This is the natural world, reflected and deflected, through dance.
On the dry lake bed of Lake George in Australia, one of the oldest lakes in the world, three choereographers from three corners of the world gather.
Drawing on the energy emanating from the vast open space of the great outdoors, Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM from Australia, Wong Jyh Shyong from Malaysia (who goes by JS) and Grace Peng Hsiao-yin from Taiwan explore the world beneath their feet, the air they breathe, the breathtaking view stretching as far as the eye can see.
It is in such a place that Mirror Image, a new production from Mirramu Dance Company in association with Dancecology Dance Company from Taiwan and the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) Dance Company from Malaysia, was born.
In an e-mail interview, Dalman, the founder and artistic director of Mirramu Dance Company, says:
“Here on the lake bed the power of the natural world inspires and teaches us about the cycles of life, the light and the dark, the wet and the dry, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, and all the many facets of our own human lives.”
This dance theatre work delves into various “levels and layers in the mirroring theme”, incorporating the “beautiful” bits of nature into the piece, but never shying away from the natural world’s darker and grittier aspects as well.
“Mirror Image addresses our various relationships to the natural world. It shows how this world is constantly reflecting back to us its various moods, changes and conditions,” Dalman explains.
During the creative process of putting Mirror Image together, everything around, beneath and above was explored – from the water to the mud, the plants to the birds, the insects to the animals.
“We explored how nature reflects our own lives, and how we reflect the natural world.
“And we realised just how strongly we are a part of the natural world, not separate from it,” adds the 80-year-old.
Dalman believes that the landscape of where we live has an effect on how we move.
As an example, she offers that Taiwan being a small island and Australia a vast continent, she often observes fluidity or “water quality” in Taiwanese dancers, while Australian dancers have “strong, earthy, athletic qualities” reflecting the vast land mass of their homeland.
“Although Grace, JS and I are all very different, we nevertheless reflect each other especially in our dance and world-views, in our artistic aesthetics and in our choreographic expressions,” she says.
The natural world had always been a great source of inspiration for her works and so she was excited to meet Wong and Peng who related and reacted to the environment of Lake George as she did.
“Both if them had been several times to my home Mirramu on the shores of Weereewa / Lake George near Canberra in Australia. I was excited to meet these two younger choreographers who spontaneously related to the Weereewa environment,” she says.
And thus, she proposed staging Mirror Image.
Given their differences in dance background, culture, and – Dalman points out – age (between her and the other two younger choreographers), one would imagine this project was not possible.
“In some cross-cultural collaborations, negotiating differences in language, cultural protocols and artistics aesthetics takes patience, time and understanding,” she says.
But in the Mirror Image project, these challenges have been “almost completely absent”.
“We think, work and create in very
similar ways. I believed that all three of us had similar aesthetic dance qualities and so, a collaboration together promised both interesting challenges and exciting outcomes.”
Featuring eight contemporary dancers from Australia, Malaysia and Taiwan, an eclectic musical score, and stunning projected images of the natural world, Mirror Image gives a voice to nature, reflecting all that we know – or should know – weaving a tale of haunting beauty, of life and death, of healing and rebirth and connectivity.
Mirror Image has been staged in Australia and Taiwan. It will run at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (H-01, DPAC, Empire Damansara, Jalan PJU 8/8, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya) on July 5 and 6 at 8.30pm. Tickets are priced at RM48 and RM38. For Dcard Members, tickets are RM40 and RM30. Note that there will be a post-show talk after the performance on Saturday, July 5. Before the performance, a Dance Talk titled Dance and Environment by Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM will be held on Saturday, July 5, from 4pm to 6pm. Admission for this talk is free. Visit www.dpac.com.my or call 03-4065 0001 / 0002 for ticket purchase or more information.