Posted 11 January 2004 - 07:27 AM
Thanks for the encouragement, Alexandra! Here's my "review."
Let me first say that though I have seen some contemporary dance concerts, I had never seen anything quite like this one (Khan's "Kaash")! I was amazed by the variety of shapes created and by the speed of many of the movements, especially the arm movements near the beginning of the piece. The speed of these motions created a blurred effect in my eyes similar to what is seen in photographs taken with a slow shutter speed of quickly moving objects. The low light throughout much of the piece allowed the dancers to play with the shadows. When one or two of them stood in the darkness, they seemed to be beyond the reach of the audience, but their presence was palpably felt. The dimness of the light also made me more conscious of light and dark contrasts. My attention was especially drawn to the striped floor patterns (of light) and the lightness of the bare arms and other exposed skin in comparison with the dark clothing the dancers wore. When the light did change, it was very dramatic, as when the stage was bathed in bright purple light.
Another major contrast I noticed was the difference between silence and sound. I actually felt that I could “hear more” when it was silent. Instead of listening to the music and watching the dancers, I relied on the latter to satisfy both my senses of sound and sight. I could “hear more” literally (breathing, sound of body touching floor, etc.) and metaphorically because the dancers were the only thing communicating with the audience. Similarly, the contrast between stillness and motion struck me profoundly as the dancers showed me the truth in what I’ve been told about there being motion even in stillness. As he stood facing upstage for several minutes before the house lights were dimmed and continued this several minutes into the piece, Inn-Pang Ooi exuded a presence that pulled me into the piece emotionally even though it looked like he was “just standing.” With his still motion, he communicated with me as lucidly as the others who danced around him. In other parts of the piece when physical movement seemed to stop, I could still see motion in things as subtle as the breath.
The ways the dancers related to each other was influential to my personal interpretation of the piece. Though they were onstage together, the dancers often looked as if they were moving in separate spheres, even when they were doing the same movements. Much of the time they seemed isolated, so when they did look at one another, it was very noticeable. Even then, though, I did not sense a deep connection between them. This feeling of isolation actually passed to me, but not solely because of their relations. It was the whispered words in the music that accomplished this; I felt them get under my skin and give me the chills. Words that came to my mind upon hearing these voices were “unsettling” and “unnerving.”
It was interesting for me to watch when the dancers performed gestures in unison because it allowed me to see how the same movements looked on different bodies. Though the dancers were a cohesive ensemble, the very slight variations in their movements gave them the individuality that made the piece more exciting. The repeated snake-like arm gesture (one arm reaching up and then the hand slowly curling over) was one such movement where this variation could be noted. One specific part of the piece that remains quite clear in my mind is the solo section in which one female dancer spent a large amount of time in close contact with the ground, rolling on it and throwing herself down onto her shoulder/upper arm when she managed to rise away from the earth a bit. If I saw it again, I might interpret it differently, but I saw this section as a struggle to get away from something (represented here by the ground) that the dancer was also holding onto to some degree.
Seeing the concert exposed me to new ideas about dance and expanded me as an artist through my recognition of aesthetic issues like those discussed above. More practically, though, it let me see some of the movements we’ve been working on in class (such as shoulder rolls and spirals) in a concert setting so I could recognize their importance to the vocabulary of contemporary dance.