Of all the dance companies in Singapore, RAW Moves perhaps gives its artists one of the most unique forms of incubation in the form of RawGround. Instead of presenting full chorerographies, RawGround allows its creators the creative space to play with abstract concepts, acting as a testing ground as they tug and pull at these ideas and tease out the potential as they think about the farthest ways they can stretch and expand on these ideas. Given the opportunity to present these works-in-progress before a live audience then, allows them to receive relevant feedback and reflections on how else they might consider developing the work in future, with literally endless possibilities at their disposal. As embryonic as some of these ideas may have been, at RawGround 2018, each of the five creators displayed distinct, different interpretations on the theme of Competition, each possessing their own point of view and with plenty of potential and imagination.
RAW Moves apprentice dancer Stephanie Yoong presented her work titled Fragments. In this piece, Stephanie explores the competition against herself, as she struggles to overcome her inner insecurities in order to triumph and emerge a stronger person. The work comprised of Stephanie projecting a series of short videos onto a cardboard box, turning the box each time a new video was shown. The box comes to represent Stephanie’s mental space, and metaphoric imagery such as a hand attempting to break out of the box, Stephanie blowing up balloons within the box leaving her unable to move and even a scene of her wrapping countless rubber bands around her face suggest immense pressure and claustrophobia she undergoes within her mind. Cleverly, the projections are from time to time, also distorted by the shape of the box, where faces and images are warped to further suggest the struggles she is going through mentally, while Stephanie herself lies listless either within or outside the box, her physical body providing a contrast between the stillness outside and the pressures inside. It’s a work that shows potential with the unique imagery seen, and certainly, if a certain language or movement was developed from here, or storyline was woven into this, is already very close to a first stage choreographic movement.
RAW Moves apprentice dancer Valerie Lim and LASALLE dance student and RAW moves intern Vanessa Tan collaborated to create the work Tech Faithfuls, seeing how technology itself at times encouraged forms of competition. Here, using our phones was actually encouraged, as they started off this lecture-presentation with an activity where we reflected on what technology meant to us, submitting our answers online and watching as the answers appeared in real time onscreen. Valerie and Vanessa then launched into a simple but familiar discourse on how technology itself was comparative to religion, suggesting how our beliefs, our rituals and our eventual sense of transcendence in our relationships with technology, particularly our smartphones, elevated them to religion. In between, they presented tongue-in-cheek, exaggerated videos showing how we live as ‘tech faithfuls’ each day of our lives. Tech Faithfuls was one of the most raw concepts presented at this year’s RawGround, but showcases the space for humour and fun in exploring a concept often tackled with seriousness, a space that one could then develop into accessible ways of drawing parallels between technology and religion. With the wide range of topics touched on in their presentation, there was also potential to further weave in the use of other forms of technology as a means of presentation in future, or take the work to extremes and construct an entire set of rules and beliefs that defined the act of becoming a tech faithful, whether consciously or unwittingly as we allow our phones to rule our lives.
LASALLE dance student and RAW Moves intern Lee Wee Siong presented Priceless, and asked the simple question of the value of a single piece of paper. After all, all one has to do is print a value onto paper for it to become money. Audiences were then invited to participate in an activity where they had to arrange specimen bills on a single sheet of A2 paper to determine how much money could potentially be printed from that sheet. While coming to no clear conclusions, Wee Siong’s activity opens up plenty of channels for thought as he chose to literally whitewash the final value derived from each group, ‘ruining’ the piece of paper. Of all the works-in-progress, Priceless was perhaps the one dealing with the most unique interpretation of all, and we were excited to think about the many directions it could take from here, ranging from questioning the value of art, to even issues of environmentalism and of course, currency and our own ascriptions of value to literally anything and everything in the world. Paper itself could become an interesting recurring motif to be explored if and when it develops into a full length performative piece, and we’d honestly love to see Wee Siong take this to the next level in time to come.
The final work-in-progress was by RAW Moves Company Dancer Matthew Goh, entitled Tapping Out, referring to the concept of surrendering during a wrestling match. Matthew then chooses to explore what happens when a person loses, in both the physical and mental states of his body. For the physical state, assisted by Stephanie Yoong, Matthew is mummified in a shroud of black cloth as it goes around his body, remaining perfectly still with his back to us, but his breath clearly audible and changing over the course of the mummification. At the same time, Matthew proposes a simultaneous video projection onto a small black screen, utilising a miniature black-cloth mummy to represent himself as it is given manic hands (via projection) writhing and desperately waving, representing his inner state of mind in the process of losing. Through this brief proposal, Matthew creates a very powerful, memorable image with the figure of the black shrouded man, at once reminding us of death in his physical body, both as a form of decay and disappearance, and within the mind, an amalgamation of complicated emotions that play out as one realises the gravity of loss. Tapping Out has space to develop on the topics it wishes to tackle, and sets a good precedent with this first movement Matthew has developed thus far.
RawGround truly offers its creators the space and flexibility to explore their own ideas and expand their thinking as individuals, and with the support offered from RAW Moves’ team, serves as a strong foundation for dancers to begin exploration and learn to accept and consider feedback from the public, proving to themselves how provocative and engaging their own works have with potential to spark discussion. With four fascinating ideas presented at RawGround, one hopes that each of these creators will find the time and space to continue working on and developing these ideas as they themselves grow as young dancer-choreographers in their own right.
RawGround played at the RAW Moves Studio, Goodman Arts Centre Block B #01-08 from 4th – 5th August.