Dance show doubles the drama by merging Kabuki theater and Teochew opera
Dancer, choreographer and artist Chan Kar Kah can thank the film Memoirs of a Geisha for opening his mind.
She recalls being 10 years old when she watched the romantic drama, which made her realize that Chinese and Japanese cultures share many similarities. That awareness – and that fascination – stayed longest with KL-based Chan.
This week, she will share her passion for both cultures in an experimental dance performance Serenity: A Glimpse Through Traditional Lenseswhich is part of the George Town Festival 2022 lineup.
This free-entry event will take place at the Hin Bus Depot arts center in Penang on July 19 and 20.
Serenity: A Glimpse Through Traditional Lenses is inspired by two classic tragic female Kabuki (Japanese dance drama) characters – Sagi Musume (Heron Maiden) and Yokihi (Lady Yang Gui Fei).
The show also pushes the creative boundaries of the dancer/choreographer, with Teochew opera and Nanquan (Chinese martial arts) thrown into the equation.
“I want to update these two classic characters for contemporary audiences. The show will be presented by contemporary dancers who also have a background in classical ballet and traditional dance,” says Chan, 25, who handled festival dance work including the Scarlet Mela Festival of Arts (2022) and the Bandung Arts Festival (2021). .
Serenity: A Glimpse Through Traditional Lenseschoreographed by Chan, features dancers Ker Yee Teng and Winnie Tay Yi Xuan in collaboration with cinematographer Joie Koo, Malaysian composer Yii Kah Hoe and visual artist Sim Hoi Ling.
Chan, who leads the performing arts group Marrow Collective, adds that his new production isn’t just meant to achieve a performative goal. Marrow Collective, founded in KL in 2018, works in interdisciplinary, experimental and community circles.
“This show aims to explore the similarities between these two different disciplines and seek a balance between them,” she explains.
It was during Chan’s dance residency at Rimbun Dahan this year (January to April) that Chan conceptualized Serenity: A Glimpse Through Traditional Lenses. She says she noticed that the traditional kampung houses in the art center, located in Kuang, Selangor, had elements from other cultures.
The upcoming dance production also includes a short film, directed by Chan. It was shot in the traditional Rumah Uda Manap house of Rimbun Dahan, a performance on location and a workshop.
“These kampung houses had the exterior of a traditional Malay house, on stilts with vernacular roofs. However, inside, I noticed that Chinese cultural elements were present inside the house, especially on the carvings and carvings on the panels of the house.
“This new discovery prompted me to reconcile these experiences that I have as a Malaysian Chinese, through cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary experimentation,” she shares.
Next month, Chan reveals that she will present a dance production based on the legend of Mahsuri, which will be presented at the Melaka Art & Performance Festival from August 26-28.