Dancing in the eye of a storm
Bangkok Post, Outlook - Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Shakespeare classic takes a freestyle form
The experience of the contemporary dance adaptation of Shakespeare's
classic The Tempest held last Wednesday at the Thailand Cultural Center
was like shopping at a high-end department store. The ostentatious
decorations and high-culture ambience were very enjoyable, but all you
could do was just browse before leaving in a state of perplexing yet
The deconstruction of The Tempest by world-renowned dance personalities
Marcia Haydee and Ismael Ivo, in cooperation with Dance Centre, was
truly a memorable theatrical experience _full of energetic dancing and
But you had to be a fan of contemporary dance and have done a little
homework on the classic tale to be able to appreciate the
loosely-adapted dance show.
Set in an enchanted isle, somewhere in the stormy Mediterranean sea,
the story focused on magician/dethroned king Prospero who commands a
spirit of the winds, Ariel, who has been the agent of the tempest, and
Caliban, a half-human and half-monster child of a witch.
One day, Prospero brings all the voyagers safely ashore, but scatters
them in groups about the island. Ferdinand, the young Prince of Naples,
is led by Ariel's singing to Prospero's cave. Miranda, who has seen no
man other than her father, falls instantly in love with him. Smell the
Not quite. The original story actually follows an
'all's-well-that-ends-well' theme. But in this production, the
symbolism of each character is so explicitly fixed in one dimension,
perhaps to help the audience follow the story.
Prospero represented the authoritative king, Caliban the guardian of
the land, Ariel the greedy spirit that quests for power, and Miranda
the spiritually-imprisoned personality. Since Caliban epitomised good
will, he, not Ariel matched Miranda with Ferdinand.
The twisted ending also appeared very tragic and dim with Prospero
regretting his deadly action and the effect it had on his daughter. But
the final scene uplifted the spirit of good hope and the power of love
that could lead to eternal happiness.
Without this background knowledge, many an audience would have left
wondering what was going on during the 80-minute stage presentation,
featuring a mix of tempestuous dances from several groups, led by four
professional dancers who remained the focus of attention.
For a Thai audience, it was a good opportunity to observe dancers
Marcia Haydee and Ismael Ivo. Unfortunately, Marcia Haydee, who
co-stared with Nuriyev for years, did not dance. She appeared as an
actor, rather than a dancer, but her stage charisma helped grasp the
attention of the audience.
It was Ismael Ivo who not only trained the cast but also flaunted his
expertise throughout the show. His moves were filled with beauty and
energy, aiming to connect with audience through his many gestures,
varying from slight to extreme movements.
His performance was equalled by noted Thai classical dancer Pichet
Klunchuen, who had just finished his solo in It-tap-paj-ja-ya-ta three
days ago. His posture oozed Thai grace and adapted many Western
postures. In a scene where he appeared with Ivo, it looked as if two
forces were trying to beat each other out at first, but they later
ended up in a kind of East-meets-West harmony.
It was a chance for our home-groomed Thai dancers to showcase their
talents as the determined ensemble showed off their best with
well-coordinated footwork _ despite the occasional mistake on pacing
In fact, it was a hybrid show _ a mix of world-renowned dance virtuoso
and 30 nascent talents from an amateur background, a fusion between
classical ballet and freestyle contemporary dance, an East-meets-West
choreography and a combination of Western music and African sounds with
the occasional vocal arrangements.
The stage spectacle was an excellent arrangement, with the orchestra
area in front of the stage transformed into a vast pool representing a
stormy sea. The pouring rain from above highlighted trouble in one
scene and created sonorous ambience in another.
A huge artistic backdrop allowed performers to move freely on stage.
Sometimes the ensemble emerged from behind the stage, before later
disappearing behind the blind-like backdrop, giving spacious momentum
and keeping the audience guessing.
Shakespeare would have been delighted to discover this free adaptation of his classic, a contemporary show to remember.