12 January 2013 (gig)
16 January 2013
Admittedly, I have been rather naive to dance over the years. But recently, I have gotten my head around how a well choreographed piece can be more expressive and emotive than a lyric. An instrumental piece of music (electronic, ambient, heavy metal guitar solo - whatever really) allows the listener to move away from what’s being dictated by a lyric and allow some individual subjective connection with the music. Dance can bridge that connection, in similar ways to how the visuals of a movie over a piece of music move and inspire us. But also like a lyric, bring some objectivity too.
At The Place, in London’s Kings Cross, (the site of the London Contemporary Dance School) they put on an annual event called Resolution! - an open season of nightly triple bills that showcases new dance for the new year, advertised as the worlds biggest dance platform featuring 81 new acts. I was invited down to watch Liz Liew and Yuyu Rau perform a 25 minute piece called Snapshots (supported by PRS for Music Foundation who provided some funding from the Woman Make Music grant) as well as enjoying the other two performances of the evening.
Liz Liew, is a British Chinese multi-talented musician and composer. More recently she was chosen as one of PRS for Music Foundation’s selected composers for New Music 20x12 as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad for her piece XX/XY that featured on BBC 2 and had Radio 3 airplay as well as a performance to 12000 in Trafalgar Square. As a session musician she has toured, recorded and performed with the likes of Moby, Lamb, Gnarls Barkley, Asian Dub Foundation to name a few. Yuyu Rau trained in ballet, contemporary and Chinese classical dance in Taiwan and has worked with a number of prestigious choreographers. Yuyu has taught dance and obtained an MA in performance dance. She has also danced for productions at Sadler’s Wells and the ROH2. This is the first time these two have collaborated and the resulting piece explores a personal exploration of key points in Liew’s life and the surrounding emotions - childhood memories, first love, the death of her father and the birth of her two daughters.
Liew - resplendent in a colourful summer dress with a flower in her hair - played between piano and violin to each of the choreographed pieces that made up the whole, whilst Rau brought a dance performance inspired by Chinese classical dance and martial arts. At certain key moments they were joined by Dennis Kwong Thye Lee who brought his skill of the ethereal Chinese zither (Guzheng) as well as the Chinese flute (Xiao) to the mix.
In my dance-naivety, without the preamble on the program, I probably would have been lost. At times, I did not know as to what point of the story we were at. However, other moments were obvious and a connection was quickly made. Cinematic flashback imagery projected on to a back screen helped make those connections - photographs of Liew as a child, her father as a younger man before his death, the ultra sound scan of one of her daughters. I was pleasantly surprised at my own reaction, being emotionally moved at what was overall an intimate and vulnerable performance. At certain times it was clear that Liew found the journey near overwhelming as she held back her own tears. On reflection to those points in the story which were not obvious, it was good that there was room within the production to allow the audience to explore their own subjective interpretation of key ubiquitous moments that we all relate to in our own way. I’m certainly not in a position to individually critique Rau’s dance performance from any professional standing. What I do know is she was at times captivating. However, along with the music and visuals as a live piece the elements came together well and made a pleasant alternative to a Saturday night at the Garage on the Holloway Road!
The following two pieces of the evening were equally engaging and brought to me a fresh appreciation of the amount of work that goes into creating a piece of choreography. The music was well written and the dancing beautiful, vibrant and energetic.
Now coming to the end of this review, I ask myself how many music-news stars I should give? Despite striving to be technically objective, reviewing is a subjective thing after all. Ultimately it comes down to how much I enjoyed the evening - how much my dopamine receptors fired off in my brain to give me that sense of good feeling that should accompany any gig! So ... see below.
Music from Snapshots will be performed at Rich Mix on Sun 3 Feb as part of Chinese New Year celebration, and Liew and Rau are planning to tour Snapshots at some of this years festivals. Whilst Resolution! 2013 has many more nights of music and dance until the beginning of February. Worth checking out!