An Extremely Delayed Review/flection of/on Dance Clinic by Choy Ka Fai
21 October 2017
Esplanade Studio Theatre
This review is driven not by a desire to express but an irritation towards a lack of closure. It is almost exactly 6 months after the performance of Choy Ka Fai’s Dance Clinic, but it is the work that has left its imprints deeper, – and more indefinitely –, than other performances I have experienced since then (specifically labelled ‘dance’ or otherwise). Overflowing with tensions that ostensibly remain unresolved, Choy’s voice lingers not only because it is simultaneously perturbing and genuine, but also leaves his message unconfirmed. It has overstayed its welcome in the back of my mind, beyond any overt statements other choreographies have raised.
The concept of a “Dance Clinic” transposes the medical system’s diagnosis and treatment procedures onto dancers and dance-makers, to analyse the types of performativity that stimulate audiences, and to eventually provide advice towards becoming a better dance-maker. In his lecture-performance, Choy invites 3 “patients” to participate in his screening, including Florentina Holzinger, an Austrian graduate of SNDO, Darlane Litaay, a West Papuan dancer, as well as local dancer-choreographer Jereh Leung.
Across the world in Europe, Holzinger has gained a reputation as “enfant terrible” for her provocative performances, in which she “flirts with camp and kitsch”. Choy invites two pre-selected volunteers, who are wired up (with slightly questionable technology) to gauge their levels of stimulation based on Holzinger’s performance. This begins with a surprisingly technical striptease, embellished not only with ballet shoes, but also its vocabulary of grande battements and pirouettes, that subvert expectations of both forms of performance. Despite having piqued my interest, her show meanders into a sensationalist display reminiscent of a magic show. Holzinger announces her upcoming acts to grasp the audience in suspense, and not only fulfils but supersedes them, with other objects, including a sex toy, lined up on a blanket onstage to hint at more to come. Jereh Leung’s 30-second section, in which he turns away from the audience, pulls his underwear down, and undulates violently, suddenly pales in comparison. Choy, portraying “dance doctor”, intervenes her line-up when she begins gyrating before the now-unwilling volunteer’s face. He cites that she is not permitted to touch an audience member. A collective sigh of relief from the audience seems to follow.