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.
>>>>>SEMIOTIC GIRL IN TOP FORM
One of the
highlights of the Substation's Septfest 2001 was CHARACTER STUDY by freelance
choreographer and dancer Michelle Stortz. The five works presented were
the result of collaboration with writer Alfian Sa'at, dancer George Chua,
musician Atman and choreographer Stephanie Burridge.
The first piece, entitled 'Fine Hats', was a monologue with Michelle performing
to music by Atman. She played a woman recalling her family life in her
life after death. Particularly poignant were the emotions she felt for
her husband and daughter despite being hurt by them, because as she says,
"people love people... that's what people do." Michelle displayed
good theatrical skills here and her physical exploration accentuated her
character further. All this done to music by Atman, the resonating echoes
of his instrument emanating a spiritual and supernatural sense.
The second piece, 'Touch', explored that human act which people often
(or seldom) perform. The text by Alfian was read by Stephanie Burridge,
and Michelle and George gave it a physical dimension, frolicking, rolling
and wrestling on the floor. The nuances of touch between different subjects
were examined: the paternal touch, the maternal touch, the touch between
siblings and enemies. Atman lent his fine musical talent to this piece,
mirroring the emotions of the dancers. Unfortunately, due to the loud
music playing over the system, the narration of the poem was hard to follow
>>'CHARACTER STUDY showed how dance can be serious and enjoyable
at the same time'
'Semiotic Girl' was also a text and dance piece, with Alfian narrating
his own text this time. Michelle played a lady who had a one-night affair
with someone she met at a club, and was left debating whether to call
him after that. Alfian incorporated slogans in advertising campaigns which
we encounter in everyday life, and all these influenced Michelle's character,
showing how phrases used to appeal to consumers' sentiments influenced
her as well. Michelle danced and mimed in this hilarious piece, reacting
to some familiar cheesy slogan. The highlight must have been her very
violent display of the demanding rites of love. Most delightful.
In 'Tread (work-in-progress)', Michelle danced in the space divided by
three drapes suspended from the ceiling. She moved and danced to the voiceover
expressing words that were hard to catch. But it didn't matter since Michelle
was deeply involved in the moment and drew us into her space. The pace
was slow, and after the preceding pieces it took quite some effort to
digest this. The drapes, however imposing and hard they seemed, were still
light and soft, and Michelle used them cleverly by pulling them, gathering
them into a rope and veiling her face with them. Her movements were never
The last piece 'Framed' was choreographed by Stephanie Burridge and was
performed energetically and heartily by Michelle to the music of Nino
Rota. She appeared on stage dressed glamorously for a function. The entire
dance, with a few costume changes on stage, showed what was happening
in her mind, like her inner-self let loose, presumably during some social
function. And so her emotions ranged from excitement (dancing fanatically
cabaret-style) to disappointment and shame (shades shielded her eyes)
to self-reflection. After all this emotion-venting, the audience was drawn
into her down-to-earth intense feelings, and finally she picked herself
up again in the first dress she wore.
With all the variegated movements one always expects from dance, CHARACTER
STUDY showed how dance can be serious and enjoyable at the same time.
Pity it was a one-night performance. Would "Encore!" bring Michelle
back to the stage?