interested in logical contradictions.

Her work, gentle is the power, is subtle, but is underlined in bold. The dancers possess extraordinary strength and they wield it with restraint, driving their movement with the natural force of their weight instead. The result is languidly fluid dancing manifest in rippling spines and limbs which have the consistency of molten lava. 

Spiralling through the piece with drunken ease of motion, James Vu Anh Pham and Niharika Senapati are purely vessels for van Dijk's phrases, which despite being layered and repeated, are but fleeting fragments.

But as with Ansa, what these dancers do is secondary. Rather, what radiates and remains is the precision, thought and authority with which they conduct their bodies as they seek to uncover the captivating mystery of motion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'Mind over body in motion'. Subscribe