By Francis Phang
Missing in Tall Pillars
Getting to the performance venue was confusing. Why am I remarking about this? Well, the journey to the venue is actually part of the performance. The new Asian Civilisations Museum will be ready next year, and yet, the performance was not at the functioning Asian Civilisations Museum (near the Substation) but at the unfinished Empress Place. After making some calls to clarify, I went to Empress Place. Once there, I had to rely on two road marshals to direct me to the loading bay, where we had to take the cargo lift to the second storey.
As we got out of the lift, we had to walk through a dimly lit maze. As we walked, we could hear intentional stamping coming from specific directions. The dancers were stamping their feet as they hid behind the panels that formed the maze. It was the blind leading the blind, as no one knew exactly how to get out of the maze, but eventually we did.
At the entrance to the temporary gallery, we passed a bodybuilder wearing a pair of shades and behaving like a bouncer. Then, I realised that we had to sit on the floor for an uncomfortable 100 minutes, though the performance was slated to last 70min. We waited almost 25 minutes before the performance began, on a late start.
We were addressed with the aid of a loudhailer. The message was not very clear as the loudhailer was swung around as the dancers spoke. We were told something like this, "Sometimes, we may dance quite close to you. Do not be alarmed. Please be kind to us and not pull our hair..." and two female dancers ironically started clawing at each other's hair. The dancers then scrambled to their positions to start the performance.
This being a multimedia performance, video clips were projected on the walls. The pivotal pillars broke up the images. Apparently, Ecnad’s artistic co-directors Lim Chin Huat and Tan How Choon were inspired by the pillars of the performance site, and deliberately worked the production around them. A person could disappear behind a pillar, thus explaining the title of the performance. The dancers started clapping, slapping walls and themselves. There was not exactly what can be called "music", but they danced to soundscapes. This was a mash of sounds designed to fit with the zany dance. They wore either boots or chunky dress shoes. Both were clunky and used to stomp all over the place. I idly wondered if they needed to resurface the scratched floor after their performances were over. The percussion built up till Monique squealed in delight and was quickly pushed out of the dancers' circle. She wandered off, clapping on her own. Gradually, the dancers who rejected her began to follow her. It built up into a full-blooded chase till she shouted, "Stop!" All froze. One by one, the dancers un-froze and changed into soft, white costumes.
In Pillars, each dancer began by telling us why they love their pillars. Some words that I caught were, "I like to lick... It is strong... It is white..." Each dancer started fawning on their respective pillars. The music was a string of noise excerpts, such as the sound of static, running water, a drum being beaten... The dance built up as they clamoured over each other, piled up, and manoeuvred themselves around the pillars. The scene ended with the loser, Connie, who finally finished her costume change and exclaimed, "Finish already ah?"
In Growing, more props were used. Big, circular discs were rolled out. Due to their white colour and round shape, they resembled cakes of cheese. When piled up, they became pillars.
Catch their performance to find out how a bodybuilder and a child fit into the dance.
Ecnad performs at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place on 8-11 Jun 2002 (8pm). Tickets are available from SISTIC.