Determinedly different: T.H.E Dance Company in PheNoumenon

Coronet Theatre, London
February 13, 2022

The Coronet Theatre and T.H.E Dance Company seem made for each other: both determinedly different, small scale and open to experimentation. One can only admire the courage of this small company of six dancers from Singapore touring to the UK in these troubled times and the intimacy of this eccentric theatre suited the programme well.

Founding artistic director Kuik Swee Boon, has also taken a courageous step in tackling a mammoth concept: our relationship to the phenomena around us. It is difficult to grasp the beginning and end of so large a task and a lot was left unexplained and relatable only in the programme notes rather than onstage. However, there was pleasure to be gained in just experiencing the moment and the vibrancy of the dance.

T.H.E Dance Company in PheNoumenon by Kuik Swee Boon
Photo Jack Thomson

The dedication and intensity of the dancers was above question, and this alone made them imminently watchable. Starting cocooned in bundles of cloth they slowly unwound themselves in struggles as much internal as with the external factors. There were times when a bundle of cloth or a collection of black jazz shoes tied together gained a sort of mystic significance and were given devoted attention for a time before interest moved on.

The dance itself made innovation use of the floor in rolling, tumbling and diving punctuated by bursts of aerial athleticism. The was also a great deal of rhythmic repetition. Repetition is a powerful choreographic tool but needs careful structure and too often it lost effect leading to a great deal of exertion for little gain.

The integration of audience, some of whom sat side stage with a select few actually occupying centre stage, was another purposeful reorientation of the viewers’ perspective, and certainly memorable to those who sat, in disciplined stillness, while dancers worked around them. It was an evening of mixed pleasures: there was much enjoyment of the talented dancers but less for a work that needed to offer more.