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Production

Jué - Aware

Company

Beijing Modern Dance Company

Reviewer

Stephanie Burridge

Date

09/02/2008

Time

8.00pm

Place

Esplanade Theatre Studio

Rating

****

Mommy Dearest

Luo Lili and Gao Yanjinzi: mother and daughter, traditional folk dancer and contemporary dancer, choreographer and performer. There were many dualities and contrasts in this presentation by the Beijing Modern Dance Company. Unlike the company's previous performances in Singapore, however, this was a delicate, intensely emotional work for two (though composer-vocalist Liu Sola and lighting designer Huang Zhigao should also share equal credits for this piece).

The performers' off-stage relationship could never be ignored, and it made this exploration of culture, politics, family ties and the self compelling - it could not work on other performers. The beginning set the basis for their journey: in diaphanous pants and a midriff-baring top, Gao balanced precariously on small islands of rattan, her buttock-length hair cascading to the floor as she gestured tentatively towards the seated, solid figure of her mother. Luo, shrouded in a voluminous rich silk cloak and flowing red garments, represented certainty and tradition.

Luo's tradition-based dancing had small, disciplined gestures of the hands and face, which contrasted with the large, freer movements and emotionally driven expressions of Gao's contemporary-dance language. What extended the mother's dynamics were the sweeping circles of quick, small steps and the brilliant use of long sleeves that danced in waves and circles. The daughter flung herself relentlessly into outpourings of anger, frustration and rebellion against her mother and the restrictions of the culture and society she represented. The uncontrolled, flaying movements, her limbs tossing freely in extravagant dance movements, were a stark contrast to the contained folk-dance vocabulary of her mother.

One of the show's most poignant moments came when the mother held out an arm from the wings, as though she was beckoning her daughter - this welcoming gesture seemed heartfelt but when the daughter turned to repeat the same gestures, it was clear that it was just part of a pre-learnt dance that they both knew. Though they had shared a moment, their worlds remained separate and the emotional tenderness that the daughter sought was again restricted. In another instance, mother and daughter were joined by a stretch of red fabric symbolising the ties that bind and can never be broken. At the end of the dance, there was a sense of reconciliation when the mother shed the heavy cloak of tradition to be united with her daughter.

The mood of the production was enhanced by focused, hard-edged shafts of light created by Huang. Shafts appeared on the floor and these guided the dancers in pathways restricting the space of the dance sequences. This lighting scheme metaphorically reflected the themes of the narrative - it gave a sense of rigidity and fixed points that could not be changed. Even the last moments of the piece depended on the lighting as Gao tentatively trod across the stage in a single shaft of light that lit up her face. Liu's score created the rhythms of the dance and her singing, the atmosphere. The mood was mainly melancholic, sometimes rhythmic and frenetic, but always reflective rather than joyful.

Superb dancing in completely different styles, combined with mature performances by seasoned professionals and creative sound and lighting - this made for a powerful performance that played out their struggles and final acceptance of each other, and the divergent paths they had taken with their lives and their dance.


"This was a delicate, intensely emotional work for two"

Credits

Choreographers and Performers: Gaoyan Jinzi, Luo Lili

Lighting Designer: Huang Zhigao

Composer, Vocalist: Liu Sola

More Reviews by Stephanie Burridge

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.