Arts Review Theatre

★★★☆☆ Review: Resonances – A Double Bill by Bellepoque

Let your imagination run free as art takes over.

The Belle Epoque referred to a Golden Age in European history which focused on operatic art forms, along with cabaret. Despite sharing a name with this period however, local performing arts company Bellepoque goes a step further, taking the spirit of the era and updating it for contemporary times with their willingness to combine various art forms and produce entirely original new multidisciplinary works to evoke the senses.

Nowhere does this come through more clearly than in Resonances, the company’s first live show this year. Comprising two segments, Resonances combines song, live and pre-recorded instrumentation, movement, storytelling and filmmaking, to present works that reflect on human resilience and our appreciation of art and nature respectively.

The first part, Resilience, features a brand new composition by Dr Robert Cassels, who also provides art direction for the piece. As an artistic response to the COVID-19 pandemic we view a film by Tejas Ewing and Deepesh Vasudev, as it showcases a medley of abstract images on screen. Showcasing everything from glimpses of oceans to our own Singapore skyline, from time to time they are fragmented into a kaleidoscope-like vision. One imagines that these warped images might cause distress, but the result is relaxing, as if asking us to reframe our perspectives and see the world from a new angle.

This is coupled by live musicians, with violinist Kai Lin Yong, and pianist Bertram Wee, joined by pre-recorded flautist Roberto Alvarez and percussionist Dennis Sim. The levels are well-balanced, and neither live music nor digital parts overshadow the other, as Dr Cassels’ piece takes us on an introspective journey, dream-like to accompany the visuals, and allows us to mentally wander and wonder over the fears of the past year, and how we’ve come out stronger. From time to time, we see images of the musicians flashing on screen, and we think about how much work it must have been to put this piece together, even amidst the delays and the restrictions.

At some point, Sabrina Zuber arrives onstage to perform interpretive dance choreography to the piece, poised and graceful as she seems to let her body flow freely according to the sounds. All of these elements coming together feels like an opportunity for our spirit to roam free, a mandala for the imagination to run wild, and to soothe our consciousness, and we end the performance feeling refreshed.

In the second piece, Lotus Fugue, Bellepoque shines the spotlight on storyteller and scriptwriter Verena Tay, as she muses on iconic Singaporean artist Georgette Chen. Over the performance, Verena quotes Georgette from across the years, as she speaks of the beauty of nature and her inspiration for her work. Similar to Resiliences, film plays a big role in this piece, as we watch Tejas Ewing and Deepesh Vasudev’s work unfold on screen. As the title suggests, most of the images we see are of various plants and flowers, from a time-lapse of a seedling sprouting into bloom, to a flower swaying gently in the wind.

These clips are accompanied by a repertoire of piano numbers performed by Tabitha Gan, including standards such as Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie, and even Yanzi, a Chinese folk song arranged by Tabitha herself. As she plays, Verena Tay sits at the side, and begins to wonder aloud, through Georgette’s words, about the connection between art and nature. Often, Verena finds Georgette addressing students, or quoting from letters, her language rich in emotion as she recalls her lack of inspiration despite having been to places as far flung as New York and France only for it to strike her at a friend’s house, as she sees a humble lotus in the garden.

The lotus then acts as the central image for Lotus Fugue, representing beauty in the most unexpected of circumstances, much as the seemingly delicate lotus flower emerges from the mud. As Verena speaks and flowers bloom on screen, Sabrina Zuber and choreographer Muhd Sharul Mohd take turns dancing onstage, both wear pure white dresses, as if representing Georgette’s blank canvas, transformed into moving works of art when Yeo Hon Beng’s lighting shines down on them. Most powerful of all is when Verena segues into her strength – storytelling, as we hear the tragic tale of a princess cursed to become a lotus, and we are left wondering whether humans can become one with nature after all. Perhaps, much like how Georgette spends days painting those lotuses she loved, we too can better engage with nature when we attempt to represent it via art.

Resonances may seem like a mass of ideas thrown together, but if you let go, take in all the elements with your senses, and just let your imagination flow, then it becomes a transcendent experience, providing a space to reflect and immerse your mind, and re-learn how to appreciate the beauty all around us. Soon, even the worst of days in these turbulent times seem like a distant memory.

Resonances ran from 10th to 11th July at the Esplanade Recital Studio. More information available here

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