Milieu presented by Frontier Danceland
Milieu (2015) performed by Frontier Danceland was a collaborative performance that showcased a cultural dance piece by Artistic Director Low Mei Yoke and an isochronous contemporary piece by choreographer Christina Chan. The dance was accompanied with an arrangement composed by Ho Wen Yang performed by musicians from Ding Yi Music Company.
The iconic song composing, arranged by Ho was commendable.
With the conscious effort of reconfiguring the classic Chinese Song 甜蜜蜜, Ho embellished the first segment with familiar melodic motifs and strategically placed the melody of the first verse at the end of the performance, drawing it to an earnest close. The musicians' knowledge of their instruments generated greater awareness toward the possibilities that could be explored by the young western-influenced composer, which entailed variant cadences and experimental sounds within the performance. Ho deviated from the traditional voices of the instruments with distortions and looped sequences of the 二胡 (string-instrument), delivering waves of an eerie symphony constructing a bizarre juxtaposition of time between the two dances.
The title Milieu insinuates a depiction of an individual's environment.
In Low's piece, the audience witnesses a stoic, grounded Ma Jie off-stage as the dancers performed an ordeal routine entrenched with allusion. Elegant sways, a grounded centre of gravity, angular movements and nimble footwork mirrored that of traditional Chinese dance and the relationship between Ma Jie, aside from the dance, distinguished by a muted spotlight was exceptional (although my lecturer at the time felt that it was rather static). It set the context of Low's narrative, allowed for distinct theatrical elements to unfold the message of her piece.
Additionally, time proves to be a significant element in both dance acts. While Low's piece revolves around sentimentality set in historical roots, Chan steers her piece into the present-day.
The second act catalysed into a surge of transferred movements, and cyclic turns mimicking that of Sufi dancing. Chan introduces her prelude with a nuanced Sufi (a symbolic representation of planets in orbit), a hazy set, and ephemeral movements. In effect, conveying relativity of time and space for her audience to transit out of the past, set in the first act, to the present day. At one point, a few dancers started to stick together in sporadic formation, they then scatter, only to find themselves gathered in a different configuration in various sections of the space.
The muted and pastel tones of the costume in Chan's piece construe the dancers as symbolic entities in comparison to the characterised roles in Low's memoir.
There was a certain kind of desired intimacy accompanying the idea of isolation depicted by the synchronised swings between the bundled forms that always fall apart and regenerate. This pays homage toward the human condition in contemporary society today. Subsequently, the dancers break into an improvised sequence calling out local foods and responding to them with spitfire movements. They banter, and eventually call out the food items in unison. This active display reckons the attitude of one subjecting themselves to what others identify them as. Hence, these curated segments act as a compelling commentary toward the relevance of time in our daily lives, the desire to connect with people in our shoebox lifestyle, and epitomises feelings that incites an affinity with our society today.
Although Each dance was expertly crafted in the styles of their choreographer, the continual push to show "old" and "new" exude an arrogant tone. Additionally, the decision to showcase the dances alongside each other, while excluding a convergence of the pieces was perplexing and incoherent. However, Milieu was certainly a charming allegorical bequeathing for Frontier Danceland even though Low's piece detached from Chan's contemporary portion. Milieu created a platform to illustrate the evolution of the dance company.
This allows the audience to contextualise the somewhat abstract contemporary representation by Chan.
Milieu (2015) has allowed for Frontier Danceland to showcase the maturity of their choreographers through the various collaboration with Ding Yi Music Company, and their dancer's distinctive technicalities. However, the juncture fusing the two acts was somewhat rudimentary. Although an apparent relationship between the two acts may not have been intended, the absence of a formal intermission allowed for an incoherent representation of their implied concept of pairing old and new pieces. Additionally, an imbalance between the depth of the intended message, and the layers that were represented melodically and visually in the pieces leaves audiences wanting to get more out of the performance aside from the identifiable elements of nostalgia and penchant.