The solo dance number by Esse Vanderbruggen of Belgium was rife with emotion. The 24-year-old wore her heart on her sleeve as she balanced her introverted and meditative yet flowing movements with an undercurrent of tension. The latter element was made particularly palpable by the stark setup of the stage.
“The dance reflects my lifelong experiences. It raises questions about where I’ve been and the direction that my life has been taking, a path that seems unpredictable even for me,” says Vanderbruggen. “The performance is also a good way to raise questions I’ve been asking myself and sharing them with the audience.”
The contemplative mood didn’t last long, as fellow dancer Idio Chichava burst in to provide the exuberant yang to Vanderbruggen’s reticent yin. His bold leaps and assertive moves also ensured that nothing was held back.
Vanderbruggen and Chichava’s routine was among the opening moves for “Your Ghost Is Not Enough,” a contemporary dance by French modern dance troupe Kubilai Khan. Performed at the Jakarta Arts Theater as part of the Institut Francais Indonesia’s “Printemps Francais” French cultural festival, the dance kicked off the event in the capital. The act, which premiered in Bandung, addresses individual relationships in today’s world.
“‘Your Ghost Is Not Enough’ describes the need to get back to interpersonal relationships, as symbolized by [Vanderbruggen and Chichava’s] interaction onstage,” says choreographer Frank Micheletti.
“Aside from alluding to the basic elements of the two dancers, the dance also takes on our place in the world. It touches on how we are intertwined or subject to other influences, whether they be other people, views and perceptions, as well as how flexible we are in dealing with them.
“This is increasingly difficult in today’s world, because our dependence on gadgets often keeps us from reaching out to others or even ourselves, and being mindful of our surroundings. It also keeps us from realizing the dynamics of our relations, whether it’s keeping our distance from others or reaching out to them, as well as controlling our thoughts and emotions.”
This was apparent in the interaction between Vanderbruggen and Chichava. Conflict alternated with intimacy in their movements, which were as sensual as they were dynamic, while the chemistry between them skillfully managed to convey the vulnerability and fragility that is at the heart of our existence. One poignant sequence featured Vanderbruggen shedding layers of her clothing, as if to let go of her inhibitions or excess baggage.
Micheletti deftly used electronic and hip-hop as well as street dance music to set the pace. The tunes also portrayed how the dancers explored emotions ranging from anxiety to serenity. Micheletti also got his point across through his use of lighting.
“The lights portray different phases and seasons in one’s life. They also show the heightened or reduced intensity of emotions,” he says of the lights, which range from red to show the former and blue to convey the latter.
The use of lights went beyond portraying the intensity of emotions. Their use on the dancers seem to show the emotions for all to see, or even reconciling with them. The dark or dimmer lights perhaps symbolized repressed or hidden emotions. Micheletti also used various lighting hues to perhaps show ambiguities.
While Kubilai Khan’s act left the audience questioning our existence and how we live our life, the performers also had their own observations of their viewers.
“The audience in Bandung was more warm and ready to embrace us. On the other hand, the audience in Jakarta was a bit more reserved,” Vanderbruggen says. “I guess it has much to do with Jakarta’s more business-oriented character and outlook, which contrasts with Bandung’s standing as a student town and center of the arts.”
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on May 23, 2014