Dance Review: BLKDOG takes the audience into a backward dark world


Singapore International Arts Festival 2023
Botis Seva
Sota . Drama Theater
Last Thursday, 8 p.m

Somber and relentless as it is, BLKDOG plunges audiences into the gray world of isolation, injustice, and depression.

Created in 2017 and later developed into a feature series, the choreographic performance was the groundbreaking work of British choreographer Botis Seva, sparking interest in his language of movement. There, that ripples between the swagger of hip-hop and the hot charm of contemporary dance.

As part of the lineup for the 2023 Singapore International Arts Festival, BLKDOG opens with composer Torben Lars Sylvest’s acoustic scene featuring short, desperate breaths, multiple voices and startling gunfire.

The dancers of Seva’s Far From The Norm orchestra are a hooded, mysterious presence who seem to move as if the ceiling is holding them down. They crouch, slither and slither, ending their movements with sharp thrusts and bounces.

Motivated by the music’s ticking and scratching, dancers jump in and out of a scene depicting blame games. Fingers outstretched and hands raised in surrender until one becomes a victim and collapses.

This tension is met with absurdity when lust is unleashed in a scene of intense hip-shaking and barking.

Then, the group impersonates fairy-tale characters – one is a dinosaur, the other is a king.

The previous gestures in the work reappear, losing their sinister look to becoming playful. However, lighting designer Tom Visser’s murky lighting suggests that darkness is on the horizon.

BLKDOG then erupted into brief bouts of anger and violence. The ensemble is seven individuals with broken bones and one body that is hauntingly vibrating. The continuous full-body chorus sequences are halted by abrupt transitions in the music, with long moments of silence cooling the white-hot intensity of the piece.

The voiceover at the end shows a return to the beginning, a search for the origin of Seva’s astigmatism.

One dancer appeared briefly from the group, arms outstretched as if nailed, only to be caught up in a series of strides that circled the stage. Seva seems to suggest that the cycle of sin is an inescapable cycle.

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