What would you say if you had your own radio channel about dance? Tan I-Lyn reflects upon the process of preparing for a unique performance, and the challenge of speaking while dancing, at the 2014 Tari festival.
On the 30th of September 2014, I received an email from Suhaili Micheline, telling me about the annual Tari festival that would take place 12th–15th November at the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (ASWARA). She invited me to perform in her piece for the festival, entitled Radio Tari (“Dance Radio”), alongside Alisya Razman, Amellia Feroz and Summer Gan. Of course, my reply was yes. I was neither going to let an opportunity to dance in this festival slip by, nor the chance to work with Sue, the superstar dancer and choreographer who had recently been named Best Choreographer at the 2014 BOH Cameronian Arts Awards. Little did I know that the process would be challenging yet equally fulfilling for me as a dancer and performer.
Roughly two weeks later, about a month till the showcase, we had our first rehearsal. I remember it really clearly. We did not have space to create dance phrases, so we used the time to write our scripts (the piece required us to speak while dancing). Sue basically told us to take out our pens and notebooks, and think about what we would say if we had our very own radio channel about dance. There is so much about dance that one could talk (or rant) about, from creating dance costumes and deciding what to wear, to preparing for a performance as a dancer, to dealing with parents as a dance teacher. The list of possible topics was endless. However, in the end, we all chose matters that we could relate to. After beautifully scripting and editing our sentences, Sue experimented with different ways we could say them aloud, such as talking over one other at different paces and the resulting struggle to be heard, like a clash of many radio stations—a possible representation of white noise. Alternatively, we tried leaving moments of silence so that different topics could be heard. At one point, we even had to sing our sentences! This was a struggle because we sounded hilarious and could not stop laughing at ourselves.
The next few rehearsals were spent creating movement phrases to parts of our texts. Like most choreographic processes, some phrases were created by the dancers, while some were given by the choreographer. Sue worked with our strengths and found ways to mask our weaker points. She noticed and created links between different pieces of individual phrases and material to create duets and trios. Sue also brought back Amandus Paul to perform as the King of Lineland, a character from her recent full-length work, FLATLAND. The King of Lineland acted as a buffer to link up the multiple sections of the piece, and also added a comedic layer to the work.
Our costumes were inspired by the idea of exaggeration or distortion of dance fashion—so distorted until they appear beautiful and could possibly become a trend. Our tutus were made by Goh Siew Hiong, who, aside from teaching ballet, specialises in creating beautiful costume tutus and headpieces for ballerinas (check out her Facebook page, Tutulab!). She channelled Sue’s quirky ideas and created various tutu products for the dance work: tutus in triangle and square shapes, tutu ribbons which could be tied around the knee or neck, and even a tutu cap. I thought that Goh’s tutus were really appropriate, because the abnormally-shaped tutus referenced Sue’s previous work, FLATLAND, which describes a two-dimensional world occupied by geometric figures. Both the reintroduction of the King of Lineland and the design of Goh’s tutus underlined the inclusion of aspects of FLATLAND in Radio Tari.
[Clockwise from top left] Yellow triangle tutu, blue-ish square tutu, teal tutu cap, and 2 red tutu ribbons, 7 November 2014. Photo © Goh Siew Hiong
Aside from the tutus, we rallied up our most colourful clothing items: tights, leggings, tops, socks, and leotards. Sue loves her colours!
The session we spent laying out our colourful clothing for costume selection at The Dance Space, Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur, 11 November 2014. Photos © Tan I-Lyn
Our final costumes looked like this!
Tan I-Lyn , Amellia Feroz, Amandus Paul, Summer Gan and Alisya Razman in their costumes for Radio Tari as part of Tari ’14 at ASWARA, Kuala Lumpur, 13 November 2014. Photo @ Pengiran
And by the way, the huge flower headpieces in our hair was Sue’s idea… just another exaggeration of the norm!!
On a personal level, a challenging part of performing this piece was having to speak while dancing. The merging of dance and voice/vocals in contemporary work is not a new concept, but it was the first time I had to do something like this. I had to learn to project my voice and control my breathing to avoid being out of breath. Aside from that, both the creative process and performance of the dance work required me to put away my self-consciousness and just do what was asked of me, no matter how silly or discomforting it felt at that moment.
Overall, it was a privilege to work with this group of extremely talented people. Suhaili, Amandus, Amellia, Summer, and Alisya are all so special and unique in their own ways. I learnt so much from them as they made ‘Radio Tari’ a very valuable experience. I am extremely grateful for this amazing opportunity!
[Above] Summer Gan, Alisya Razman, Suhaili Micheline, Amellia Feroz, Tan I-Lyn, and [bottom] Amandus Paul at the Black Box, ASWARA, Kuala Lumpur, 13 November 2014. Photo © Peter Gan
Tan I-Lyn teaches and dances at Sri Wilayah Ballet Centre. More
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