THE Dance Company
Cultural extravaganza of Singapore’s Chinese cultural center
Live broadcast, Sunday (May 23), 3 p.m.
Just a week before Pan’s premiere at the Chinese Cultural Center in Singapore, heightened security measures from Covid-19 brought him fully online.
The new measures, which last until June 13, require all performers to be masked for performances to a live audience.
Given the high intensity movements choreographed by The Human Expression (THE) Dance Company Artistic Director Kuik Swee Boon and Resident Choreographer Kim Jae Duk, it would not have been possible for the dancers to perform in masks.
Pan was originally designed for a live audience and later adapted for a hybrid of live and online audiences. The sudden in-line movement only meant a rush to adjust the production items.
Despite this, Adrian Tan’s lighting design has been successfully recalibrated for the screen alone, clearly delineating bodies and movements while capturing changes in mood.
The change in camera placement also proves to be effective, as the streaming performance brings the audience onto the stage with the performers, magnifying aspects such as the locking of the eyes or the details in the unfolding fingers.
The title Pan comes from a word which in Mandarin means “coil” and exists in the Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese languages. It also refers to the creation myth of Pangu, a colossal being whose body separated to form the elements of the natural world.
Kuik uses this as an allegory of transculturation, Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz’s concept of the continual fusion and convergence of cultures.
Pan is presented in several parts, starting with Kim’s SeungMu, a contemporary interpretation of one of Korea’s most important folk dances.
Loo An Ni’s costumes update the traditional white tapered hood and coat with sleeves that fall well beyond the fingers in a dark black trench coat and removable hood.
These accentuate the weight of stillness in the face of the changing rhythms embodied by the dancers, which are like tight coiled springs. The sleeves reveal the speed of the dancers’ hands and wrists, which repeatedly flash with their quick gestures.
Towards the end of the dance, the trench coats are hung in a row at the back of the stage. They become additional bodies joining the dance, a reminder of the people, history and lineage that came before this moment, as the heavy crimson curtains draw closer.
During the break, with the dancers presumably having to change, the emcees, disabled performers Tung Ka Wai and Danial Bawthan, also known as Wheelsmith, take the audience backstage to meet the dancers.
They converse with them in a variety of languages and dialects such as English, Mandarin, Malay, and Cantonese, revealing information about the origins and roots of each dancer.
For example, junior apprentice Haruka Chan was born on the first day of spring in Japan and her name, given by her Singaporean and Japanese parents, is based on this.