>fantasy creatures and other things by the ecnad project

>reviewed by ma shaoling

>date: 22 dec 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: the jubilee hall, raffles hotel
>rating: **

>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.


>>>>>REALISM MIGHT HAVE HELPED

Ecnad Project Ltd, the former Dance Dimensions Project (DDP) is known for being a "multidisciplinary movement based company", due to its track record of unique multimedia dance productions. FANTASY CREATURES AND OTHER THINGS once again proved the company's originality and ability to collaborate with local musicians, although this is somewhat a high price to pay for compromising technique and artistic maturity.

The first two ballets choreographed by guest choreographer Tony Llacer, who is Ecnad's ballet master, are commendable attempts for a company more familiar with contemporary dance. The effort however, was overshadowed by its less than convincing effect.

'In the Beginning' was inspired by the story of creation in the Book of Genesis, and was performed to Villa Lobo's 'Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for voice and cello'. The first pas de deux began with the male dancer centered in omnipotent presence, a scene that obviously reminded one of Balachine's famous 'Apollo'. However, the similarity ended just there as far as choreography and technique were concerned. For example, it was disappointing to see a usually strong modern dancer like Choo Leh Leh attempting weak pointe work, accompanied by jerky lifts during the pas de deux. The second couple showed equally unpolished techniques, making 'In the Beginning' a less than convincing interpretation of Mother Nature, except perhaps for the ethereal Soprano voice echoing in the background.

>>'It was the percussionist's amateur but simple dancing that saved the day'


'Percussion One Variations for 8' revolved around the dancers' interpretations of love, exploring their relations with one another, and with their art. It began with a dance of courtship accompanied by a poem first read aloud, and then it slowly picked up into a song.

The pas de deux, albeit interestingly choreographed, seemed lacking in emotion, as the dancers were too engrossed in executing their individual steps to coordinate in unison. Six other dancers joined the stage, pirouetting from one corner to the other, resembling a corner-to-corner exercise that is often seen in a dance class. Musician Philip Tan at this point increased the previously lethargic tempo of the piece by his experimental percussion accompaniments. However, one cannot help but feel that the dancers could hardly keep up with the thumping beats, maybe because such fast rhythms require equally neat footwork that the corps de ballet lacked. Their port de bras arms were hardly held in place, not to mention the weak turnout and feet that were not even fully pointed. Such slip-shod work could have been made less apparent if the company had not attempted technically challenging steps such as jetes and arabesques. Interestingly, Philip Tan's invigorating taps and little jumps while he performed with his instruments came across less self-indulgent and more appealing.


The last piece 'To Jack, Love, Laugh and Dream. Mom' choreographed by Caren Carino consisted of vignettes from a child's storybook, featuring "the mermaid, the fairy queen in her big skirt, and the love story of a Beauty and her Beast." As the title suggested, this piece was indeed a favourite among the youngsters in the audience. Ecnad Project Limited's Artistic Director, Lim Chin Huat put aside his dancing shoes for this performance to concentrate on costume designing. His hard work was evident in the elaborate costumes worn by the dancers for this piece, and this visual stimulation made up for the otherwise lacklustre choreography. Random kicks and uncoordinated lifts were executed throughout the dance, bringing the last segment to a disappointing end.

All in all, one misses the comparatively more earnest experiences that marked Ecnad's previous works. Sadly for FANTASY CREATURES AND OTHER THINGS, it was the percussionist's amateur but simple dancing that saved the day.