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An exchange of ideas and styles
THE Asian Festivals Exchange of the M1 Contact Dance Festival is a platform for cross-cultural exchanges between Singapore-based dancers or choreographers and their counterparts in other countries - South Korea, Japan and New Zealand this year.
The choreographers spent residency time in each other's countries to create new work, giving them an opportunity to negotiate ideas and styles and to try to blend their experience and techniques for one performance. Also, it gives the local audience a chance to see the work of young international choreographers that they may not get to see otherwise.
Where discovering talent goes, the strongest, freshest piece came from Sarah Foster-Sproull of New Zealand who did her residency in Singapore and worked with T.H.E. Second Company dancers. Her In the Distance was visually interesting and an emotionally strong piece. In it, dancers moved in a "horde" and then a couple of them would break off before they rejoined the group - which seemed to portray individual human connections, as well as "group mentality".
The company of dancers moved smoothly as a group in tightly-knit motions, but with all the grace and beauty of collective movement, there was also something sinister lurking in the dance's narrative. In the moments when couples broke off to do their "duet", they seemed to be simulating fights and altercations, albeit gracefully. Then the "group" would "colonise" the pair again and bring them back into the fold. With her interesting choreography - the visual motif of everybody's fists framing the head of one individual like a helmet, for example - Foster-Sproull really brought out the darker side of the "group" versus the individual.
Singapore choreographer/dancer Jackie Ong's piece with South Koreans Choi Minsun and Kang Jinan was a light-hearted, humorous piece that highlighted the differences between the two cultures with physical and gestural parody.
They used objects in their work and incorporated a whole lot of play as well, and impressed with their robotic-like movements and sharp rhythm in 82 vs 65.
Zhuo Zihao and Miwa Okuno's Obscurity of Self was perhaps the most painful to watch, as the dance hardly seemed to illustrate its brief, which is a rather pretentious notion of "how to understand self". Instead, the whole dance seemed to be a parody of some stone age community. There was too much slow-motion posturing and jittery jerking about. The whole production was slick, but it didn't stick as one felt that the dancers went off in some alien world of their own.
- M1 Contact Dance Festival will present The International Artist Showcase on Dec 10, 3pm and 8pm, at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. More information on www.the-contact.org