Human beings are above all free subjects. It is what sets the subject apart from anything else in nature and makes them distinctively human. The world can be absurd and there can be no pre-existing standards or values human beings can appeal to in order to justify activities. The emancipated performer refuses to accept and rely on external pressure to appease pre-established value and standards.
I am Ding Chai and A Gaze are two recent works in an idiosyncratic trajectory of a dance event developed from traditional Asian trance practices to a new conjuncture of post-modern dance aesthetics.
These proposed repertoires are born of the existential protest against the external conventions of dominant values, and responsibility before non-conformity to values that restrict the individual in the defiant for our self-affirmation.
The body at the edge of crisis: In the psychophysical, the emotional power of ‘crisis’, acting as a launching point to deeper intentions and motivations, can invite a raw state of deep trance. When one is in trance, in improvisation, they traverse between these different levels, oscillating in multitudes of rhythms and moving between levels of luminosity and presence, thus giving a polyphony of effects and affects.
“I began moving, looking through the body’s pore-eyes and discovered a fresh articulation of body and movement. Imagining vision and body in this way enabled a distinct dance encapsulating unexplored embodiment. Weightlessness replaced ‘locked’ joints, releasing multitudes of stimuli and impulses in combinations away from the usual and habitual and docile; away from an auto-stylised and predictable choreography.” – (extract from the working journal during the creative development process)
At this confluence of senses and imagery to dance, the spectator may also be presented with an uncommon affect, whereby the spectator no longer sees the dance as an object to gaze at, but is inevitably entwined and entranced in this process of gazing and dancing. This presents an interior emancipation to the participatory nature of the spectator; an empathetic poetic loop between dancer and spectator.
This performance is the uneasy learning of masculinity; the thematic strife is in the absence of fathers and a gravitation toward a redefinition of self. The period of experiencing a sense of loss and being lost has sparked a profound internal-external-enquiry, especially from the perspective as men.
“A deep cry. This tone in my throat thinly drags in a song so ancient, eternal and melancholic. It’s a death’s screaming for its silence, a call from the depth, a quiet spasm and colossal consolation. Hold it down and it dances the erratic ecstasy, taut and twisted body in rare forms.
Then the gentle touch beneath gasping breath, a soothing so deep it’s a mother’s cradle after birth, a genesis of lullabies, the birth of compassion.
The pain was phantoms. Where are they now? I walk with ease. The glow remains, strong and penetrating – a blazing glow of a celestial filament.
Then we danced the wild within the grounded. Transformed every sensation to a new language. A language of the kinaesthetic lexicon; so lithe, light and firm.
In order to live one has to kill the surface fear. Put weight to the lift, length to the stretch. One must take flight, to jump, to levitate, float and fly.
Chai (才), my birth name, has a trace of the character wood, strategically chosen by my father as a fuel to the fire element in my horoscope – fire monkey. Chai also means ‘talent’. [in Hokkien] In this performance, the concept of the return is explored via a return to my birth name after 40 years of identifying myself as ‘Tony’. This return, in a way a ‘looking back’ to home, was timely: the intention of this first rendition was, through the state of trance, to strip the outer layer of an accumulated culture of both body and mind back to the very original states of listening and being an instrument and expression to the pure impulses underneath the surface noise. Before ‘Tony’ was ‘Chai’.
Induction: The spectators are in the parameters of the space. I enter as a spectator, mingling with guests before gradually moving to the position of actor and dancer. The idea behind this gradual metamorphosis is to execute, as if in stealth, a transformation - from the space and stance of spectator to one of performer. This enables the spectators to ‘morph’ with me, thus allowing for a collective induction of an initial drop into a shallow trance. Here our breaths synchronise and pulse with the same rhythm. This moment is the commencement of the ‘dance’, a beginning in an empathetic connection. The question of when the dance is completed, however, is subjective. For me, it continues within this void. This oscillating subjectivity, at the very end, enables a slow transition to the position where I began, with the audience, and uncertain in the border between being in or out of trance.
Tony Yap, Brendan O'connor (A Gaze)
Watch 4 mins Video on 'I am Ding Chai':
Watch 4 mins Video on 'A Gaze':