>rain by tammy l. wong dance company

>reviewed by ma shaoling

>date: 23 feb 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: the khoo auditorium, singapore chinese girls' school
>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 are many among us who adore the rain, be it a drizzle or a downpour. But there are only some who will dare to be drenched, and feel the drops soak through clothes and skin. One watches the tammy l. wong dance company and knows that they are of the type that choose to toss away the umbrella, because dance is about precisely that kind of abandonment.

RAIN is composed by Tammy L. Wong in memory of the late Mr Tony Llacer who first introduced her to dance. There is no better way to remember a teacher and a friend than to say it in the language that first bonded you together. However, through the three different pieces, the feeling of loss and regret as one misses a loved one is rejuvenated into a positive, renewed hope for living. This was the message that RAIN brought, and this was why the dancing healed.

The opening piece 'Cry', premiering here in Singapore, was easy to enjoy for its straightforward and fast-paced movements. Without falling prey to the clichéd classroom setting of ballet barres onstage, the 6 dancers combined well-held ballet positions with almost playful hand gestures and contractions of torsos, typical of the company's style. Sharp arabesques and neat pirouettes were executed to the music of Coco Briaval and Piazolla, the latter's characteristic rhythm enhancing the fierce overall flavour of the dance. Debuting with the company was Choo Tse Yun, and already I look forward to seeing more of her work in the near future.

>>'I stood up a bit teary-eyed, and knew for sure that this latest offering by the tammy l. wong dance company may have been inspired by the rain, but certainly its light rivalled that of the sun.'

Sections of steps were done in sequence, producing interesting 'waves' of movements. However this effect could have been further strengthened if timing had been more carefully adhered to. 'Cry' was less about a cry of desperation or anguish, as suggested by common interpretations of the word. Rather, it was more like a celebration for dance, and for life. At the end of it all, this inspiration was perhaps one of the most important things that Mr. Llacer has left behind.

The next piece - 'Folksong' was first performed last year and was this time retuned with some cast changes but the same good-humoured spirit. Sharing the stage with the company were dancers as young as five years old. Their age in no way compromised their performances, whether technically or emotionally. Equally, the maturity and experience of the older dancers never once inhibited their ability to have fun. With the dancers skipping gaily to traditional American folk songs while dressed in cotton pinafores, one could almost imagine the stage to be a green pasture with daffodils and streaming maypoles. High kicks were executed with flexed feet, accompanied by cartwheels and straight jetes. Dancers Melissa Quek and Josephine Chiang gave impressive solos that complimented the overall unison when all 12 dancers were onstage.

'Rain' was the final piece with which the tammy l. wong dance company brought the evening to a soulful end. It was a gift, there is no doubt about it - every step was created first to elevate, and then to soothe our senses. Unmistakably, it was the most challenging of the three pieces, both in terms of technicality and emotional expression. 'Rain' was made up of 5 segments layering and supporting one another, and for this piece, the company collaborated with pianist Shane Thio, who gave a beautiful rendition of a Ravel composition. Tammy L. Wong's solo 'Alone' initiated the first drizzles of 'Rain', as her careful steps over and across a circle of strewn petals signified a rewinding of hidden emotions. By the time water really was poured from above the stage, half-drenching Wong's feet, we knew what she meant by her words "I want the rain to mark me … to eat me with the anonymous mouths."

Subsequent segments brought in Elaine Chan, Josephine Chiang, Choo Tse Yun, and Melissa Quek.

Simply dressed in white and beige, the dancers in 'Ondine' extended their palms in front of them as if to touch, and then withdrew them as if fearing they would be burnt. The overall mood was akin to a lyrical prayer, earnestly transmitted with beautiful extensions and falls.

'Goodbye, Goodbye' saw Wong and Chan in another of their seamless partnerings. Now in their 5th year of working together in the company, Wong and Chan display an enviable, rare intimacy every time they share the stage. Not merely in terms of timing and coordination, but also in terms of the way they interpret the music to reach the inner core of a piece. Here, even the most minimal movements like kneels and rolls were soothing.

The final segment, 'Prelude', followed closely behind 'Secrets', almost like a whisper. Both were executed with streamlined arm extensions and strong footwork. Dancers repeated the motif of touching and withdrawing their palms, then pressing them solemnly to their lips. As the ivories chimed the last notes, this image of the dancers lingered on. I stood up a bit teary-eyed, and knew for sure that this latest offering by the tammy l. wong dance company may have been inspired by the rain, but certainly its light rivalled that of the sun.