>EVER AFTER by the tammy l wong dance company

>reviewed by ma shaoling

>date: 9 feb 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: scgs khoo auditorium
>rating: ***1/2

>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.


We all grew up with the "...happily every after" of every fairy tale. And then some of us grew out of it, while there are others who experience it for themselves. The majority of us are still searching, those who have yet to reach the final chapters of our own tale. The tammy l. wong dance company's latest work was not intended to convince us either way, instead, one watches EVER AFTER and realises how close to enchantment our first loves were.

Since the debut of the company in February '99, Tammy and her group of dancers share an enjoyment for dance that has been described as ".. a joy that is infectious" by The Arts Magazine. Most importantly, the company have the ability to create the strangest emotions from the most ordinary human experiences. This time, it is drawn from love, first love. The love that is blunt and honest, followed by a loss that is inevitable and in the end unforgettable. Tammy took her chances on stage not merely by exploring a memory that she revealed is still etched in her mind, but also by performing despite a broken wrist set in a cast. There had to be certain compromises in her movements, but overall, this did not decrease her chemistry with the audience because Tammy has always engaged more than just body language in communication.

The tammy l wong dance company worked with Leslie Tan of the Tang Quartet, a kind of collaboration that one hopes to see more of in the local dance and music scene. Leslie's involvement in the production mattered more than a mere musical presence. The curtain was raised that night to show him at the center of the stage, with Tammy on his left amidst a pile of rose petals. Even as Leslie walked away shortly after the dance began, one felt that his theatrical significance would carry throughout EVER AFTER. At times when Leslie was on stage but not playing the cello, he acted as an active onlooker, musing on the movements before him, and even lighting up a cigarette while Tammy performs a solo. At other times when he was playing the Bach preludes, his positions varied so as to involve the dancers with his music. For example, during the pas de deux between Elaine and Christopher, Leslie played at the center of the stage, thus representing the heart around which the two dancers moved diagonally.

>>'the company concentrated rather excessively on the dramatic playing of characterization and plots, while the dancing itself was subjected to mediocrity'

It is worthy to note that Tammy's choreography in this dance projected a relationship whereby more than two characters were involved, and although the dance started clearly with Tammy as the female protagonist young and innocent, and Christopher Lim as the ideal love interest, the plot became complicated when certain issues were further explored. The pas de trois of Tammy, Christopher and Yeong Wen added tension to the relationship, while a purposeful contrasting choreography in the duets of Tammy and Christopher and Tammy and Yeong Wen meant significantly to the plot. This being Christopher's first performance with the company, it was not unexpected that the chemistry between him and other dancers was somewhat lacking. However, this was made up for by his solo executions which were sensitive.

EVER AFTER could be viewed from various angles. The four main dancers involved could be seen as different 'selves' in a relationship, and thus the interchanging pairings of the couples visually presented a different viewpoint. This worked well for example, when certain movements in Elaine and Christopher's pas de deux were repeated by Tammy and Yeong Wen. Elaine, who was dressed in red, entered EVER AFTER dramatically accompanied by loud jazz music. Hers was of a persona quite different from that portrayed by Tammy's, just like the way Leslie's role contrasted with that of Christopher and Yeong Wen's. However, one could get lost in the characterization as the dance developed. For example, the addition of a fifth dancer, Tan Woei Chi, during a short section of the dance added confusion instead of relevance to the entire production. In addition, the abrupt change of music was ineffective in providing a smooth flow of sequences, something that is very essential in a dance like this with rapid developments. Although a change of music is necessary to create a different setting each time, it must also take into consideration the overall impression that is made on the audiences below. Switching from Disney's 'Cinderella' and'Snow White' to Yo-yo Ma to Madonna produced somewhat a lackluster effect that spoiled the coherence of the dance.

Certain motifs could have been downplayed while some might have been emphasised. The rose petals that first represented a girlish fantasy and later stood for broken dreams and anguish had much theatrical value, but at other parts of the dance they appeared rather meaningless and even cheesy. A poem that was being played revealed the end of a meaningless relationship and the beginning of a more mature understanding. This powerful rendition served as a sort of climax for the dance, as reality crashed into the fantasy that we all carry for a first love. And this Tammy and Elaine portrayed with their fierce energies, and Tammy's outpouring of emotions was heightened as she swept away the roses, broken and hurt. Leslie provided a soothing end to EVER AFTER by calmly cupping her face in his hands, an act both reassuring and optimistic.

On the whole, it is felt that the company concentrated rather excessively on the dramatic playing of characterization and plots, while the dancing itself was subjected to mediocrity. Tammy herself reached out to the audience in a way that the other dancers could not, and this upset the balance of the whole company. Nevertheless, EVER AFTER will definitely be remembered for its strong message - that certain episodes in our lives may not turn out the way we thought they would, but in a way, they live on to pave the way for an eventual ever after. Happily or not, we will find out.