Saturday, June 15, 2013

Opal Vapour

Opal Vapour  Dance created and performed by Jade Dewi Tyas Tungaal.  Composer and music performer, Ria Soemardjo. Set design, Paula van Beek. The Street Theatre, Canberra, June 14-15, 2013

Reviewed by Frank McKone
June 14

A mesmerising, slow, sinuous dance begins as a body lying on a plinth.  Covering shrouds are gently removed by a musician who has entered from the audience tinkling tiny bells as if in mourning.  But a hand begins to dance in isolation, lit from below, and slowly, the body comes to life, reproduced as a writhing shadow on a screen.  It is an awakening.

The figure remains at floor level for a long period, seeming to go through a series of reptile and animal-like incarnations, until finally rising to standing human form, dressing in clothing at first simple in style and then more sophisticated and formal.

This life goes through several stages, including what seems to be a period of mental difficulties back writhing on the floor – perhaps finally attaining a peaceful death.

I am not qualified to judge or analyse the details of the choreography, but found this work interesting in concept, combining the creators’ Indonesian heritage with Western modern dance.  For me the slow and steady movement was absorbing, rather in the way that I might look at a large painting and gradually become aware of all its different elements.

The music is Javanese in style – some gamelan, some as if the sounds of dry grass and wind, some sung in haunting notes, some bowed on a stringed instrument, perhaps reminiscent of the Hindu origins of the culture that we saw in much of the dance in the body shapes, hand and eye movements.  Both performers were precise and disciplined.

This is an original work, not so much cross-cultural but integrating elements of the Australian and Indonesian cultures to which these Melbourne performers belong.  Interesting and worthwhile to see.