Dua Space Dance Company dancer Lim Hong Jie talks about his experience rehearsing for the company’s recent performance, Men and Women are Seeking for LOVE, held at Pentas 2, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre from 28 to 31 May, 2015.
Hong Jie’s essay was originally written in Chinese.
In our company’s latest performance, Men and Women are Seeking for LOVE, we invited local dancer Suhaili Micheline to work together with artistic director Aman Yap on the theme of love.
Generally, when one talks about love, an image of a man and a woman comes to mind. Men and women in today’s world have various ways of seeking love. Some are more blissful than the others—to be able to find their true love, some spend their whole lives seeking it, some find it but then abandon it, some find it but want more and some never find it… Aman Yap’s work focused on the seeking of love—from meeting each other to falling in love, and then from marriage onwards.
Being able to meet the right person in life, and then get married and live happily ever after, is a fairy tale. In reality, it tends to be the opposite. The dance begins with a pair meeting at a subway station, then falling in love. But after marriage, both of them begin to have their own extramarital affairs. The comical theatrical bits interspersed throughout the dance highlights the latter aspect, with the aim of getting the audience to question whether the person that they are currently with is truly the one.
However, love isn’t just about men and women. In Suhaili’s work, one of her male dancers wears a wedding gown and holds dreams that one day, he will be able to walk down the aisle with his loved one. The dancer holds onto the wedding bouquet with all his might as if holding onto his last hope, even when his gown is eventually ripped off him. Then, at the wedding party, he allows himself to go wild, as if his hopes for love is vanishing thin, but then finally decides no longer to look for love. He then throws the bouquet away, leaves the crowd, and instead just waits quietly for his love to appear as destiny sees fit.
Both choreographers were unique and different in their own ways, and that is what was so special about this performance. With their different approaches to movement and choreography, as well as the inclusion of emotions that had to be injected into the pieces, this posed a great challenge for us dancers.
Aman Yap’s work was filled with his trademark of graceful movements and was choreographically straight to the point. As we, the dancers, were all trained by him, and we understood clearly what the work required of us, everything came naturally. But this resulted in them focusing too much on facial expressions, something that Aman wanted to avoid this time around. It was the evoking of emotions from the deeper self that mattered. For me, it wasn’t easy to minimize the use of face, and trying to suppress the urge to do so distracted my focus on the dance. The balance between motion and emotion was our aim, and I eventually chose to reflect my emotion on my face naturally without dramatising it too much, and paid more attention to my body. This made it calmer to watch myself moving and dancing.
In Suhaili’s work, movements were a series of extremely fast and complex combinations—certainly a challenge for us as we were used to movements that flow (speed is always the hardest part!). First, Su asked us to write in short sentences things that come to mind when we think about “love” and “marriage”, and then to create movements for the words or syllables (or even punctuations). These movements would then be constructed into sequences. This method of working was nothing new, but the awkward movements and quick tempo that were required certainly raised the bar. Apart from that, multiple scenes focusing on a particular theme were all occurring at the same time. This made it impossible for the continuation of our emotions from the scene before or to the scene after. Hence, we would have to express the emotions in sync with the movements according to the choreographer’s demand, and this was done mostly without any transitions of emotion in between the movements. This approach to choreography definitely brought a certain level of difficulty in connecting our emotions within the choreography to our own personal experiences, as is bound to happen with the audience. Nonetheless, this work brought about many images from reality—such as the tedious regiments a bride has to go through with the gown on, boring conversations over the wedding dinner, the faded passion after years of spending time together—bits that would give us more insight into the work.
The final piece is called “Ever After”. As the name suggests, the ultimate goal of love is to spend the rest of one’s life with one’s significant other. And to present this “old-fashioned” view of love, Aman made us put on wigs, wear diapers with stretched out boxers and then act as if we were a group of old folks individually enjoying some time in the park. Some of us would exercise, some perform tai chi, some fall asleep on benches and some even try dancing hip-hop but end up “injuring” ourselves. The scene looks joyful and serene, but if one were to reflect deeply, isn’t it sad if we were to live our lives in our golden years like that? If men are meant to enjoy their advancing years, why would they stroll in the park alone by themselves? At the very end of the show, I sit on a bench, holding on to a big picture frame. I begin to stroke my partner’s face, and in acknowledgment of our memories together, I softly sigh. A sense of sadness strikes me, and tears begin to well in my eyes…
Lim Hong Jie is a professional dancer at Dua Space Dance Theatre. More
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Featured photo: Syafizal Syazlee [left] and Christine Chew in Men and Women are Seeking for LOVE, Pentas 2, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, May 2015. Photo © KK Wong