Southeast Asian Choreographers' Showcase: Taxing for audience

Moh Hariyanto's Ghulur has the choreographer- dancer slamming his body repeatedly on a sheet of corrugated zinc.
Moh Hariyanto's Ghulur has the choreographer- dancer slamming his body repeatedly on a sheet of corrugated zinc.PHOTO: BERNIE NG

When and how does insistence on a particular idea wear out an audience?

Commendably, the pieces selected for this edition of the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival's Southeast Asian Choreographers' Showcase are singular in their drive.

But they are testing - in terms of duration, focus and physical strain on the performer - and reap varying results for the viewer.

Singaporean maverick Daniel K brings his 2014 work, Cheerleader Of Europe, home after perfor- mances in Zurich and Vienna.



    Daniel K, Andara Moeis, Moh Hariyanto

    National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre

    Last Friday

Seeking to counter the multi- faceted, widespread crisis in Europe with his brand of mischievous irreverence, he transforms himself into a cheerleader to inspire the European nations to unite and recover. However, his athletic build and camp get-up call to mind a cross between a clown and Astroboy.

While the piece is a mockery of cheerleading's cheesy rhymes, repetitive moves and plastered grins, it purports to goad the crumbling European Union back together.

With a shower of confetti, yellow-gold pompoms and thumping beats, he simply makes light of the formidable situation and his indulgent humour is gratuitous and begins to grate before long.

But, in a serendipitous moment, the artist is put in his place by an audience member he summons on stage for a short interview about the crisis. The man, a Dutch native living in Singapore, is overcome with emotion and almost chokes on his words when asked about the state of his home continent. Even Daniel K falls silent, and finally accords the ongoing crisis the regard it demands.

Andara Moeis' Untitled (2015) is trying in a different way. A recent graduate of the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (PARTS) in Belgium, she displays its founder-director Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's obsession with pattern and structure. The formal investigative nature of the work and its minimalism make it appear cold. However, its rigour yields tiny surprises which make the tedium almost worthwhile.

In silence, the dancers execute unison sequences synchronously, allowing each movement the time to travel through and out of their bodies. Then, it becomes like a game - one which only the performers know the rules to. There lies a dramatic undertow within this space-time continuum of the stage, and in the work's sly suspensions and interruptions, the audience is given glimpses of nuance.

The last of the evening's pieces is met with a simultaneous grimace and smile of admiration, as choreographer-dancer Moh Hariyanto repeatedly slams his body on a sheet of corrugated zinc. He does so aggressively, launching himself into the air with seemingly no consideration for landings. The metal quakes under the violence, sounding an orchestra of indentations to Hariyanto's soul.

Reminiscent of zinc roofs atop rural houses, the metal here is a symbolic surface from which the artist can launch his aspirations. He propels off his arms, shoots through his feet, gazes skyward, but these efforts are in vain as they eat away at him and the audience. 

Perhaps it is difficult to leave behind what he holds dear as he clings on and envelops himself in the zinc sheet.

This is a metaphor for the choreographers and the pieces they present on this triple bill - unrelenting in their pursuit of realising their ideas, they sometimes lose sight of the taxing rigour they put their audiences through.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'Taxing for audience too'. Print Edition | Subscribe