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M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival 2018: EARTH and Filled with sadness, the old body attacks by T.H.E Dance Company (Review)

Photo Credit: Bernie Ng

A double-bill of movement heavy pieces open the 2018 M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival.

T.H.E Dance Company opened the 2018 M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival with a double bill of work. Featuring ‘EARTH’ by Humanhood and ‘Filled with sadness, the old body attacks’ by Kim Jae Duk, the festival kicked off to a strong start with both these thought-provoking, physically challenging pieces. 

EARTH by Humanhood

Photo Credit: Crispian Chan

In ‘EARTH’, dancers Anthea Seah, Brandon Khoo, Billy Keohavong, Lynette Lim, Ng Zu You, Afiq Noorazwa and Klievert Mendoza perform Humanhood intricate choreography, paying homage to planet Earth itself as they tackle the processes and cycles of all life that inhabits it. A movement heavy piece, ‘EARTH’ takes audience members on an adventure as the group of dancers ‘journeys’ from one place to another. Bringing to mind the image of the humble farmer, the dancers don Vietnamese rice hats and grey, clay-coloured costumes while their individual identities were obscured by the dim lighting, the ensemble moving as a single unit.

Photo Credit: Bernie Ng

In seeking to join Western and Eastern mysticism and metaphysics, choreographers Humanhood (Rudi Cole and Julia Robert Pares) make full use of the technical aspects of the show, utilising earthy, elemental music to create an evocative, atmospheric soundscape. The dancers communicate non-verbally in sharp intakes of breath and silently counted beats, synchronising their movements, almost as if they were atoms making up a larger molecule as the congregation moves in unison, clashing and united in their appearance and choreography. ‘EARTH’ is a grounded work that leaves one quaking ever so slightly with the grace and precision with which this piece has been artfully choreographed.

Filled with sadness, the old body attacks by Kim Jae Duk

Photo Credit: Bernie Ng

In ‘Filled with sadness, the old body attacks’, a multi-sensory and multi-genre performance choreographed by T.H.E Resident Choreographer Kim Jae Duk, the same dancers from ‘EARTH’ return to the stage to perform yet another physically demanding piece, and similarly is brought to the fore with an evocative soundscape and strong lighting elements. Unlike ‘EARTH’ however, dancers here are given more freedom of expression and individuality as they perform, constantly in motion as they move throughout the thirty minute piece. 

Photo Credit: Bernie Ng

‘Filled with sadness’ demands strength, poise and determination from each and every member of the ensemble, the power and effort required of the piece evident from the expressions on their face. Following a fast-paced opening movement with a focus on showcasing physical strength, the dancers shifted to more static, stationery movements, vigorous and technically demanding and leaving the dancers panting from the dynamism created from the raw, primal forces of emotion displayed in the piece. 

Photo Credit: Crispian Chan

As the dancers cleared the space for one of the highlights of the show, only Billy Keohavong and Anthea Seah are left onstage to perform a ‘duet’ with one another. A physically demanding piece, both Billy and Anthea have evidently spent plenty of time in rehearsals, from their exceptional onstage chemistry with each other. The chemistry here is so important as it is meant to depict a strong relationship, in terms of dance, with each other, proving to be key towards showcasing the intensity of their interaction and emotions displayed onstage. 

Photo Credit: Bernie Ng

In the buildup to an intense finale, opera singer Leslie Tay (tenor) performs a chant-like opera number, which with his operatic skills, elevated this segment to an enjoyable multifacted piece. A figure positioned at the back of the stage, Leslie is almost invisible as we become aware of only his voice filling the space, haunting and melodic and perfectly complementing the abstract dance piece. ‘Filled with sadness’ tries to bring the dance piece as close to the audience as possible, explorative while following unspoken rules of the show, that helped frame the entire piece very well.

Photo Credit: Crispian Chan

As all the dancers were left sweating and panting at the end of the performance, it was evident that they had pushed each other to the very limits and boundaries of contemporary dance itself, subtly outlined by the dancers during the piece. Armed with a clear narrative, one could easily follow one movement to another, and ‘Filled with sadness, the old body attacks’ proves itself as a well-choreographed piece that successfully tells this story of change and renewal through raw, primal emotion.

Photo Credit: Crispian Chan

Performance attended 15/6/18

EARTH and Filled with sadness, the old body attacks played from 15th – 16th June at the Esplanade Theatre Studio as part of the 2018 M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival. The 2018 M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival runs from 9th June to 5th August across various venues. Tickets and full lineup available on their website here

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