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  M1SFF09: WITHIN.WITHOUT [Preview and Reviews]
« on: January 12, 2009, 10:32:47 PM » by alvintck

tara tan
arts reporter

For the first time in his 27 years, dancer and choreographer Zhuo Zihao has had to learn to share.

“As the only boy in the family, I grew up quite pampered and always wanted things done my way,” he admitted sheepishly.

However, for T.H.E. Dance Company's latest production, Within.Without, he had to negotiate, argue, wheedle and trade ideas with three fellow choreographers Yarra Ileto, Lee Mun Wai and artistic director Kuik Swee Boon.

The dance piece, based on the theme of family relationships and identity, will be staged on Jan 7 and 8 as part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival.

Kuik, 34, dubbed the peace-maker and father figure of the group, wanted the work to be a collaborative one to give the younger choreographers experience and exposure.

He said: “It's really important to train young choreographers. The local dance scene needs more of them. Since this project had a family theme, I thought that to create this work together would forge a similar type of bond.”

Bond, the did. Fight, they did even more. “It sometimes got quite heated in the rehearsal room,” said Lee, 26. “But by supper time, we would already be laughing about it.”

Zhuo chips in: “It really resembled the type of emotions that run in family relationships. We all have different styles and ideas and feel strongly about them. Problems dissolve by themselves, at least until the next conflict comes along.”

Within.Without draws heavily on emotions and personal experiences.

Themes like frustration, love and personal identity feature strongly in the work, which has seven dancers, including a rare appearance by Kuik.

“The work starts off light and fun,” he said. “But gradually its many layers unfold through the piece, to reveal darker aspects.”

Lee, who describes his choreography as “having a little bit of pastiche to balance the melodrama”, uses quirky gestures such as the shrugging of shoulders or a cheeky waggle of the tongue to dispel the more dramatic moments.

Such tongue-in-cheek contradictions reflect the psychological themes in his work: that of reconciling the individual with the family.

He says: “I have a loving family but I constantly feel this need to leave a familiar place to strike out on my own.”

He left Singapore to study at the Hong Kong Academy Of Performing Arts in 2006 and returned last year.

“Ultimately I will return home, that's the understanding I share with my family. I love solitude and I don't know when I'll come home but I know I definitely will,” he adds.

Book it


Who: T.H.E. Dance Company
When: Jan 7 and 8 at 8pm
Where: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Tickets: $19 or $27 from Sistic (log on to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 09


T.H.E Dance Company's piece on family relationships is easy to like, imperfections and all

review | dance

T.H.E Dance Company
Esplanade Theatre Studio

tara tan

Within.Without was built on an unusual family structure: It had four parents. Choreographed by T.H.E Dance Company artistic director Kuik Swee Boon, Zhou Zihao, Lee Mun Wai and Yarra Ileto, the collaboration yielded plenty of fodder for this sprawling piece about family relationships.

The four creators had distinctly different styles. There was the more quirky and theatrical, such as a scene where the dancers mimed a family meal, as well as more intense and melancholic solos and duets.

At other times, the piece veered into starker, darker territory. In one section, Kuik glided across the floor smoking a cigarette, while Ileto and Zhou grappled with each other in a battle of martial arts, leaping up and bouncing off the walls.

It was a treat to see Kuik perform. He moved like poetry. Dominating the stage with his presence, he collapsed with wild abandon, then swerved with quiet restraint.

The gems of the night belonged to the duets between Kuik and his wife Silvia Yong. The choreography was intricate and poignant, and spoke of the balance between dependency and self-assertion in a relationship.

After she snuggled her body into the curve of Kuik's torso, he flung her onto the floor, spinning her in dizzying circles. Later, she climbed onto his back but, deliberately eschewing the reliance of a piggyback ride, she chose to stand erect, balancing tall.

Within.Without is not without blemishes.

The choreography was inconsistent and some parts, especially the first section, were underdeveloped. The transitions between the different music segments, from the more baroque classical to experimental instrumental, sometimes jarred.

The lighting by Finnish designer Anna Rouhu was subtle but evocative, creating different worlds for the dancers across the bare, white stage.

Although this experiment yielded interesting results and gave exposure to new choreographers, it could have been more cohesive.

What was definitely noticeable, however, was that this young company is growing stronger. The dancers have improved by leaps and bounds since the group's first performance, Old Sounds, in September last year.

Zhou, for one, stood out. He moved with a primal ferocity, his strength seemed to stem from an inner, wild calling.

Within.Without did not have as intricate or mature choreography as the work Kuik composes himself. But like family, one loves it for its imperfections. I look forward to watching this company grow.



January 11, 2009, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Commentaries, Dance | Tags: artzine singapore, artzinesg, dance review Within.Without by T.H.E. Dance Company, M1 Singapore Fringe Festiv

by Chan Sze-Wei

For several of this year’s M1 Singapore Fringe Festival performances, “family” is interpreted as an enforced relationship; individuals with whom we do not choose our intimacy but to which we nevertheless have to adapt.

For its debut performance, T.H.E. Dance Company artistic director Kuik Swee Boon took the festival theme literally and picked out three new choreographers from among his company members (Lee Mun Wai, Yarra Ileto and Zhuo Zihao) and set them on a collision course – to merge differing ideas, movement and music choices into into one related whole.

Four choreograpers? It sounded impossible to me. Swee Boon himself admitted that at times even he came close to abandoning the project. But like a close-knit family, they persevered. The dancers allowed Swee Boon to be “uncle” instead of “boss” and submitted themselves to some ruthless curation. The result was comic, abstract and wonderful.

This was a family that many of us would easily recognise: a cacophony of personalities, with idiosyncracies of movement and musical tastes. Crammed into the confines of a flat drawn in haphazard white marley panels on a black floor, was the human furniture of youthful exuberance, frustrastion, support and repose, played to a mishmash of Bach, opera, tango, toilet flushes.

The family members scrambled around as a mobile dining table, cleaned the floor, split into couples, trios and some fine solos (notably those by Zihao and Yarra). At times the family seemed to close for privacy, at others, isolated by careful lighting, they listened to someone who wasn’t there.

It isn’t easy to stand, let along dance onstage next to Kuik Swee Boon. He is smouldering and magnificent, and if he wants to dance his own irritated uncle solo while puffing a cigarette upstage, thankfully, not even the Esplanade theatre rules are going to stop him (respectfully, they warned audience members of a “smoking scene”). But his company members hold their own, and hold together. There was fine control of the pacing and compound action, including some unexpected and beautifully executed partnering (Swee Boon/Silvia Yong, Mun Wai/Yarra). This is very fine homegrown dance.

Share with us your views on Art & The Family.This review is part of ArtZine’s Special Coverage of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. Read our reviews of the other festival performances here.

* n38834493042_1238.jpg (15.14 KB, 200x300 - viewed 356 times.)

« Last Edit: January 13, 2009, 11:20:34 AM by alvintck »

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