next wave 2002: remembrance of a decade by nus dance ensemble
1 sep 2002
(The programme's foreword by Edwin Thumboo, director of the NUS Centre for the Arts, credited Martha Stewart as "the famous choreographer" who once said "dance is the hidden language of the soul." Well. Stewart may be famous for a good number of things, but she's no choreographer. Whoever wrote it - I'm only guessing that Prof. Thumboo had no time to do it himself - must have meant Miss Graham but somehow screwed up in the process. It made for a good laugh. Especially when I realised that this foreword will appear in the programmes for ALL Dance Reflections events.)
The size of the Ensemble amazes me. Two years ago, it was said to be seventy-strong. Now it's reported to have more than a hundred members - with that number I imagine they could stage 'La Bayadère' if they wanted to, but Zaini would probably balk at the idea. In any case, members come in all shapes and sizes. Some join the group with no prior formal training, while others may have had several years of instruction under so-and-so. Whatever their backgrounds, the Ensemble dancers are a confident, energetic lot; their polished dancing reaches, plunges into the moment, and what a pleasure they are to watch.
their backgrounds, the Ensemble dancers are a confident, energetic lot;
their polished dancing reaches, plunges into the moment, and what a pleasure
they are to watch.'
We see these designs quite clearly in all his pieces for THE NEXT WAVE 2002, especially in the opening all-female 'Matsuri' and in 'Spirit'. When Zaini plays the central character like he does in 'Shantum', he brings the individual's never-ending struggle against mass conformity upon his shoulders; as the huge, anonymous community advances slowly across the stage, he is left behind, crouching, gesturing in quiet defiance. In 'Being II', the women of the group share this very struggle, fleshing out inner battles in their own little solos together - some calmly carve space, reaching upwards to grasp the air; others collapse to the ground, writhing in pain. But sitting through four Zaini works back-to-back felt like overkill. The patterns and motifs grew familiar after a while, and that's when only the tireless dancing held my attention.
Bakar's 'The State of Un-becoming Beauty' makes an interesting
little mockery of decorum and formality. The dancers strut around nonchalantly
in their black-and-white costumes, peopling the stage with an endless
stream of small sub-groups. They attack the falls and floorwork with gusto;
balletic steps and positions lose their usual posture, done with more
energy and hip action. Somehow, the dance's overall demeanour reminded
me of the Australian Dance Theatre's 'Birdbrain'. Last
of all was Zaini's latest creation, 'Hidayah', which
has more of the same and finishes with a long, descriptive solo for the