From the instant you step into the T.H.E Dance Company’s studio at Goodman Arts Centre, you are greeted by a strange scene.
Dancers, dressed in loose robes of navy blue, scatter handfuls of light blue chalk in a circle on the ground. As each audience member enters the theatre and takes their seat on one of the four sides of the stage, the dancers sidle up to them. Chalk lines are smeared on the floor, linking each spectator to the wider circle.
This is Searching Blue—the latest experimental piece by Kuik Swee Boon, founder and artistic director of The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company. To Kuik, the colour blue represents peace. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the entire room—performers and audience members alike—are transported in search of it.
What does it mean to be at peace with the world? How do we connect with ourselves and others? These are just some of the questions the performance explores.
The space is quiet, other than the swishing and squeaking of the dancers’ feet on the floor. Unlike in regular performances, no lights dim, and no emcee takes the stage. The performance is ongoing. In some ways, it seems like the dance of life itself.
In Searching Blue, performers go the extra mile to engage with the audience by inviting them to experience the narrative firsthand
Movement and emotion
Founded in 2008, T.H.E Dance Company specialises in contemporary dance and is based in Singapore. It pioneered the HollowBody™, a specialised technique that allows dancers to access their innermost instincts and impulses through the body’s movement.
Essentially, dance itself becomes a form of personal truth. This is plain to see in the performance itself. Fluid and graceful at times, contorted and tortured at others, the dancers’ movements are a gateway to a spectrum of emotions.
As they leap into the air, one’s heart cannot help but leap with them. As they writhe on the ground, one cannot help but feel their desperation.
It is also an impressive display of athleticism. But aesthetics aside, Kuik’s choreography is such that each sweep of the arm, each arch of the back, is alive with symbolism. The body itself becomes a canvas for him—and the dancers, who are also collaborators on the piece—to explore the interplay between dissonance and oneness, self and other.
The audience, too, get to move their bodies. As a site-adaptive work, Searching Blue invites audiences to step outside the theatre for an open-air segment of the performance.
Soundscapes of change
The experimental nature of the piece goes beyond the dancing. It also includes the sound design of the set, courtesy of self-taught artist and musician Kent Lee.
Sitting in a corner of the theatre, Lee is an unobtrusive figure. To his right sits a laptop. In his lap sits a handpan drum, a relatively modern musical instrument that nevertheless looks like it came straight out of antiquity.
He uses a mixture of electronic synth, tribalistic drumming, and his voice—low and throaty and harsh—to mirror the emotional journey of the dancers.
Sound is the cytoplasm of the piece, binding it together into a coherent whole. More than providing atmosphere, it adds a new dimension to the performance, and turns it into an auditory experience as well as a visual one.
The result is a triumph. Bold, unconventional, and perhaps even a little unsettling, Searching Blue is a remarkable way to mark T.H.E’s 15th anniversary. It is not merely a performance that you watch. It is a performance that looks back at you.
Dive into dance with Searching Blue, a free, site-adaptive performance that brings you to multiple locations around Goodman Arts Centre, (starting from outside T.H.E Dance Company’s studio) from 17 November to 3 December 2023, 5.30pm - 7pm.
All images are credited to Crispian Chan