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

>reviewed by ma shaoling

>date:9 jan 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: 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.


There was an undeniable air of excitement outside the Jubilee Hall minutes before the opening night of the three-day ASIA-EUROPE DANCE FORUM organized by the Asia-Europe Foundation and Goethe Institut. For both local audiences and their foreign performers alike, Singapore served as the platform where artists from different cultures proved, in their own ways, the importance of dance as an element of communication.

The evening's programme was arranged for an interspersion of 2 European and 2 Asian choreographers, who have contributed extensively to the development of dance in their own countries. By sharing their works in the ASIA-EUROPE DANCE FORUM, both the practitioners and their audiences were challenged to cross boundaries and continents through dance.

The first piece, entitled 'Fleur (Anemone)/Rework 3' and choreographed and performed by Tom Pilschke, was an interesting discourse on performance theory and critical practice, an area that is rarely explored in Asia. From his original conceptualisation in 1998-99, Pilschke radicalised the theme of interruption by subtly discontinuing a short repetitive movement. Everything on stage seemed to be marked by its absence, for example, the initial background sounds of footsteps; the way he touched an imagined mane of long hair, etc. Pilschke teased the audience's attention into acuteness by making small mistakes. He then offered a bouquet of flowers to one of the audience, after which we shifted from focusing on the actual movements on stage to the meaning behind his shadow against the spotlight. At the end, we realized the game had been turned on us when the dancer actually urinated while repeating the same phrase. The entire piece was indeed more provoking than one might have expected it from the start, although it was all muted suitably by Pilschke's careful layering of various segments.

>>'By sharing their works in the ASIA-EUROPE DANCE FORUM, both the practitioners and their audiences were challenged to cross boundaries and continents through dance'

The next performer, Un Yamada from Japan presented her creation '7July, Lock & 11 November' in exploration of the relationship between dance and music. The piece began with the dancer standing still in the centre of the stage, conveying motion with her hand gestures that resembled those of an orchestra conductor. As such, Yamada controlled the sounds coming from the mini speakers placed around the hall, thus producing a cacophony of noises that began and ended at different times. The next segment of the dance parodied the first as Yamada transformed into an office worker who mechanically followed the background music. The pantomime continued as Yamada rose from her desk and moved puppet-like to the sound of a man bathing. This scene could be interpreted as a patriarchal order subjugating female freedom. Yamada was able to couple her innovative choreography with comical dramatics; however the last segment could have been shortened so as to not dilute the overall impact.

While the first two performers presented works that were more abstractly conceptualised, the last two performers focussed their creativity into more direct approaches.

On 'Continuum, Fragmetum, Convolvulus', Marion Ballester described her desire to "combine straight lines and circles … these have determined the choice and texture of music itself." Thus her piece had a very physical sense of fluidity as Ballester's body became indistinguishable from the very work that she was creating. She managed to link up every simple curvature of her arms and the occasional arabesque leg as if they were executed simultaneously. Perhaps because of her background knowledge in music, having studied with Fernand Shirren, Ballester was one of those rare choreographers who had grasped the sensitive duality of movement-in-musicality.

The evening drew to an end with 'Chuy-Chai' performed by Pichet Klunchuen from Thailand. He directs and performs in works that often combine both traditional and experimental forms. In this piece, Klunchuen explored the dimensions of masculine and feminine energy, and how movement can be determined by the crossing over to the other dimension. It is indeed not an easy task to be able to adjust one's body to a more alien experience, while not losing one's aesthetic individuality. 'Chuy-Chai' might appeal more to audiences who are interested in the influence of Western dance idioms on Eastern culture, and less to those who desire to preserve the traditional. Nevertheless, Klunchuen's fusion of both dance-theatre classical forms with contemporary interpretations proved that the schism between the two might not be that great after all.

On the whole, the ASIA-EUROPE DANCE FORUM lived up to its very name. For it was indeed a forum that paved the way for an ongoing dialogue between the east and the west.