SangHawa (Eve) & Rantau Berbisik (Whisperings of Exile)
Nan Jombang Dance Company – Space Theatre 23 – 24 Sep 2010
Based in Padang in western Sumatra, Nan Jombang Dance Company was formed in 1983 by choreographer Ery Mefri. The company, which is comprised entirely of family members, bases its choreography on traditional Indonesian dance styles including Tari Piring (or Plate Dance) where the dancers rapidly swirl plates balanced in their hands whilst tapping and shaking them to create rhythm, and the Randai, which is a more theatrical style of traditional folk dance which comprises both acting, songs and martial arts.
The opening piece, SangHawa, featured Angga Mefri and Rio Mefri exploring, through their dance, the story of the first woman to Islam, Christianity and Judaism. According to the program notes the characters were mother and son. The son was seeking permission from his mother to leave the home land and begin his emigration across the archipelago. To a backing track of silence, the choreography was stepped out in slow motion, each movement was considered, each breath deliberate. The audience was completely silent and respectful in anticipation of the dancers next shape, line or direction. The performers demonstrated great skill and flexibility, moving both together and individually they created almost yogic postures which required great concentration and strength. The piece overall was overtly sexual, and unlike any mother/son relationship I am familiar with.
The second piece called Rantau Berbisik, featured three more dancers alongside Angga and Rio. Gany Mefri, Ririn Mefri and Intan Mefri joined Rio in what was perceived to be a kitchen. The set was a small trolley layered with crockery, plates and cutlery, and a single table with four chairs sat plainly on the stage. The program notes tell us that we are in one of thousands of Nasi Padang restaurants spread across the archipelago. The choreography again incorporates much of the slow movements of the first, but now is set to the beat of tapping plates and banging tables created by the performers. Much of the dance was quite cryptic and only moments of it perpetuated the story.
Unfortunately the production reached its climax around 10 minutes into the piece. Once the excitement from witnessing the skill and technique of the dancers had worn off, the show became excruciatingly difficult to watch and was incredibly boring. The very talented performers clearly have a lot to offer, but sadly gave us more in duration than inspiration with this offering from Nan Jombang Dance Company.
30 Sept 2010
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