060914 / Enra at Samarpana Asian Festival of Classical Dance 2014
It is 7.45pm on the 6th of September, and the outside of Jubilee Hall at Raffles Hotel is already packed with throngs of ethnic wear and makeup, buzzing excitement evident in the fast-paced chattering in languages I do not understand. Yet the ardor in the atmosphere is a contagion I am unable to be immune to. I am vaguely unaware of what awaits, and am pleasantly surprised to hear that the performance lasts only 45 minutes, a relief to my attention-deficit hyperactivity, which rejoices in the news.
Soon, the evening settles in and the audience’s chatter is muted, albeit a few (irritating) preteens seated in the row before me. I resist the temptation to fight for the aisle seat, but the short duration is a consolation I succumb to. The performance starts with a bang (literally), with Satoshi Kishida, performing primitive. His movements are sharp and solid, appropriately capturing the primitivity of humanity. The rest of his crew appear, seemingly out of nowhere. I am astounded by the synchronisation of graphics and human movement, as the elegant Saya Watatani Hara and Maki Yokoyama manoeuvre the objects with control. The dynamics in this piece is inexplicable, truly blasting and overwhelmingly surprising.
Pleiades may have been a letdown, as I had watched the trailer of this section prior to the performance, which was the deciding factor for me to have come here in the first place. The synchronisation between dancers and displays are a little disappointing here, but Maki Yokoyama’s elegance with the ribbon is an encouragement. For a moment, I catch myself confused as to what is real and what is projected, adding on to its overall surreality.
Another highlight of the performance is Yusaku Mochizuki’s Torque Starter. Although I don’t particularly enjoy tap dia, (though it quite appealed to my auditory senses), I thoroughly enjoyed watching his stunts with the effervescent torque. He drops it once during his performance, but quickly makes it up with his mesmerising light play along with the graphics behind him. I am marvelled by the way he draws geometric figures almost effortlessly, the traces of luminescence left behind by his torque matched perfectly with the light on the screen. The torque seems to be an extension of his body, and every sinew in his body is in impeccable mastery.
The last thing on the night’s agenda is FUMA-KAI, conjointly performed by all 5 members of the crew. This was an extremely profound example of cultural hybridity amidst Western imperialism – while the enamouring graphics of the section resemble phone or video games, this technology is cleverly juxtaposed by the digital set’s design of traditional Japanese backdrops, as well as movements inspired by traditional Japanese martial arts and their apt donning of samurai costumes. The play with speed, dancers switching from slow-motion to a rapid fast-forwarded mode increases my amazement, as I watch in wide-eyed wonder at the game that I, for the entire duration of the piece, thought I was playing.
As the evening draws to a close, I find myself still enamoured by the performance. Graphics and dance synchronisation has by far only existed to me in videos on both famed talent shows and the ones with glimmering, sparkly paper backgrounds, with performers still struggling to find a place to exhibit their work. Tonight, I leave with a mesmerised pride that I have sat through an entire performance with minimal fidgeting, and thoroughly enjoyed it.