>U by Dance Dimension Project

>reviewed by malcolm tay

>date: 14 jan 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the jubilee hall
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.

>>>>>U for understanding

Those who caught "Four and A Half Rebels" last year would be glad to know that dancer Lim Peck Lee would not be uttering gibberish in this latest endeavour by Dance Dimension Project (DDP). Instead, she would be wearing a hooded dress and draped in stretchable fabric, and this image of her would also grace the programmes and flyers. Said to be the starting point for this piece of work, "U" was as beguiling as the costume itself. Following a cyclical pattern, it began and ended on the same note with each segment of the dance exploring various ideas of human dynamics, desires and spirituality.

Interestingly enough, the first few minutes of the performance began in the area just outside Jubilee Hall. Clad in flowing white gowns the dancers moved ever so slowly to the hollow, almost haunting sound of constant moaning. Bearing broad green leaves in a reverent manner, the dancers imitated the motion of sprinkling water from the leaves as they distributed themselves among the standing crowd. For the reason that "U" represented 'the human longing and blessing at the end of the century', this was perhaps the choreographers' intention in generating such an atmosphere. While being in the middle of this enchanting display, one cannot help but feel like a participant in some kind of pagan ceremony with religious overtones. As the dancers forged an intimate relationship between their movements and the accompanying music, this opening segment created an air of mysticism that persisted even within the chilly spaces of Jubilee Hall.

>>'U certainly struck home with its brilliant contrasts in imagery, mood and pace'

The most fascinating portions, however, involved DDP dancer-in-residence Lim Peck Lee. Wearing that familiar hooded dress she projected an almost saintly image of sanctity, as she placidly stood on stage under a single spotlight in the opening scene. As a holy figure that was worshipped and distinct from the rest of humankind, Lim's role seemed to portray the human spirituality as a fragile entity that could be tempted and shattered. Lim, who was impressive in expressing the evolution and eventual destruction of a sanctified being, handled this demanding role very well. In a stirring scene with the complete costume, the audience witnessed the desecration of this sacred being as another life form struggled to emerge from within her. Accompanied by the eerie sounds of incessant humming and loud droning, it was simply enthralling to watch the two beings stretch the fabric to its utmost, forming all kinds of shapes as they intermingled with each other. Towards the end of this piece, Lim was literally stripped of all vestiges of purity when her hooded dress was removed during a fit of frenetic trembling, which seemed to indicate the emergence of a new form and a common place in the world.

While one or two sections seemed rather detached in its illustration of the subject matter, other segments in "U" certainly struck home with its brilliant contrasts in imagery, mood and pace. Shuffling between the intense and playful segments, Tan How Choon, Choo Leh Leh and Lim Peck Lee (without that costume) displayed remarkable chemistry between themselves while they depicted the passion and tension between the opposite sexes, and the comfortable state of intimacy between similar sexes. Whereas one scene showed some kind of rivalry between Tan and Lim with Choo as the object of desire, this was juxtaposed with a section of duets between dancers of the same sex. In this scene, Lim and Choo were contentedly intertwined in each other's embrace while Tan and project dancer Lee Chee Koon used the whole stage for their energetic lovemaking in what appeared to be a vibrant mating ritual. Credit should go to these three dancers for their tireless dancing throughout the entire piece.

Contemporary dance may still be relatively foreign to local audiences, but DDP seems unrelenting in its quest to create works that inspire and promote contemporary dance in Singapore. "U", with its symbolic title and wonderfully bold contrasts, proved that contemporary dance is not the exclusive province of the Americans, but available to all who believe in its relevance to this time and age.

If only some Singaporeans would just switch off their hand phones for a while.