Nibroll see/saw : a dancer’s perspective

This blogpost has been taken from my dance blog which I am planning to take down (if I haven’t done so yet by the time you read this). I have imported it into this blog to share one of the best memories of 2014 with you. 🙂

I had the fortunate opportunity to be part of Nibroll see/saw at KL Pac recently! This was the first time I have ever taken part in a theatrical dance production, and also the first time ever attempting to perform contemporary dance. I have tried many different forms of dance before, but contemporary is not on this list; so as you can imagine, this would be quite challenging for me.

In fact, if I am going to be completely honest, I was a little intimidated during the audition, as I was surrounded by many experienced and/or advanced contemporary dancers who not only could improvise on the spot, but also contort themselves into the oddest of shapes. Personally even doing a hamstring stretch for me is a major achievement. Haha! But seriously, although I was by no means inexperienced in performing, this type of performance is new to me. Fortunately for me, Nibroll was willing to give all dancers a try, even those without prior experience, and I got through.

So, what is Nibroll see/saw? Here’s an extract from their website about what Nibroll is and what the show was about:

Nibroll is a highly acclaimed contemporary dance company from Japan. This is the first time that Nibroll is performing in Malaysia, and the first time that their sold out production of see/saw is being presented outside of Japan. What is even more exciting is that the company will be auditioning for local dancers to be part of the show.

Nibroll created see/saw in response to the great earthquake of 2011. It uses an actual see saw on stage as a metaphor to explore different themes such as life and death and the whole range of powerful emotions evoked in the aftermath of the earthquake. The dancers will perform against a spectacular backdrop visual. The music is minimal but no less captivating.

In conjunction with Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, this being a non-profit event, local dancers were not paid but each was given a complimentary ticket to pass to their family or friends to watch the show. I personally found the experience to be wonderful and far more enriching than money can supply. The choreographer Mikuni Yanaihara is an amazing choreographer and a lovely individual. She never once raised her voice or showed anger; instead she was calm and patient in her explanations as well as in the corrections of our scenes (no matter how many times mistakes were made!).

Emi, one of the Japanese dancers, standing alone next to the see-saw onstage
Emi, one of the Japanese dancers, standing alone next to the see-saw onstage

There did not seem much with the scene setup, with only a single “see-saw” made from a tree covered in white cloth, but it was a very compelling and haunting scene that was designed by Takuya Kamiike. It looked simple yet it was a very powerful visual. The music was also very minimal, but the compositions resonated with the soul and told of happy times, sad times, and even despair. Mixed on the spot by Skank, he was a musical magician who made the music match the dancers, instead of the typical other way around. Keisuke Takahashi was the visual artist who designed the computer projections that were displayed on the background as the dancers were dancing. His visual mastery was an extension of the choreography by Mikuni, and needless to say it was incredible.

The whole dance production itself was a heart-rending show, starting with the four beautiful and talented dancers who traveled with the crew all the way from Japan. We local dancers only came into the show halfway, at the point where the earthquake “struck”.

Many of the experienced/advanced dancers, already spotted by Mikuni during auditions, were given solos and duos to perform centrestage. The rest of us in the background moved around with chairs, often lying down to depict the scenes of an earthquake.

All the dancers of the Nibroll see/saw at KL Pac line up at the finale
All the dancers of the Nibroll see/saw at KL Pac line up at the finale

And I can’t help feeling really blessed for this opportunity – I got to perform a dance centrestage too! During auditions, I was working with Phraveen and Lai Chee (there was one more lady, who unfortunately had to pull out due to illness) on the same choreography, taught to us by Emi (one of the super talented Japanese dancers). Mikuni handpicked our group, together with another selected group, to perform the group choreography centrestage during the show. Not everyone got to dance during the show, and I must say that I am really humbled and grateful to have been given this chance to dance.

The audition was held on Monday, 24th February, and we had rehearsals on the three days after that leading up to the show. see/saw was staged three times at KL Pac: on Friday 28th February, Saturday 1st March, and Sunday 2nd March 2014. The shows went on fairly smoothly. There were of course the occasional slipups (every show has them!) but none that could disrupt the show.

A close-up of my screaming performance in see/saw
A close-up of my screaming performance in see/saw

It was an extremely wonderful, eye-opening experience for me. It was fascinating to be guided by a world-class choreographer, and it was very interesting to learn to work with dancers of all talents and experiences, ranging from newbies all the way up to advanced-level dancers. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and animated, including the Japanese crew and the local dancers.

This has been truly amazing, especially for one as new to theatrical productions as me. Although I have had many years’ experience as a dancer, my experience so far has been mainly in the competitive scene, and the dance performances I have been involved in are non-theatrical. If I had the opportunity, I would love to be in another theatrical performance like this again, even if I am merely a background dancer!

Thank you to Nibroll – especially Mikuni – and to Japan Foundation KL for the opportunity; thank you to all the dancers for the friendship; thank you to those who came to watch for your support; and thank you to KL Pac and everyone else for making this happen! This has been quite an experience!

The show starts off with the four Japanese dancers who set the stage to show the times before the tsunami
The show starts off with the four Japanese dancers who set the stage to show the times before the tsunami
Halfway through, the local dancers come onto stage. We scream our lungs out, representing the earthquake/tsunami
Halfway through, the local dancers come onto stage. We scream our lungs out, representing the earthquake/tsunami
All dancers onstage showing the aftermath and the tragedy of the tsunami
All dancers onstage showing the aftermath and the tragedy of the tsunami
Zyen Hoo

Zyen is a Physics, Chemistry and Math teacher with many interests, including running and dancing. She also enjoys indulging in vanity projects such as her personal blog, and is a self-proclaimed reviewer. She is also notoriously slow in updating her blog due to her constant search for the next adrenaline rush (on top of her heavy workload at school and her freelancing projects), so she asks for your forgiveness and understanding of her very delayed updates.

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