More than just dancing mums01/19/2020
With graceful, intricate choreography, moving stories and elegant costumes, the group of Malay dancers at the heart of this theatre production by Bhumi Collective last Friday were as charismatic as their dances enchanting.
A mixture of documentary theatre work with text, Malay dance and videography, the experience was curated from the real-life stories and experiences of a group of dancers called Mak-Mak Menari, with “mak” in Malay meaning “mother” and “menari” referring to “dance”.
It was performed in English and Malay, with English surtitles.
The dancers were from established Malay cultural groups such as Persatuan Kemuning, Perkumpulan Seni and Teater Tari Era.
They first came together to perform in 2012 and continue to promote Malay arts and culture.
But this was not just a showcase of dancing mothers. Co-created by choreographer, arts educator and researcher Soultari Amin Farid, as well as applied theatre practitioner Grace Lee-Khoo, the production also explored the role of the modern Malay mother in Singapore – Who is she? What does she want? What does society expect from her?
One stylised segment, in which each performer came onstage dressed to suit a different occupation, highlighted the dancers’ diversity – from a laptop-wielding businesswoman to a suitcase-lugging air stewardess to a woman pushing a baby stroller.
However, despite their differing backgrounds, they were united by dance, as each woman performed graceful, delicate movements in their respective uniforms.
Such is the power of dance to create a sense of community that transcends the everyday, reminding performers that no matter what their day jobs are, they are also beautiful, confident and skilled dancers.
That they found joy in executing the turns, steps, tilts and waves also suggested a reclamation of the body.
At some parts of the performance, video interviews with the dancers were shown, shedding light on the struggles some face in continuing to pursue their passion in the face of marriage, motherhood, growing older, as well as cultural and traditional taboos.
REVIEW / THEATRE
M1 SINGAPORE FRINGE FESTIVAL: MAK-MAK MENARI
Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
Studio Theatre/Last Friday
While the production’s tone was not always consistent, with a live interview segment not meshing well with other stylised portions of the work, the performance as a whole seemed to be a tribute to the group members’ passion towards dance and resilience in the face of societal expectations.
Navigating these struggles can be seen as a beautiful, complicated but inspiring dance.
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