Sunday, June 16, 2013


Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggall in "Opal Vapour

By Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal in collaboration with Paula van Beek and Ria Soemardjo

Street Theatre, June 14th and 15th.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

In a recent radio interview Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal stated that "Opal Vapour" was inspired by her interest in water conservation, the colour of the opal stone as a metaphor for the rainbow, and her wish to explore the evolution of the Javanese Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet theatre).

While these inspirations may not be easily recognisable, what has emerged is an intriguing fusion of traditional and contemporary skills and sensibilities to produce a beautifully paced, satisfying and graceful dance work for which the viewer does not require any knowledge of Javanese culture to quickly fall under the spell of this exquisitely conceived and performed presentation.

Ria  Soemardjo (foreground) Jade Dewis Tyas Tunggal (background) 
It begins with a ritualistic opening sequence, to the sound of tinkling bells and softly sung incantations, in which textured fabrics are slowly removed, one after another, from what appeared to be a pile of fishnets to reveal a dancer lying on a raised sun-lit dais. The dancer performs her graceful dance on the dais during which she kicks sand into the air at various intervals. She then draws batik-like patterns in the sand, which are videoed from above and projected on to a screen behind her. Later she lies on the dais, now lit from underneath with a soft blue/green light. The resulting graceful videoed images suggest an underwater scene performed by a beautiful shadow puppet mermaid. Finally in full view of the audience she changes her robes to perform her final dance.

Jade Dewi Tyas Tungal in "Opal Vapour:
Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal is a mesmerising performer.  She understands the power of stillness and ritual. Her training in classical Javanese dance, with its graceful use of arms, hands, fingers and eyes, and her strong contemporary dance technique, allow her to bring a unique perspective to her performance which is both fascinating and satisfying.  

Ria Soemardjo in "Opal Vapour"
Integral to the work is the graceful presence and performance of Ria Soemardjo, who acts as a kind of handmaiden to the dancer, quietly and gracefully providing and removing garments and props throughout the performance, while also providing the bewitching sound scape, some of which is recorded and some of she performs live, as she moves in and out of Paula van Becks moody and dramatic lighting.  

“Opal Vapour” is a gorgeous creation which provides a deeply satisfying, almost hypnotic experience for the viewer. A totally unique concept which is superbly executed by both the performers who bring to it unique and complementary skills, enhanced by superbly realised lighting and sound design to a creation which is as beautiful as it is intriguing and entertaining.