What happens when you get a theatre director to choreograph a dance piece? You’ll probably get something like Indices of Vanishment, assuming you have the directorship of as capable a practitioner as Edith Podesta and the leadership of Artistic Director Ricky Sim.
Riffing on RAW Moves’ 2017 season theme of Clutter, Podesta crafts an intimate, powerful piece about the baggage we hold in life, and despite it being her first time choreographing a dance work, does a pretty good job of it. Indices of Vanishment follows a couple as they are about to leave their old HDB flat for a new one, awaiting the movers as they deal with their own emotional clutter that’s permeated their life, unable to let them fully move on.
As with all dance-type works, there’s a strong surreal element here, and dancers Jeryl Lee, Matthew Goh and Melyn Chow really brought Podesta’s vision to life with their precise movements and pronounced facial expressions. Podesta’s choreography takes its audience on a spiritual, emotional journey, with very visceral manifestations of its characters’ mindscape. Matthew Goh and Jeryl Lee play the young couple, and emerge wearing fatsuits, representing the emotional baggage they carry. They’ve lost something of their former spirit, refusing to talk to each other, shadows of what they could be, their movements agitated, frustrated, particularly seen in Matthew’s strangely elegant movements across the space. Enter Melyn Chow, who plays a strange supernatural, spectral being come to change the couple’s lives, a metaphorical manifestation of all the sorrow and clutter the couple built up over their lives. Whether it’s removing their fatsuits or shooting arrows to further their frustration, Melyn’s character is a force for change, and the couple reacts accordingly.
Upon removal of the fatsuits, all three dancers open the lid of cardboard boxes and lights shine down, and they’re thrust into a brave new world, ‘naked’ and unbearably light without their baggage. But as the dance moves on, they grow stronger, more courageous and ready to find freedom and rediscover what they’ve lost in each other by opening up again, leading to a vivid conversation completely at odds with the dour mood at the start. As the couple grows closer, their clutter is decluttered, and Melyn loses control over them. Our heroes have triumphed and realize that it’s ok to let go, and find what’s important in each other, starting a new life together. Love truly can conquer even the heaviest of baggage.
Overall, the dancers displayed finesse and strong execution of their routine, with elegant movements that translated their emotions well. Praise should also be given to the unsung heroes of the creative team: David Lee’s innovative costumes, sound designer Teo Wee Boon, whose soundtrack was integral to building up the atmosphere and intensity of the performance, Allister Towndrow’s simple but creative set, consisting tables, chairs, and a ceiling of cardboard boxes that emphasised the theme of clutter, and lighting designer Adrian Tan, whose careful design set the tone for the audience, altering the mood from heavy to light to add depth to the movements onstage.
Speaking to artistic director of RAW Moves Ricky Sim after the show, he expressed how proud he was of his dancers, and hopes that they not only get a chance to showcase their skill, but also have a wholesome experience that helps them grow as people. And he should be – Indices of Vanishment is hypnotic and mesmerising with its physical rigor and the dancers’ commitment to the performance, and whose actions speak volumes about the source material. This is by no means an easy dance piece to absorb, but come down to watch it, and you’ll stay riveted and refreshed by the end of it all, and possibly encouraged to do some spring cleaning of your own!
Indices of Vanishment plays at Aliwal Arts Centre till 25 February. Limited tickets available from Peatix. On 24th Feb, there will be a pre-show chat at 6.30pm and a post-show dialogue after the performance. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for the pre-show chat.
Photo Credit: Edith Podesta and Kuang Jingkai.