By Francis Phang
Metapolis — Project 972
The opening scene was a puzzle. The props were constituted of some sort of netting that was attached to several sticks, so that it could be raised and made to stand on the ground. In retrospect, perhaps this represented the city as it drowsed, before the hustle and bustle of frenzied activity set in.
Do not be fooled into thinking that this is a typical dance performance with a story line. There is none!
Metapolis refers to what is beyond the city in space. Frédéric Flamand attempts to portray the city of the future through dance, architecture and virtual reality techniques. Metapolis brings out the meaning of the saying that the only constant in life is change.
The three movable bridges kept being shifted and the dancers also re-positioned themselves in endless combinations. Through the interesting use of "blue screen" techniques, the outlines of the dancers' costumes were made to appear on the backdrop, incorporating video images of urban landscapes, crowds and city traffic.
The performance ended rather abruptly in a scene of introspection. The music for this last scene slowed down to a meditative moan of Indian music, with the instruments droning in the background. Perhaps, in the city of the future, we would still need to seek some inner sanctum. In the chaos of frenzied activity, we need to retreat to our own private space. We need this because we are alienated from our work and do not experience the same satisfaction as an artisan who is connected to his product from creation to completion. Many say that country folk are generally more friendly when compared to urban dwellers. Well, city dwellers have to switch off their "feelers" and cannot relate to everyone they come into contact with. This is because the high population size and density in a city would make such frequent and intense social interaction too overwhelming. In effect, the urban dweller feels alienated from work and society, yet wants to, but cannot effectively connect with other individuals. That is why there is the interplay between conflicting elements of public and private, individual and crowd, urbanisation and rural depopulation. To counter this chaos, we need to retreat and look inward to seek inner peace. Perhaps, this is why the last scene is almost yoga-like, in its stillness and spirituality.
I hung out with the dancers after the performance and had supper with them. They told me that the female dancers were meant to go topless. Of course, this being Singapore, they knew better than to do that. Apparently, in Europe, it is very common to dance topless. However, the company could next time try to keep it original and have it rated Restricted (Artistic). Hopefully, the next time Plan K returns, Singaporeans will no longer be scandalised by nudity, but would have grown to learn and appreciate the art of expression through the human body.
One of the dancers, Jason, told me that the part where he was in his ballet shoes and was dancing "on point,” with his body close to the floor, the whole section was improvised! It differed from night to night, and would also differ from stage to stage. If the stage was smaller than our spacious Kallang Theatre, he would have to find ways to follow the lines that were projected onto the floor. So, you can watch the dance several times and never get tired of the performance.
All in all, it was a wonderful performance with the creative use of interesting props and multimedia.
Compagnie Charleroi/Danses - Plan K performs at Kallang Theatre on 11-12 Jun 2002 (8pm). Tickets are available from SISTIC.