Text: Dicky Lam
SWITCH / Photo credit: Matthew Ma
The latest work by choreographer Cherry Leung is a moving exploration of love. Intertwining two pieces, The Memory Server and A Lone Reader, SWITCH is a cable which creates a telepathic connection between artists and audience over the motion and emotion of memories, and the past and present of love.
Love stories locked deep inside our hearts are released when silhouettes of characters are drawn on the floor of the stage in The Memory Server. The intensity of memories triggered by the stories is expressed by the dancers, and the bafflement of love is delivered through the choreography. In the present tense, love stories are mostly concerned with various forms of communication. While the ability to read the other’s mind is the true skill required for lovers, most of the time we can only use the proxy of words and body language in order to understand each other. Dancers embody poetic fluidity with streamlined movements, and the interaction of dancers and clothes around the stage conveys a strong sense of intimacy and a dream-like quality.
A Lone Reader vividly presents the obstacles faced by people who fall in love but lack this skill in reading each other’s mind, through two dancers trying to exchange ideas about the same thing from their own perspective through the commonplace methods of words and body language. With dialogue throughout, the work actually resembles a dramatic piece rather than pure dance. Dancers Alice Ma and Chan Wai-lok played the two people who lack the skill for love, as they struggle to reach consensus in describing objects which appear out of the blue, dropping from the ceiling to the centre of the stage. Their steps and emphasis diverge, but their moves and gestures are matched in mood and spirit. The intensity between them illuminates the stage, and the audience is captivated by their magnificent dramatic duet.
Among the various sections of the piece, the parts where a dancer draws silhouettes on the floor are the most inspiring, reminiscent of Sandpainting and Action Painting. Native Americans, such as Navajo Indians, have a creative tradition of Sandpainting (“iikaah”) as part of their ceremonies or rituals. Sometimes, as part of a healing process with sacred power, sick people sit on the painting while healing chants are sung. Navajo people believe that after the ceremony the painting will absorb the illness. In The Memory Server, it is as if the dancers are conducting a similar kind of ceremony to heal lovesickness, their own and perhaps that of all the artists and audience members. By drawing silhouettes of what appear to be former lovers on the floor with chalk, while there are no chants recited or any sacred ritual conducted, the dancer has performed a Navajo-type healing ritual for all the memories trapped in our minds.
Invented by abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock and given a name by art critic Harold Rosenberg, Action Painting refers to work created by putting the canvas on the floor and letting paint drip onto it, and may be interpreted as a record of the dance-like confrontation between artist and canvas. While it is widely believed that Jackson Pollock was influenced by Sandpainting, the drawing process in The Memory Server is even closer to it due to the element of dance, the impermanent nature of the material used and the direct improvisation on the floor. As a visual art concept, Action Painting pays more attention to the work on canvas. The Memory Server shows that the physical action of the creation process deserves an equal level of appreciation, as the body movements improvised by the dancer, perhaps a series of unplanned movements for a conscious improvisation of drawing, are the record of a heart-warming healing ritual for lovesickness. The expressive power exercised during the improvisation is more powerful than the drawing itself, as it constitutes a large part of the emotion releasing, ritualistic nature of the dance.
The evening was not only a thrilling meditation on love, but also a heart-stopping journey of profound reflection.
An art lover who write about performing arts and visual arts
Choreographer: Cherry Tsz Yan Leung
Reviewed performance: 28 November 2020 20:00 Black Box Theatre, Kwai Tsing Theatre