Monday, 29 December 2008

your toes are bad

I love it when pedicurists work on my feet. The first time, a pale wraith of a boy in Shenzhen grimaced delicately as he chipped and shaved the fat calluses on from my balls and heels. Two days ago, the pedicurist in Beijing worked with an air of focused resignation as he examined my soles and my toes. Then he solemnly unrolled a green picture-sheet of various toenails, chipped, bruised, detached. Homemade herbal remedy. He could save my little black toes, before they unfolded in similar contagion across my other eight.

The catch. 200 yuan a toenail.

I said No.

Well, nobody ever died of black toe, did they? That's what dancers' toes look like, whether it's pointe shoes or floorwork. Corns, calluses, bruised nails and plenty of studio-seasoned dirt. The least gorgeous and most essential part of the performing body, the more seasoned the better. I figured as soon as I go back to school in 2 weeks' time they'd revert to whatever damaged state they were already in.

But all the same, it shook me up enough to make me do a bit of my own web research for a professional opinion on black nails. I wasn't anxious to end up like my friend Lu Yi who took her RAD exam with a fungal infection and a fat dose of painkillers. This is from the doctors who write for Dance Magazine, "Foot care for barefoot dancers" and "Foot care for pointe shoes".

Maybe I'll take better care of my feet next year.

Good old fashioned Christmas, batteries not required.

How about some good old-fashioned Christmas? Less of the price tags and catering menus, and more of the excitement and wonder in the eyes of a child.

SDT’s The Nutcracker by Jeffrey Tan is one of those magical productions – a fantastic sleigh ride for children and grown-up kids alike, the dance woven together with convincing character acting and a brisk storyline that makes the two-hour ballet go by surprisingly quickly.

See more of my review at Artzine.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Stop, go.

Time in grayscale
. Stop, go. Stop.

In 7 vignettes, Melissa Quek, Hazel Tng, Jessica Christina and Katherine Chen crept, then hurled fitfully against counting clocks and grainy recorded twin selves. Dancers' hands traced a continuous organic line scribbled in a maze of projected animation, folds of cortex and cauliflower on walls, floors, bodies. As the dancers began air-scribbling on their skin, I read - reminder to self: you are one day older. reminder: achieve what you did not do yesterday. Lyrical solos, shuffled peekaboo, and a game of stop-and-go where each dancer's phrase was punctuated by the spontaneous commands of another. The restlessness was tangible in the confines of an assymetric stage space, and one by one the bodies succumbed, crumpling gently under time's weight.

This was one of the most seamless and meaningful examples of inter-disciplinary collaboration that I've seen. The dance came through as an equal partner with video and animations by Kunyi Chen (astoundingly, created in just 2 weeks before the show), and a pulsating, gurgling score by Joel Ong that was reminiscent of Steve Reich. And in any good dance-video collaboration, credit must also go to the tactful lighting, here by Eugene Tay.

Melissa's self consciousness is an intense internal lens, bringing an unsettling psychological insight to many of her dances. It is also her self-consciousness, however, that undermined this performance. Her experience as a lecturer seems to have made her feel personally responsible for making contemporary dance more accessible to a larger Singapore audience. So for fear that the audience wouldn't "get it", the theme was literal and oversimplified. Dancers moved their arms like clock hands, and said "tick tick tick", against a projection of a giant clock. The programme note pointed out helpfully that Timeline was "a movement based contemporary dance piece that expresses how time inscribes itself on our minds and bodies. Asserting that it is not how much time you have that matters, but how you respond to it."

Melissa admitted in post-show dialogue that at some point she had thought about making dance accessible to a young adult audience; this might be good for an arts awareness programme in secondary schools, but left little for the intelligence of the general audience at an independent black box production. After being hammered with these giant indicators, I waited for a similarly resounding conclusion. In consequence, lying down in capitulation wasn't the satisfaction I'd hoped for.

- Timeline by Melissa Quek at the Drama Centre Black Box on 5 and 6 December 2008.