>asia-europe dance forum part 2 by the asia-europe foundation and the goethe institut

>reviewed by malcolm tay

>date:10 jan 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: the jubilee hall
>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.


The solo dancer is a rather special person. He or she alone gets to become the centre of attention for a few minutes, or even a few hours. An entire repertory can live and die with this one, single body, whose shoes can most likely never be filled with the same character or intensity. Just think of Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham, Molissa Fenley, Bill T. Jones - the list goes on. Watching the four artists featured on the second evening of this year's ASIA-EUROPE DANCE FORUM, it looks as though the art of the solo dance is far from extinct.

With 'Kabur Kabur' (Rumours), Indonesian Mugiyono Kasido proved that one moving figure in total silence can harness enough wit and charisma for an entire evening. In a white t-shirt and khaki shorts, the dark, skinny man strides in slow motion across the stage onto a raised platform. It is here that any serious, strait-laced image is deflated with a single gesture. A salute descends into something ridiculous with a scratch of the leg and later, of the buttocks. A jutted-out hip in what looks like classical Javanese posturing is promptly shifted back into place. Then his right arm vanishes into his t-shirt, only to resurface from the left leg of his shorts. He contorts and stretches his t-shirt, manipulating himself into something small and squat, flapping his protruding hands and scuttling around like a wind-up toy. When he is almost completely sheathed in the over-stretched fabric, his shrouded form, rocking back and forth to the sound of his muted growling, resembles that of an early Martha Graham solo, "Lamentation" (1930). When his t-shirt is finally tamed around his waist, he gets into a fight with his own two fists, later throwing imaginary bombs and firing imaginary guns. Constantly shifting between mockery and sobriety, 'Kabur Kabur' is difficult to pin down and yet it is strangely satisfying.

>>'it is about doing away with the distraction and constraints of group dynamics, taking the lone human body as representative of the self and the site for intercultural dialogue'

On the other hand, the two solos presented by Dutch twenty-something Nanine Linning, resident choreographer of the Scapino Ballet, are similar, yet different. Both dances are based on her rendition of the classical vocabulary. Socks, rather than the usual ballet slippers, are used - think, Amanda Miller's "The Art of Fugue". And both require individual lamps that are placed at several locations around the stage. That, however, is where their similarities end. In 'Solo 5.0', she glides slickly, but firmly, through space; a position is hardly paused for long before moving on smoothly to the next step. But in the red-light district of 'Solo 2.0', she seizes her body at various points, sending shivers through her torso.
Linning gives the language of ballet a certain weight and jaggedness that is quite attractive.

Last year, Korean dance artist Sen Hea Ha collaborated with the Mangkunegaran Kraton on "Labyrinth" for the Singapore Arts Festival. This year, the small-boned lady with the shaven head has returned to the local stage, albeit all by herself. Both her solos are quiet, intensely mystical. Her sparse, restrained movement appears to stem deep from within, released in a slow, sustained stream. Seated with her brown dress carefully spread out like a water lily, she is a picture of meditative calm in 'Lux Aeterna'. Rarely does she leave her central spotlight, only, in fact to trace the stage in circles; her arms and hands are always poised, at times reverently clasped together or reaching towards the sky. But when garbed in long, white robes and matching headdress, she is transformed into a cymbal-bearing high priestess in 'Lontano'.

'Gap' by Salva Sanchis (Spain/Belgium) was the longest, and also the most talkative, piece of the evening. After the lanky, jeans-clad Sanchis tries out a few moves, he makes a direct address to the audience. He talks about the alarm clock, how its ringing becomes part of one's dreams, and how one wakes up only to turn it off to go back to sleep. Then he talks about a male subject - most likely himself - with an alarm clock that is set to ring at 7:45 am, who switches it off to go back to sleep for fifteen more minutes, eventually waking up to pee and brush his teeth, after which he has his breakfast but feels like brushing his teeth again, only to ponder on the reason for doing so while doing it, and that is when life gains meaning. The movement that follows looks improvised, almost hesitant. It seems to begin with a physical impulse: he flings his arms and shakes his head as if to fend off annoying flies. He walks around, runs aimlessly in circles a lot, like he is lost or looking for something; he curls his body up tightly on the floor, as though seeking solace. The grungy soundtrack comes and goes, interspersing his solo with periods of silence. (Not to mention the moments of temporary blindness, thanks to two sudden bursts of stage lights.) The aforementioned alarm clock later appears, signifying the end of the dance with its nagging ringing. 'Gap', though fifteen minutes too long, is actually quite engaging.

At first, the solo dance form appears to revolve around individual egos getting bigger with every performance. But in the context of the ASIA-EUROPE DANCE FORUM, it is about doing away with the distraction and constraints of group dynamics, taking the lone human body as representative of the self and the site for intercultural dialogue. Through movement and stagecraft, these disparate four have surely offered themselves as examples of such.