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Review: liTHE 2018 by T.H.E Second Company

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Three works that showcase T.H.E Second Company’s progress.

T.H.E Dance Company’s semi-professional wing, T.H.E Second Company, presented the 7th edition of liTHE last weekend, showcasing some of the brightest up and coming young talents from Singapore’s contemporary dance scene. In this edition,  liTHE 2018 featured three original creations by Anthea Seah, Goh Shou Yi, and Marcus Foo, performed by 11 dancers from T.H.E Second Company.

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liTHE 2018 began with Anthea Seah’s one of these things is not like the others. Performed by Jack Ng, Jackie Ong, Lim Sher Dyn and Jonit On, the work opened with two dancers facing each other, attempting to establish their relationship as they observed cautiously while mimicking each other’s movements. Our attention is diverted away from them as we notice a female dancer upstage, dressed in a bodysuit as UV light shines down on her.

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As she breaks away to engage with one of the male performers, one is captured by a sense of unease with dimmed lights emitted from the chairs onstage. One cannot make out their faces anymore – they are mere silhouettes, and the situation become more suspenseful still as a fourth dancer joins the fray. With four people and only three chairs, the dancers fight for a place in slomo, struggling and pushing against each other to set themselves up in prime position to lay claim to a seat, and we think of the competition in society we are constantly surrounded by.

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Inspired by themes of the self versus the group in terms of our approach to foreignness, xenophobia and exclusion, one of these things is not like the others is a tragedy of our modern age – as much as we wish to find unity and the safe space with each other by which to express ourselves, one is always forced apart by circumstance and differences, lost until they go solo once more and find true freedom only in solitude. As they raise their chair above their heads in the final sequence, one interprets this as a cry of rebellion call for change, a desire to smash these societal rules that have them cornered.

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In the second work featured, dancers Elaine Chai and Shawn Tey performed Marcus Foo’s This Is How We Meet/Part, phase 2 of a work in development that explores the fundamental human drive towards separation as much as one desires togetherness, a seemingly unavoidable trajectory. In this work then, Elaine and Shawn begin with a separation, running in opposite directions from each other before coming face to face, looking into each other’s eyes deeply, sensually, a couple coming together and finding a connection to each other.

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Both Elaine and Shawn display considerable poise and strength in this work, with an emphasis placed on the movements and tension from their legs in each motion. Utilising as much of the space as possible, both dancers maintain eye contact with each other throughout the performance and a minimum distance from each other. Yet when Shawn attempts to close that gap, Elaine holds out a hand and stops him, a perpetual back and forth whirlwind of being together but apart.

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Here, Liu Yong Huay’s lighting plays a key part in amplifying the emotions felt in each scene, particularly in a sequence of happier days for the couple, a memory of them enjoying far better times together than the void of the present. In its final moments, we get a sense once again of the tension between the two – resisting the urge to be together, yet still never wanting to let go. Elaine is left alone, almost fading into darkness as Shawn attempts to salvage and save what he can of the relationship; the sound of a heartbeat is heard, grinding to a halt as he realises that all his efforts will ultimately end in failure.

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In the final choreography, we witnessed Goh Shou Yi’s A Visceral Experience I Can’t Explain, developed in collaboration with performers Jackie Ong, Koh Zong Qi, Lee Say Hua and Marina Edana Idris. One immediately notices a clear wall of plastic set up at the side of the stage, acting as a transparent barrier separating one ‘world’ from another. The work then deals with the unseen, hazy in-betweens we experience in the everyday, the nagging sense that something isn’t quite right.

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As dancers attempt to traverse the invisible wall to get to the other side, there is the silhouette of another dancer mirroring their movements, their features are obscured by a silkscreen and amplified into a larger than life shadow. One thinks of the dark sides we either choose to push down or embrace, and the tension we face in negotiating that relationship in our daily lives.

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As dancers restrain others from reaching each other, one realises that at the heart of this piece is a story about relationships within ourselves and with others, examining the dark subconscious constantly eating away at our thoughts. With minimal lights illuminating the stage, it becomes hard to see what’s happening at any one point in time, and one thinks of the often murky way our thoughts exist between the consciousness, a daily struggle as we move to push down the darkness seeking to manifest itself in real life.

With liTHE 2018, we see three exciting new works that test our imagination and each deal, in their own way, with togetherness and distance, be it with a lover, a foreigner, or even the self. Plagued by the nagging reminder that separation is inevitable, the choreographers and dancers of T.H.E Second Company bring these fears to life, devastatingly beautiful in each iteration and sequence.

Photo Credit: Kuang Jingkai

Performance attended 17/11/18 (3pm) 

liTHE 2018 played at the SOTA Studio Theatre from 15th – 17th November 2018.

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