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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Bach to the dance: Composer's baroque music gets new shoes

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Music and movement come together in this work that explores the merging of Bach's works with contemporary dance.

SHE reaches for a paper napkin and draws a grid. Beside it, she adds two parallel lines, and to its right, another two lines with a squiggle between them.

"That's Bach, Mozart and Beethoven," she says, pointing first to the grid as a representation of Bach's music, then moving on to the other two in succession.

Tan E-Jan captures with simple sketches the ambience of these great composers as she feels it.

And it is such emotions that Tan and Ng Chor Guan, the founders of Toccata Studio in Petaling Jaya, Selangor want to tap into with their latest offering, Moving Bach.

Described by the duo as a conversation between baroque music and contemporary dance, this production explores the possibilities that come with the merging of old (baroque music) with new (contemporary dance).

"Putting together something like this is a challenge for everyone involved in this production," says Tan, producer of Moving Bach. "Rehearsals are interesting because the working process of the dancers and musicians are so different. They have different approaches. To work together, they need to find a balance ... or maybe we don't want that balance!"

Dancer/choreographer Steve Goh (left) and Dylan Lee on cello, presenting Bach's Cello Suite in the first set of Moving Bach by Toccata Studio.

Dancer/choreographer Steve Goh (left) and Dylan Lee on cello, presenting Bach's Cello Suite in the first set of Moving Bach by Toccata Studio.


For it is through freedom of expression that Bach, for the purpose of this production, truly comes alive.

"We would like to see how living musicians and dancers intepret music that's over 300 years old with contemporary movements," says Tan of the production comprising three sets.

Moving Bach features JS Bach's Cello Suite in the first set, and Chaconne in the second, among the most well-known works of the prolific German composer.

The unpredictability of combining music from a time long past with contemporary dance is not just embraced, but actively encouraged, in Moving Bach. The production will feature Dylan Lee on cello and Tan Su Yin on marimba, accompanied by dancers/choreographers Steve Goh and Aida Redza, respectively, in the first two sets.

"This is the first time Dylan and Su Yin are working with dancers, so they have to not just play music, but also find a way to connect with Steve and Aida," says artistic director Ng, who will join the group of four in the third set of the production, which includes improvisation on elements from the first and second set.

He describes the third set as an "electro-acoustic experience" with sound sampling and remixes complementing the cello and marimba.

"Those who have been through a formal music education will probably be used to an intellectual way of looking at Bach's works," Ng comments, adding that the production hopes to demonstrate that the possibilities are endless, if you strive to look outside the box.

"There is so much more to it than what we were taught, or the way it has 'always been done'. I'd like people to take an open heart to the performance and explore with us," says Ng, adding that Toccato Studio – with a performance space that sits 40 people – hopes to eventually expand Moving Bach into a bigger production.

The production currently clocks in at just under an hour.

"As with most of Tocatta's productions, we go in with one aim: to encourage the audience to dream of all possibilities, of all that this could be.

"In this particular space, in this one hour at Toccata, what you see, what you hear, and what you feel, just let go and dare to dream," concludes Tan.

> Moving Bach is showing at Toccata Studio (19B, SS2/55, Petaling Jaya, Selangor) on March 15 (8.30pm) and March 16 (3pm). Admission is by minimum donation of RM30. Call 016-361 8504 or visit for more information.

It's a woman's Life

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Life Sdn Bhd is back and this year, it's all about the fairer sex.

HILLARY Rodham Clinton, Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Julia Gillard, Angela Merkel – these are some of the most powerful women in the world and in our country. They stand as giants in this male-dominated world, as potent equals, if not superiors, on the pedestal of power.

However, a very subjective question arises: do women have to be world leaders and charters of history to be called powerful?

What about the ordinary woman, the everyday lady who goes about her simple life?

It is when one attempts to unpack that question will one discover that power can be found in the most mundane of circumstances. All it takes is for a woman to step forward and speak aloud about her afflictions, and at once, great power is displayed.

Remember Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who became an activist in her country?

Challenging the notion that might begets power and confirming the adage that there is a mighty lion in the tiniest mouse is the 11th instalment of the thought-provoking production Life Sdn Bhd (Life).

It starts its four-day run on March 13 at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac).

Engendered by thespian Datuk Faridah Merican in 2004, Life's premise is the sharing of true life experiences by Malaysians from all walks of life, actors and non actors and bringing to the fore issues that affect us as people.

The theme for this year is The Power of Women, a less grim topic compared to human trafficking and refugees from the previous instalments.

"Last year, when I attended an International Women's Day celebration, I realised that there were speeches about women but not necessarily something out-of-the box. You still keep hearing the same kind of tone," said Faridah, who is the executive producer/co-founder of The Actors Studio Malaysia, KLPac and Performing Arts Centre of Penang.

"So I thought it would be good to celebrate the event by bringing to the fore a younger voice from our women and hear what they have to say," she added.

In no way penned by a playwright, the stories that will be shared by the storytellers were plucked from their own experiences, stories "that have touched them as they were growing up or observations of their grandmas and mothers," Faridah shared.

"The stories become more valuable and magical because they are real," said Rebecca Ong Yuen Teng, a 19-year-old musician who will be playing the violin in the Power of Women String Quartet, a new addition to the series.

"How often do you get to hear about the inner workings of females?" quipped Diane Au Kitt May, one of the storytellers.

Faridah reiterated that power is not necessarily reflected by high-ranking positions in the world government.

"The power of women does not mean that you have to be powerful. For example, one of our actors has a lifelong affliction and she is willing to come forward and share her story. That, to me, shows the power that's in her," opined Faridah.

While Ong feels there is power in the collective strength of the quartet, Au hopes that "women will see themselves differently and value the female influences in their lives just that little bit more."

Despite the theme, there will be a performance by a trio of men, called Lelaki 2.5, comprising choreographer Lex Lakshman, and singer-songwriters Ian Chow and Ariff Akhir.

Like anything in life, power and strength is usually found when one is stripped bare and is faced with a giant and that is exactly what you will experience in The Power Of Women. It lies, Faridah said, in the "rawness of the presentations".

> Life Sdn Bhd: The Power Of Women is on at Pentas 2 in KLPac, Kuala Lumpur. Dates: March 13-15 (8.30pm) and March 16 (3pm). Tickets are priced at RM33 (students, disabled and TAS card members) and RM43. For more information, call 03-4047 9000 or visit


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