8-9 September 2018
Presented by Dua Space Dance Theatre with City Contemporary Dance Company
Review by kitkat
Gusty wind blew five white plastic bags onstage. Like a drifting bag himself, dancer Dominic Lai, dressed in strips of plastics, trudged across the stage to pick them up. That brief excerpt from “Colour Fugue” served as a prelude to Dua Space Dance Theatre’s 20th anniversary celebration Amidst the Wind, featuring City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) from Hong Kong. This mixed bill production in Istana Budaya presented five excerpts from Dua Space (a full-time contemporary dance company in Malaysia since 1998) and six excerpts from CCDC (Hong Kong’s leading contemporary dance company, founded in 1979), with a collaboration in the final act.
Out of all eleven pieces, I was drawn to “Symphony of the Rainforests”, “Excerpt from Sexing Three Millenia” and “The Comedy of K”. In “Symphony of the Rainforests,” choreographed by Dua Space co-artistic directors Anthony Meh and Aman Yap, a man sprang across the stage with a bamboo stick, followed by five other men. Dressed in strong bold colours, the dancers moved harmoniously in unison, their arm movements infused with elements from bharatanatyam, zapin, inang, and ethnic dances from Sabah and Sarawak, paired with a light spring in their traveling steps. It was as memorable a representation of Malaysia’s culture as when I first watched it in Dua Space’s full-length work The Tree in 2015.
CCDC artistic director Willy Tsao choreographed “Sexing Three Millenia” with movements heavily influenced by ballet. Before a green background, five women ran on and off stage like busy ants, dressed in army-inspired shirt, military cap and tutu skirt, with their arms held rigidly at their sides. Their movements involved a series of quick jumps followed by circular movements like cartwheels and windmilling arms. When the light changed to blue, dancer Yve Yu stood still wearing a green flowing skirt, while the others moved busily around him. Slowly and gracefully, he showed off his prowess with big jumps. Like a Chinese emperor dismissing his servants, he snapped his fingers and the rest of the dancers left the stage. With another snap, he commanded the audiences’ attention to watch his mesmerizing solo of balances, suspended jumps and multiple turns. The dance ended with a final snap.
Five dancers in business suits and bowler hats walked out with stiff open legs like puppets, in the comedic introduction to Helen Lai’s “Comedy of K”. A man ran onstage with red flowers and handed one to each of the puppet-like dancers. They each pulled a feint on him; he smacked the last dancer in frustration and walked off. The upstage curtains rose to unveil a horde of dancers in suits with their bowler hats held firmly in front of their chests. Following the stroke of a violin, the dancers swayed and played with their bowler hats. When they dropped their hats and picked them up again, you could sense a feeling of fear or isolation within them. This was further enhanced when they skittered backwards hiding their faces with their hats, followed by exchanging hats and dropping them on the floor again. The dancers left the stage, but ran back in to retrieve their hats, and bid farewell to the audience with gentlemanly bows. To close the show, a man walked back in after the other dancers walked out, slowly held his hat in front of him and dropped it onto the floor before backing out. I felt that the dancers from both companies integrated together well in the final work despite having a short amount of rehearsal time together.
Perhaps because this production was a mixed-bill, there was no specific building of energy throughout the show. It felt like a roller coaster that didn’t have a main attraction. Taken out of their full-length context, most of the excerpts felt incomplete. Then again, I enjoyed the opportunity to get a sneak peek of so many works by Dua Space and CCDC. I do hope that both companies are able to produce a new production together since their styles of choreography seem compatible.
This production is a show of gratitude to everyone who has made Dua Space one of the leading contemporary dance companies in Malaysia. The show is also a tribute to Willy Tsao’s guidance to Anthony Meh and Aman Yap when building the foundation of Dua Space 20 years ago. While I am glad that they have brought back their fans’ favourite works, it also becomes apparent that most of Dua Space’s pieces share a similar movement vocabulary. Which leads me to ponder, what more can be developed in the next 20 years?
All photos are courtesy of Dua Space Dance Theatre.
kitkat is a young dance graduate, a ballet fan who loves contemporary works and is also interested in traditional dance. She’s part of our young reviewer group, The 2020s.