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KYL/Dancers

KYL/Dancers returns to live performances

Choreographer Kun-Yang Lin and his company KYL/Dancers returned to live performances at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre last weekend. Featured was the long-delayed US premiere of Lin’s Fish & Girl. Before the pandemic, it had only one live performance in 2019 while the company was on tour in Singapore. The program also included Lin’s newest work, Ocean Waves, and the revival of Lin’s 2019 Spring 101

The Roberts Theater was near full for their return on April 9th, opening night for Lin’s Moving Reflections on the Environment and Humankind program. A collection of themes floated through each work but otherwise were so choreographically different. The program was also impressed by how performance-ready the company is, returning after two years away from live audiences and with four dancers joining the company in 2021. 

Fish & Girl tells the story of a famous unfinished poem by Singaporean poet Pan Chen Lui. Lin was working with poetic text for the first time, an exercise of bringing two abstract art forms together. 

Lui’s poem is a dream parable about a young girl who sees a fish coming through the clouds and leaping out of the water to greet her as she walks along a village stream on her way to school. 

WeiWei Ma recites the poem in Chinese while in body entwined duet with Wally Carbonell, who voices some of the lines in English. An anguished solo by Keila Perez Vega follows, and she is eventually joined in a lyrical duet with Jamaal Bowman.

Shiyu Wang is hypnotic as the embodiment of the fish, her iridescent gold costume fanning out as she rises and descends a platform in slow motion reminiscent of ancient temple dances. In contrast, the rest of the company, dressed in blue unitards, are unleashed in a gushing choreographic stream. The ensemble moves in tight unison clusters that accelerate and dissolve, appear and vanish as a spectral of a beautiful and troubling dream. 

Set to evocative soundscapes and music by Bill Ryan, Arvo Part, and Cory Neale, Fish & Girl already strikes as a signature work for the company. 

In Ocean Waves, Lin reflects on the collective experience of a global collective lockdown, a shared human experience of the ocean of our mind, bodies, and spirit in isolation while dealing with an invisible threat. It is set to music and soundscape by Murcof, Amand Amar, and KYL/D frequent collaborator Cory Neale.

The dancers are in semi-sheer silk outfits as they roll over the stage in a constant ebb and flow. They curl and propel themselves on one knee, cluster, and swarm, then break apart in a frantic activity that leaves them stranded and searching. Jamaal Bowman lets out a primal scream but in silence, halting the group mid-stream.

A trio danced by Weiwei Ma, Sophie Malin, and Perez Vega evokes despair, humor, and hope. The dancers are in a formless cluster, looking dazed. Bowman starts stomping on the floor. The other dancers follow suit as they inch diagonally downstage, The beats of their bodies expressing resolve and universal understanding. 

The concert closer, Spring 101, is Kun-Yang Lin at his most warm, witty, and triumphant. Lin created the piece in 2019 while privately dealing with a severe health crisis. It was also a time when he was considering what might be his final ensemble piece. He commented, “Suddenly, joy became very important when creating this piece. A quest for who you are. In all of its interconnectedness with nature.” With that in mind, Lin conjures a menagerie of dance feral fauna. 

Scored to baroque music by Purcell, Telemann, Vivaldi, Sammartini, and Bach mixed with the soundscapes of Cory Neale, Lin said he wanted “you to feel the desire for joy inside baroque music.”

The sounds of a tempest in a rainforest set the scene as the lights come up on the troupe in various cryptic poses. The dancers are in posed silhouette against the caressing lighting designs by Alyssandra Docherty, casting muted primary colors and shadowy recesses. Flirty velvet/satin shorties and pastel vests by costume designer Jill Peterson are dazzling. 

Lin’s inventions of animal physicality, ala human instincts, result in character abstracts that are entirely unpredictable.

A trio with Ariel Isakowitz, Evalina (Wally) Carbonell and Grace Stern in a rondo of goofy movement feels like children on a sugar high. Meanwhile, Dominick Brown mesmerized with his solo of a sustained arabesque variation that keeps moving with steely ease and flawless line.

Later, an acrobatic Isakowitz is so exuberant as a creature aloft on one foot, fluttering his limbs and shamelessly mugging to the audience, that Marcel Marcellino simply picks him up and carries him offstage.

Perhaps because of the intensity and athleticism in the first two works, Spring 101 was less cohesive in moments, but that didn’t take away from the overall charm and this company’s joyous meditation on the dance rites of Spring to welcome everybody back to great outdoors for as long as it lasts. 

***Photo credit: Rob Li

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