Undefined Colours

Written by: Amanda Damaren

Edited by: Jackie Torres

“Undefined Colors” @The Roundhouse Community Arts Centre, November 08, 2014 – December 09, 2014

Founded by choreographer and dancer Alvin Erasga Tolentino in 2000, Co.Erasaga has created a collection of dance works by Peter Chin, Pichet Klunchun, William Lau, Didik Nini Thowok and Alvin Erasga Tolentino, which is named Undivided Colors. These artists will be together for the first time in Canada to share their talents on stage and in dialogue about their respective dance practices. Undivided Colors celebrates the spirit of dance, the diversity and gender of people and is a gathering and performance not to be missed at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre in Vancouver BC from November 8th – November 9th 2014. The show Undivided Colors captured the essence of different cultures and choreographic rituals through the study and performance of dance. With Pichet Klunchun’s use of traditional Thai hand gestures or Didik Nini Thowok’s use of mask work the dancers asserted a certain level of contemporary knowledge and challenged the audiences view of dance, culture, identity and gender. For example, Didik Nini Thowok used one mask, which gave the impression of an old lady dancing on stage. This mask had drooping characteristic features and very small eyes and in turn transformed Didik Nini Thowok into an eighty-year-old woman. This demonstrated the level of knowledge and dedication the dancers acquired, which challenged the audiences perception of identity and gender. In using stylized costumes, props and makeup Undivided Colors presented a charismatic theme, which left the viewer in a state of wonder and admiration. For example, William Lau promoted the richness of Chinese dancing by embodying in the “Dan” (female roles) and dressed in a traditional Chinese folk dress from head to toe. He also projected a strong sense of character and style by covering his face with makeup and including two fighting swords into his movement phrase. This is one example of how the dancers achieved a strong sense of commitment, exploration and love for what they do through a combination of movement and character building within each their pieces.

“Life is waiting, For Chinese Quyi”, 2000. 340 X 25 in.

Looking back over my experience seeing this show there were certain elements of the show that stood out to me as a viewer more than others. For example, the way Didik Nini Thowok was able to portray so many different characters using his masks was remarkable as I felt I was watching more then one person on stage. His ability to impersonate other people through his posture and isolated movements was captivating and a thrill to watch. Although I felt most of the dancers completely empowered the voice and art of the body I believe some of the pieces dragged on too long. For example, Pichet Klunchun performed a Thai Classical Dance language with contemporary sensibility, which piqued my interest for most of the solo. The way he moved so slowly across the stage with so little movement and was able to stay completely committed to his form was outstanding. However, I do believe that duration and timing play a large part in performing a piece on stage and although his commitment was impressive I felt quite bored and disinterested half way through. This being said, I appreciated the level of dedication and awareness that Pichet Klunchun brought to his choreographic creation and the sense of calm and serenity he contributed to the show.

Chinese mask

“Mask of Man and Woman”, 2013. 700 X 525 in.

Overall, it is interesting the way certain shows can affect the viewer personally in different ways. I feel Undefined Colors has completely moved me through a dance, theatre and staging perspective though the use of props, lighting and dance. Even though I felt some-what disconnected and inattentive during parts the cohesiveness of the dancers, staging, lights, costumes and movement was enough to leave me completely impressed and confident about the newfound dance knowledge I was taking in. Undefined Colors has inspired me to see more shows throughout Vancouver BC and branch out in other dance styles that are outside of my comfort zone. Dance and body was established in the mastery, authenticity and the originality in each of these dances and is definitely a show to be seen. With the combination of these dancers Co.Erasaga has definitely highlighted Undivided Colors where dance and choreography explores identity and contemporary voices being shared. Undefined Colors exposed to the audience a true love and dedication of dancing in the arts and in doing so inspired those around them and left the audience intrigued. In my opinion, Co.Erasaga has succeeded in presenting a well-rounded show and should continue to explore further in their practice of study and love of performance.

chinese painting

Jason Wills. “The Wild South Flies”, 2005. 588 X 600 in. Courtesy of the artist

References Burrows, Jonathan. A Choreographer’s Handbook. USA and Canada: Routledge, 2010. Print. Davida, Dena. Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance. Canada: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2012. Print.

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