A New work of Contemporary dance
This work is commissioned by the Singapore National Museum where it will premiere in July 2012.
Choreographer: Eko Supriyanto
Assistant to Choreographer: Phon Sopheap
Technical Equipment supplied
and operated by Dans La Phase (DLP) Audio
Produced by Amrita Performing Arts
Executive Director Fred Frumberg
Program Director Kang Rithisal
Office Manager Va Chamnann
Music Courtesy of Trentemoller and Ryoji Ikede
About the Work
The work is based on Patricia Piccinini's The Young Family which describes the relation and distinction between human and animal characteristics. The work does not focus on humanity in as much as the animalistic characteristics in humans and the genetically shared traits inherent between humans and animals. Para – Human explores the realm of feelings, issues and relationships related to human / animalistic traits in ancient civilization by exploring such mythological characters as Hanuman (monkey and human), Narsimha (lion and human) and Ganesha (elephant and human). Para – Human acknowledges the mutually shared space of humans and animals. The subtleties of the monkey dance as characterized in Javanese and Cambodian dance serves as a tool to celebrate the human / animal relationship in mankind.
I am very excited about Para – Human which has become the continuation of my journey with Amrita's dancers. I have shared stories with the dancers from my home country such as the killing of Orangutans in Borneo for palm oil farms and other such stories of abuse. The question of "who is human and who is animal" is in some ways a greater concern in the global context than terrorism, economic disasters, political conflict or human trafficking. Humans can be beasts while animals can teach us of beauty and kindness. The sharing of these stories have brought us closer and taught us as artists to reach beyond our own boundaries.
These six young dancers have given their hearts and passion in ways that can open further doors of collaboration between our two countries while sharing their stories with the audience. We hope that through our movements, music and passion, you will share in our commitment to a more beautiful planet.
About the Company
Eko Supriyanto (Choreographer) is a graduate and full-time faculty member of ISI Surakarta/The Indonesian Institute for the Arts in Solo, Central Java Indonesia. Eko holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance and choreography from the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures (2001). He has studied Javanese court dances and Indonesian Martial Art Pencak Silat since he was seven with his grandfather in Magelang, Central Java. Eko's works have been presented widely in Indonesia, the United States, Asia and Europe. He has been a dancer, choreographer, and actor in numerous works of opera, film, dance and theater with world renowned directors including Peter Sellars, Garin Nugroho, and John De-rantau. Eko was a featured dancer on Madonna's "Drowned World" tour in 2001 and has served as a dance consultant for the Los Angeles and National Tour of Julie Taymor's "Lion King" Broadway production. He is the founder and artistic director of the Solo Dance Studio in Surakarta Indonesia since 1996. Eko received a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue a PhD degree at UCLA in 2007. He is now a third-year Doctorate student of Performance Studies at the Gadjah Mada University Yogyakarta, Indonesia. For his full bio please visit his company's website. http://www.solodancestudio.org
Phon Sopheap (Assistant to the Choreographer) studied Lakhaon Kaol (Cambodian male masked dance) and completed his training in 2000 and has toured internationally as a classical dancer. With a strong interest in contemporary dance, Sopheap joined numerous regional dance workshops including the Young Choreographer's Workshop in Surabaya in July 2006 as an ACC recipient where he created his first contemporary solo work entitled A Monkey's Mask. Since then, Sopheap has toured internationally in works by Emmanuèle Phuon, Peter Chin, Arco Renz and others.
The Dancers are graduates and students of the Secondary School of Fine Arts, Royal University of Fine Arts, and Cambodian Living Arts in Phnom Penh Cambodia and have trained since childhood in Cambodian classical court and masked dance. All of the dancers are well versed in other forms of performing arts including shadow puppetry, music, and classical singing and are frequent performers at Sovanna Phum and Cambodian Living Arts. Over the past few years, the dancers have been exploring contemporary dance with Amrita Performing Arts with such international artists as Khmer / French choreographer Emmanuèle Phuon and Eko Supriyanto from Indonesia. They have also performed in new works of contemporary dance by Cambodian artists Chey Chankethya and Chumvan Sodhachivy both with Amrita and Institut Français du Cambodge. All of the dancers remain faithful to their traditional skills but are also eager to further develop as contemporary dancers.
Amrita Performing Arts is an International NGO based in Phnom Penh, with US nonprofit status. Amrita is committed to creating Cambodian contemporary dance and theater, responding to the creative drive of a young generation of artists passionately dedicated to ushering their country's ancient performing arts heritage into the future. Our work is developed through workshops based on intensive exchange and dialogue with international collaborators. All of our efforts emphasize capacity building as we assist in nurturing a new generation of Cambodian choreographers, directors and practitioners in all areas of arts management.
