Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Singapore Arts Festival 2012 - Flux

I responded to one review of this show to say that I was glad someone else had reviewed it as I would watch it and spend the entire time distracted by the horses and the riding. Art, schmart - this was one show I definitely expected to be incapable of approaching as a theatre or performance critic on the basis that my equestrian obsession would completely take over.

Oddly enough, however, I did emerge from the show with some comments - though less about the performance and its "meaning" than about what I liked and didn't like. So, first: I liked the filmed portion set in Marseilles. There was something very French and haunting about this black-and-white short featuring the male rider chasing after the female amidst cargo containers - with the horses' hoofbeats on the tarmac echoing against the hollow metal.

I also found myself liking the dance against the projected constellation map. Someone next to me made the vaguely sardonic observation that one of the greatest achievements of the 21st century must be teaching a horse contemporary dance (actually it isn't - teaching a horse to dance to hip-hop is), but there was something about the combination of horse, man and the stars that to me actually started to engage with the centaur conceit that purportedly lies at the heart of Flux.

That conceit reaches its height, for me, during the final portion of the show: when the two riders and their horses are out on the waterborne platform on the reservoir. With the horses lying on the sand and the two riders stripped to their waists, they actually look like the top halves of centaurs with their horse-bodies lying flat on the ground as the human halves nuzzle and wrap around one another.

I must admit that I've emerged from the performance none-the-wiser about the show's meaning (why we're being asked to consider if there are centaurs everywhere, for instance), but I grew more comfortable with the "centaur" label as the show moved along. My main wish, though, was for them to have done the centaur vs. dragon dance performance 'live' instead of filming and showing it as a short clip. When I stumbled across the rehearsals for the dragon dance a few weeks back, I was hoping that it would be a part of the live performance because it was actually very exciting and thrilling to watch. It was also beautiful - a furious ripple of red dashing around attempting to contain the black beast within. And it would have been an interesting element to introduce into the show - the idea of the centaurs travelling to different parts of the world and challenging and taking on the mythical creatures native to those lands. Perhaps there was no room in the conception of Flux for that sort of flexibility, but it seems to run counter to the title of the piece itself, which connotes change and constant change at that.

The verdict? Pretty horses. And if you're not sold on the show, I guarantee there's enough eye candy (equine or otherwise) to keep you occupied.


Naeem Kapadia said...

Agree that it would have been great if the dragon dance had been performed live. I didn't feel the attempts to make the show resonate with a Singaporean audience worked that well when viewed at a distance and it was best when it focused on the man and the horse, stripped all the the aesthetics and grandeur. That's why I felt one of the strongest bits was the woman standing on a horse amongst the trees - it was wordless, intense and riveting. The finale sequence was very nice though - man/woman and human/horse all becoming one in a beautiful orgy of light and sound.

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