Find your partner

This morning, I went to a masterclass by Mui Cheuk-Yin. What a name (that’s very poetic-sounding in Mandarin) huh!

Last night, I saw Solo/Duet presented by T.H.E Dance Company, and Mui’s Untitled opened the triple bill. A bit of a jumbled experience – I wasn’t covering the show (where someone else had to publish my writing), so I went to a studio preview a week ago. And I thought I’d have liked to have attended the class before seeing her work.

It was a contact improvisation class – something from my London days. I have fond memories of giving weight (not so much taking as many of my classmates were rather worried about crushing me). And soon I learnt that contact improvisation doesn’t concern itself with the size of my quads or biceps, rather it requires trust, availability and awareness.

I don’t know what I was expecting the class to be like as Mui’s range and repertoire is VAST (A CV to die for..)! She started off as a classical Chinese dancer, working extensively with props like fans, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, you name it. Then she went exploring in New York (no less) and found contact improvisation. Since that, she’s performed with Tanztheater Wuppertal and choreographed work that’s been staged in many countries around the world.

The blurb in the programme for last night’s show said this of her: “Mui Cheuk-Yin [is] known for her elegant revamping of Chinese dance traditions.” She does this brilliantly in Untitled – a solo for Yarra Ileto, but really a duet for her and a 2×2 m piece of fabric with strategic holes in it.

Ileto (very befittingly in a belated nod to International Women’s Day) channeled an enigmatic femininity in the shape-shifting dance, manipulating the fabric around, above and with her body. The regal Aung San Suu Kyi, the fashion-forward Michelle Obama, a quivering hunched old lady, a trapped mermaid, a reverent maidservant, an ebullient schoolgirl, a silent courtesan; these are but a number of images that came to mind in the piece’s 25 minutes.

Here’s bits of it in rehearsal:

I thanked Mui this morning, not only for class, but also for Untitled. It yielded so much on a second viewing (which I’m glad I traveled halfway across the country for). We then had an illuminating conversation about the work – its subtleties, possibilities and wonders.

She said the fabric has a life of its own, and the creative process was Ileto doing contact improvisation with it her. And in the words of Steve Paxton: “[Partners] do not strive to achieve results, but rather, to meet the constantly changing physical reality with appropriate placement and energy.”

Sweet, perfect sense.

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Filed under Improvisation, Review

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