>stone velvet by princess productions

>reviewed by sherrie lee

>date: 2 aug 2003
>time: 8pm
>venue: the guinness theatre, the substation
>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.


The publicity picture was looking a little too intense. Robert Glumbek stretches his hands forward over the bent-over Yvonne Ng with her face hanging upside down. Expecting something along the lines of abstract shapes and exercises, I was pleasantly surprised to find the evening's presentation of works fun, invigorating and above all, engaging.

This is Canadian princess productions' second visit to The Substation. In 1999, Ng presented solo works at The Substation. This year, we are treated to both solos and duets and Glumbek and Ng as part of The Substation's DanceSpace 2001.

> 'Sylvanus and Ng' 1993
Choreographer: Bill Coleman
Performers: Robert Glumbek and Yvonne Ng

While The Beach Boys crooned away about pretty girls and heartaches, Glumbek and Ng played out a tender love affair imbued with affection, obsession and hesitation. From the costumes and hairdo, the couple looked like Heidi and her shepherd boy. Ng had her hair in two pigtails, swinging them in a carefree manner. The innocent doll-like figure would wrap around her strong tall man, or tease him with her tiny gestures. The most memorable movement was how Ng hopped into Glumbek's arms, Glumbek catching her under her arms with Ng's legs bent backwards, all in one perfectly executed swift movement. The movement was repeated throughout the piece, each repetition offering a different shade of the pervasive melancholia. The physical contrast between Glumbek and Ng was never awkward. Instead, Glumbek and Ng were obviously comfortable and instinctive with each other, making their reciprocal movements enjoyable to watch.

>>'No need for rows of ballerinas to thrill with spinning tutus and arched arms. Glumbek and Ng have delivered an intimate serving of energy, updating and reminding us of the human condition.'

> 'garam shift' 2001
Choreographer & Performer: Yvonne Ng

'garam shift' was performed to critical acclaim in the DanceWorks Series at the DuMaurier Theatre in Canada. 'Garam' means 'salt' in Malay and salt was used as part of the set - a large plastic bag suspended like a giant piping bag with salt dribbling out, perhaps as a timepiece? At the diagonal end, a plastic sheet hung like a closed umbrella. Ng was dressed in a printed beige body suit, her body stretched out like an insect or some sort of animal, executing gestures foreign to human behaviour. It was as if she put on the persona of an animal in order to explore the whole nature of instincts. Some of Ng's gestures seemed to have been informed by Balinese dance with the movement of her eyes and arms reminiscent of the traditional form. At other times, she would slide across the space, or wriggle her fingers in a controlled manner. Towards the end, she crawled into the plastic, moved about in it such that it wrapped round her like a cocoon. The last moment was a cathartic one where she slowly slid out of her body suit into a fading light.

> '7 to Midnight' 1996
Choreographer: Learie McNicolls
Performer: Robert Glumbek

Glumbek dressed in white T, khaki slacks and belt danced to the strains of 'Isn't It A Pity' sung by the inimitable Nina Simone. '7 to Midnight' was an intimate piece, a series of sketches of loneliness, pain and regret without ever falling into the trap of affected gestures. Even with large movements of arms and legs, Glumbek communicated a quiet intensity. Still moments, small and slow movements became the passing minutes and hours of the time between 7 and midnight - such is the agony of the passing of time. In the short piece where Glumbek arched and flexed, he was successful in eliciting our empathy and capturing our attention.


>'Stone Velvet' 2001
Choreographer: Tedd Robinson
Performers: Robert Glumbek and Yvonne Ng

The finale of the programme was a glorious one, danced with unrelenting vigour to Bach's 'Violin Concerto in A minor'. Having seen Glumbek and Ng in a duet in 'Sylvanus and Ng', 'Stone Velvet' seemed like an extension of what was explored earlier. A stone was placed at a corner. Before the music starts, Ng carefully crosses over the stone. Draped in curtainy velvet, Glumbek and Ng burst into the first movement with gleeful exuberance. Their arms and legs were beautifully in sync with melody and rhythm. They stamped on the ground, twirled, twisted and teased. The second movement, in contrast, was a lyrical and graceful exploration of the relationship between the two characters. The third and final movement was even more sprightly than the first. The most striking image for me was when Glumbek and Ng held hands and took turns to position themselves one ahead of the other, perfectly representing the musical phrases. The playful pair never stopped for a moment until the music did and it ends with Ng placing her foot just above the stone. Even though it was a curious and strange combination of stone and velvet, it was without doubt a remarkable piece of choreography that shone with outstanding performance.

No need for rows of ballerinas to thrill with spinning tutus and arched arms. Glumbek and Ng have delivered an intimate serving of energy, updating and reminding us of the human condition.