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A Single Light of Truth

Written by Joyce See, on Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Published in : Culture, Arts

Last Friday, I was sent on my first dance review stint. I got quite hyped up for the event, expecting the event to be some sort of a modern dance, more along the lines of ballroom, jazzy dance. Either way, I like dance so it did not really matter, whichever the case, I was game. Sure, the title, JAMUAN Bisu …PARAdis_e…? sounds a tad too abstract but since I could not nor did I try to decipher what that meant, I went to the dance with my own set of expectations.


Dance Reflections 2007, held at the National University of Singapore (NUS), is an annual campus dance festival presented by NUS Centre for the Arts each September. Tying in with the opening of the Baba House in mid 2008, Dance Reflections 2007 explores the Peranakan culture and hybridism with JAMUAN Bisu …PARAdis_e…?, a contemporary dance work, marking an end to the festival.
Upon entering the theatre, I was surprised. Wait, ‘surprised’ does not cut it. For a moment, it felt like I was in the wrong theatre. A scene of darkness greeted me, a single spotlight focused on the two dancers on stage, deeply immersed in their craft; body contouring movements filled with emotions. I was told that no flash photography was allowed. To think I went out of my way to buy those Energizer batteries for my external flash just before the performance. What a joke.

I spent the better half of the first part of the performance desperately trying to disable the flash; in the dark. Not only did I have to do that ever so silently, I had to hide the glare of the camera’s ‘menu’ screen from the surrounding audience. (It was my first time working with the office’s SLR). I gave up; I took the easy way out; I pressed tightly onto the flash, preventing it from popping up as I snapped away.




All that grappling with a mere camera really got me quite annoyed, for having wasted that much time. I lay back in the chair, determined to fully take in the rest of the dance as it played out before me. It could have been psychological but somehow, I felt more receptive towards the performance after fiddling with the camera.

JAMUAN Bisu …PARAdis_e…? is set to tingle your auditory and visual senses. It captures intimate moments in life through the body movements of immensely talented dancers. This contemporary dance number is a collaboration by Dutch-Indonesian theatremaker Gerard Mosterd and Bessie Award winning Minangkabau choreographer Boi G Sakti. The dance allows for many different individual interpretations and perceptions; for two different visions to be met and played out on a single stage.



 Initially, the message was a blur, I have to admit. Sitting there, it is hard to interpret the meanings of the different movements.

However, there was one single element that drew me to the performance right from the start; that being the intense amount of emotion each movement carried with it. No words were said, but what transpired between the dancers was so much more. Emotions ranged from anger to sadness, from dramatic confusion to frustration and finally, unadulterated love and hatred.


A vibrant mix of colours and exotic shapes make up the unusual backdrop. Provocative pictures of humanoid faces; coupled with sharp bursts of sounds that shoot at you through powerful speakers from above agitates even the mild mannered. It is indeed a work of art, through and through.

Stunningly captivating were the many life stories thrown into space within the theatre, one scene caught me hard:

Male and female blindfolded, a pair standing under a single light. Their arms stretching out, trying to find the other’s arm, in search for a hand shake. Blinded; a complete miss. They try again, it’s as though time somehow slowed down for us to observe their every muscle movement. They score a miss. Not giving up, they try again, and again. With each additional try, their attempts become more frantic and panicky. They try from every angle; sideway, opposite, from behind, up and down, but alas, to no avail. They are back to square one; they repeat the handshake slowly which ultimately proved to be futile. Exhausted and unmotivated, they give up, the lights go dim, and they slip into the eventual darkness. (Sorry, no pictures of that scene available. I was still trying to fix the flash)


It made me tear; made me reflect on my life. I was hit with the sudden realisation that I have been overlooking the most important factor. He (once a stranger, now someone close to heart) was right there, before me. I was too blind to see, a black satin (cloth) across my eyes, which tainted his too, in time. So amazingly enlightening, how life can be portrayed in such a simple, yet ironically dark, setting.



The dancers mainly hail from Indonesia; the remaining few are from Portugal, Spain and Japan. They speak through their bodies, with movements filled with emotion. All of them are immensely talented, along with the interesting mix of choreographers; they definitely managed to drive the message home, loud and clear. I see contemporary dance in a whole new light.
Additional Photos by Brew. 
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