Dances for an 'island' - On Stage

November 27, 2013 1:23 AM

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Most people would like to bring three essential items to a desert island. What happens when you bring three choreographers?

NO man is an island but yet, when you’re stranded on an island, what do you do?

This is the theme that three choreographers – Amy Len, Loh Kok Man and Jack Kek – will investigate in Kwang Tung Dance Company’s (KTDC) upcoming performance called The Island.

The trio, each with their respective styles and strengths, will create separate works as they explore the possibilities of what an island can offer.

“Malaysians are familiar with islands as we have many beautiful islands where we all have memories and impressions of. An island thus becomes a place where everyone wishes to go.

“In the realm of art creation, artistes also wish for the existence of an ‘island’, a platform upon which their work can debut,” explains producer Samantha Chong.

In Len’s Beyond The Blue, she attempts to bring out the inner desires of the stranded persons.

Beyond The Blue is an expression of the place, space or even state of mind where people want to head towards and allow themselves to settle down and mature. Everyone has spent unlimited time, energy and effort searching, exploring or merely waiting, but these desires keep expanding infinitely in their minds,” says Len, the artistic director of KTDC.

Kek, a professional dancer formerly with Taiwan’s Cloud Gate 2 Dance Company recently returned home to work with the local dance fraternity. His piece, Lady Of The White Veil, pays tribute to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring, which premiered in a radical ballet choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky in 1913. As this year marks the 100th anniversary of this piece of music, Kek intends to commemorate the work.

“In March this year, I went to Taiwan to see Pina Bausch’s choreography of The Rite Of Spring and became interested in this work,” he says. “I choose to use white veils as a theme in my piece because the Chinese use white in memorial ceremonies for the deceased, while Western countries use white to symbolise the purity of weddings. I believe this colour will produce intense conflict at different cultural crossroads. The dancers and I struggle together as this music is extremely difficult to grasp.”

Of the three, Loh is the only one who is not a dancer although he is well known in the arts circuit as an established theatre director, actor and lighting designer.

This is his first collaboration with KTDC and he couldn’t be more thrilled. His work islandofbolehlo (read ‘Is Land of Bolehlo’) explores the circumstances of the dancers on their own islands.

Loh says, “My inspiration came when I chose to use the music entitled bolero. The title of my work is a play of the word ‘island’ and the song title. Malaysians always say ‘bolehlo’ in every situation, and I found it suitable for this piece.”

On his first dance creation, he says, “I am interested in talking to people and sharing with people. I share with the dancers how l think about dance or performing. I guide them to think of body movements by giving them directions. I try different forms of discovery with them; I try to let them understand my way of working.”

Although Loh has directed a dance production before (Double Punctum), his decision to choreograph came from a combination of factors.

“I was interested in this collaboration because there are three pieces; therefore, mine need not be too long! Also, I tend to be playful and enjoy working with new groups of people,” adds Loh, who has seven dancers in his piece.

“We focus on the mystery of an island and what it can offer. How you perceive this island will dictate your decision to go ashore or not, and what you will find there. Basically, the island serves as a conceptual tool to guide the artistes in the creation of their dance pieces. How they see the island is for them to interpret,” explains Len.

In keeping with tradition, KTDC will also be hosting the Dance Tea Time at Damansara Performing Arts Centre on Dec 1 at 3pm. Invited guests will be able to enjoy the free performance, with a question-and-answer session with the choreographers and dancers at the end.

This initiative aims to cultivate appreciation for contemporary dance, encourage interaction between dancers and the larger community, as well as expose Malaysians to the local performing arts scene. As KTDC is a non-profit organisation, the success of Dance Tea Time is dependent upon donations and sponsorship. Parties who may be interested to contribute can contact KTDC at

> The Island by Kwang Tung Dance Company (KTDC) will be performed at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre on Nov 29 (8.30pm), Nov 30 (3pm & 8.30pm ) and Dec 1 (8.30pm). Tickets are priced at RM48 (adults) and RM38 (students, disabled and senior citizens). For tickets, call 03-4065 0001 / 03-4065 0002 (DPAC Box office).


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