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Lau Beh Chin with Anna Lee, Winnie Tay Yi Xuan, Wong Chi Ying




Choreographer : Lau Beh Chin

Performers/Collaborators: Anna Lee, Winnie Tay Yi Xuan, Wong Chi Ying



Driving themes


  • “Land/territory/boundary”

  • Intergenerational conversations

  • Using oral history of elders talking about movement as a source of knowledge.

  • Reclaiming through contemporary choreographic research the physicality, shapes, directions and motivations of elders’ traditional labour jobs and skills “on the verge of extinction.”

  • Deriving solos and duets based on the interpretation of a visual artist.



Themes in each dance


  • Ying’s solo (inside), “Typist”: Connection, struggle, emotion, directions, unfinished business.

  • Ying’s second solo (outside): Contemplation, silence, presence, culture, finding voice, gratitude.

  • Ana’s solo, “Coffee Master and Baker”: Directions, obstacle, repetition, exploring space.

  • Winnie’s solo, “Rattan Weaver”: Specificity of original action, spiralling movements, character, momentum.



Goals

  • To create in a shared space and time with each other and mentors.


Beginning with


“Following the development of the work ‘Your Memories, Our Identity (YMOI)’ originated in 2018. It is based on the oral history of five traditional jobs and skills on the verge of extinction in Butterworth city (Malaysia). Because the younger generation is not willing to perpetuate the tradition and because the jobs and skills are slowly being replaced by use of machines, these traditional works are slowly getting lost.”

Four collaborators from different backgrounds, with dance training in Chinese Folk Dance, Ballet Dance, K-Pop Dance, Contemporary Dance and an installation artist - were paired with five artisans, a Rattan Weaver, Typist, Coconut Shell Carver, Kopitiam Coffee Master and Biscuit Baker from Butterworth town.

Drawing these artists together was an opportunity to feel the chemistry and enjoyment between different art forms, ages, and communities, with elders recalling memories and youth cultivating an appreciation of traditional arts and crafts.


The dancers had separate rehearsal sessions with the choreographer the previous year and had a 3-week online residency throughout the month of July 2021. Due to the pandemic, MoA online residency shifted from physical events to a series of online…workshops, dialogues, and sharing sessions by local and international guest speakers with the public.





Desires


  • The choreographer hoped to imagine “a new dance language together with visuals.”

  • “To reflect and think about the approach, strategies, and progress in a deeper way before going to the next steps.”




Questions


  • “What of the original movement remains and why?”

  • “What of the original movement actually transforms us?

  • “Where are the boundaries of our identity?

  • “How do these (bodily) archives relate/inform the current generation?



Challenges


  • Talked about the process of translating ethnic vocabulary into contemporary dance, the importance of research into the nature of the traditional material and ensuring respect within the repertoire.

  • How to integrate the solos into a bigger performance work.

  • These works are designed in the zoom screen, how to use this vocabulary to take into live performance?



Strategies


  • Breaking the process into three stages: Remembering, Imagination and Creation.

  • Remembering: Translation and archiving through video the artisan’s body movements and hand gestures of the moment of making.

  • Imagination: A visual artist responded to the movements in Remembering.

  • When they began the Choreographic Marathon the team was at this stage: Performers were exploring movements and creating a dance sequence based on the original video and the visual artist’s drawings.

  • “During this residency, the Performers were given the same tasks and shared their own interpretation through a dance film.”

  • Visual playfulness. Object animation.

  • Really trying to lift, use or manipulate the object rather than “pretending.”

  • Finding patterns on the floor, like the painting, creating lines in space.

  • Using levels, variation in repetition, finding movement all directions and diverse orientations to space.



Discoveries


The objects they interact with can be contemplated as symbols. In Ying’s solos - the Table-chair Relationship, in choosing from infinite number of positions, she is making a connection to her body, the table becomes her back support and a mirror. Dances with pink fan in honouring it, it is an analogy for the traditional aspects of herself.

Also using the object as an extension of the body, leading the mover into the dynamics of the sequence.

It is about pushing into the imaginative realm and loosing the original image once some specificities of the original movement are found and articulated clearly.




Development and Skill-building


  • Finding reasons for doing things.

  • Methods to explore, expand and transform particular shapes taken from the research.

  • Using planes of movement in all directions.

  • Finding one trajectory or essence of the movement to cohere all the smaller discoveries.

  • The body as the extension of the object.

  • Finding new rhythms, play with time so that each action doesn’t take the same amount of time. When you are bored at work you can be thinking of anything, let your character dream.


Questions from mentors

  • What can be taken away from the original movement and still retain something of the original knowledge?

  • Using a painting as a score - is this a helpful in creating dance from traditional forms of labour-based movement or does it create too much abstraction so that we can no longer see the original source of the movement?

  • How to flow from one movement to the next?

  • Anna’s solo: What is the relationship between dancer and the small stool in the middle of the space? What is the function of the stool?

  • Ying’s solo: Will she interact with the plants? What are the plants saying to her? Do the plants represent ‘people’? What is she thinking? Her body folding forward – is this a posture of sorrow? Surrender? Is the fan in her mouth a sign of silencing herself?

  • Are you portraying the person you met or are you imagining yourself at this job? What kinds of leverage do you give yourself to create a new character?

  • How much does narrative play into this? Is there a story arc in each dance or is it more important to repeat patterns, finding variation and levels of emotional tone and physical intensity?



General observations

Ana’s solo: The stool was small, yet it took up a lot of energetic space. The dancer's repeated pattern of crossing over the stool and moving to different corners of the space rendered the ordinary stool as some kind of barrier or obstruction - something to ‘get over’.

Ying’s solo outside: The initial image of her back, bent over, stillness, potted plants in single file watching as if holding space for her. Sorrow came to mind. The duration of her sitting on the chair with her body folded over, her back facing ‘front’, presented a barrier or blocking of something personal. Internal, contemplative energy.

Ying’s solo inside: I saw a conversation a relationship between the dancer, table, fan. As if she’s trying to understand; to see another point of view; “I am part of you”; I carry you wherever I go; You disrupt; I try to understand you; I struggle; I weigh all things. I saw the colour red as a metaphor for power, blood. The fan was held in her mouth – a symbol of being or feeling silenced? A weapon? Constant change of directions within the space; setting table up taking it down, sitting down – never staying in one place for too long ; energetic contrast between the section outside.


What next


  • Let the imagination be free to follow intuitive ways of interpreting the labour of the elders.

  • Determine what needs to be retained in order to have some recognizability and let everything else go.

  • How do the solos become one piece? Would they follow one another or should the choreography design patterns to weave the different dances together?


Keywords

Transitions, changing rhythms, specificity of gesture, imagination around the arc of the movement sequence.

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