Brigit Krans' performance review
Para-Human realities Eko Supriyanto choreographs his new work with Cambodian dancers by Brigit Krans
The para-human phenomenon is the vehicle with which Eko Supriyanto's new choreography drives home social issues and highlights particular incidents that have recently occurred in his native Indonesia, but which are not exclusive to his home country. Prostitution, the abuse of power, gender and class-based divisions are presented alongside social harmony and celebration. The challenge of expressing these contrasts provided six dancers from Amrita Performing Arts with the impetus to showcase their ability to communicate on local, regional and international levels.
A Phnom Penh classroom has been transformed into a temporary theatre space for the occasion of Eko Supriyanto's new choreography Para-Human. The mute lighting from the right of this black-box performance space bathes the bodies of four dancers, standing 'en profile' to the audience, in soft yellow hue. Taking a single step forward into the beam of light, they pause, marking the beginning of a long assemblage of movement episodes spanning one hour and fifteen minutes, which Javan native Eko Supriyanto has skillfully woven together, overlapping and connecting elements to communicate the ongoing flux of the animal in human, and the human in animal.
Performed in silence, subtle hand movements attract attention. Delicately rotating her wrists and fingers with the utmost precision, the dancer's eyes and head follow the story-telling hand gestures that are the language of Cambodian Apsara dance. As the rest of her body follows into this classical form, a male dancer to her left accompanies her sustained performance with a Khmer song. His emotive and highly textured vocals resonate throughout the performance space as he hinges his upper body forward and carefully settles his knuckles on the floor before him. In this awkward quadruped position -- not quite dog or monkey -- he travels diagonally across the space towards the right-hand side of the audience. Rising to an upright stance, he walks past the audience along a narrow aisle, his song increasing in volume; his powerful voice and body are tangible, his presence permeable.
The underlying cultural "flow"
The quadrupedal motion occurs time and time again in the choreography. "It is like a signature", says Eko Supriyanto. Perhaps it is this signature movement that captures most acutely the essence and image of the Para-Human: the human-animal hybrid that is also found in The Young Family sculptures of Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, where animal and human characteristics synthesize into surreal-looking creatures. Also present in ancient Hindu deities like Hanuman, depicted as part human and part monkey, Eko Supriyanto utilizes mythological influences to communicate the animal in human and vice versa, as well as the geographic co-habitation of animal and mankind on earth.
Drawing on the monkey dance as characterized in both Javanese and Cambodian dance, typified with particular hand gestures, virtuosic leaps, rolls and other challenging floor work, the movement language throughout the choreography is developed from the embodied knowledge of the six young Cambodian dancers. The underlying cultural "flow", as Eko calls it -- the foundational layer upon which all of the dancers' other movement lexicons are build -- is the flow of a profound cultural signifier that makes Eko's choreography powerful and lends him the confidence to create a contemporary work that is mindful of his own traditions and those of his Cambodian dancers and audience.
Left inside the doghouse
Light is cast onto an object, revealing the shape of a doghouse situated at the back of the performance floor. A low-frequency droning sound, interrupted by high-pitched staccato bleeps, shifts the air as a curvaceous female dancer very slowly emerges from the doghouse. Rising up from her sensuous squat, her shiny red high-heeled shoes catch the eye while a pink light cast from the side surrounds her figure like an aura. As her left knee crosses her right, she leans back slightly, nonchalantly maintaining her seductive pose. Her costume of loosely-arranged shredded black and brown strands of fabric, also worn by the other dancers, are an abstract take on animal fur or hair, with human flesh peeking through from underneath and in between. Like the high-heeled lady, the other dancers eventually leave the performance space by crawling back through the doghouse as if to symbolize a descent into the 'underbelly' and the ugly side of the Para-Human potential in society. The lights go out, and in the darkness that follows, it is as though we are all inside the doghouse.
As a choreographic work Para-Human plays with contrasting narrative meanings, movement qualities, sound scores and movement lexicons. Nevertheless, its predominant character seems to be one of angst and tension. Throughout the choreography, the dancers repeatedly fall to the floor, only to rise up again as if caught in a struggle between these two motions; an expression that is potentially metaphoric of our coexisting human and animal states -- a Para-Human reality in contemporary life. Brigit Krans, M.A., CMA, is a Certified Movement Analyst, choreographic analyst, dance educator and dance critic, educated by the Laban Conservatoire of Contemporary dance in London and the Laban Institute of Movement Studies in New York. She lives and works in Cambodia.