Review: Within.Without by T.H.E. Dance Company

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by Chan Sze-Wei

For several of this year’s M1 Singapore Fringe Festival performances, “family” is interpreted as an enforced relationship; individuals with whom we do not choose our intimacy but to which we nevertheless have to adapt.

T.H.E. Dance Company artistic director Kuik Swee Boon took the festival theme literally and picked out three new choreographers from among his company members (Lee Mun Wai, Yarra Ileto and Zhuo Zihao) and set them on a collision course – to merge differing ideas, movement and music choices into into one related whole.

Four choreograpers? It sounded impossible to me. Swee Boon himself admitted that at times even he came close to abandoning the project. But like a close-knit family, they persevered. The dancers allowed Swee Boon to be “uncle” instead of “boss” and submitted themselves to some ruthless curation. The result was comic, abstract and wonderful.

This was a family that many of us would easily recognise: a cacophony of personalities, with idiosyncracies of movement and musical tastes. Crammed into the confines of a flat drawn in haphazard white marley panels on a black floor, was the human furniture of youthful exuberance, frustrastion, support and repose, played to a mishmash of Bach, opera, tango, toilet flushes.

The family members scrambled around as a mobile dining table, cleaned the floor, split into couples, trios and some fine solos (notably those by Zihao and Yarra). At times the family seemed too close for privacy, at others, isolated by careful lighting, they listened to someone who wasn’t there.

It isn’t easy to stand, let along dance onstage next to Kuik Swee Boon. He is smouldering and magnificent, and if he wants to dance his own irritated uncle solo while puffing a cigarette upstage, thankfully, not even the Esplanade theatre rules are going to stop him (respectfully, they warned audience members of a “smoking scene”). But his company members hold their own, and hold together. There was fine control of the pacing and compound action, including some unexpected and beautifully executed partnering (Swee Boon/Silvia Yong, Mun Wai/Yarra). This is very fine homegrown dance.

Share with us your views on Art & The Family.This review is part of ArtZine’s Special Coverage of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. Read our reviews of the other festival performances here.

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