Jeng Yi Ensemble returns to the stage after 2 years
Ada Slaight Hall at Daniels Spectrum
BY MILES FORRESTER
I didn’t really have time this morning to follow through on the flâneurie path I had planned as the overarching theme for this series. I had only finished writing the review for The Garden of Alla when I realized I had a little less than an hour to get back down to Daniel’s Spectrum. So this journal entry will be without the usual estrangement and, at the same time, entanglement with the urban surroundings. Instead, I’ll use this as a message to the people taking the wooded route by Brickworks: please don’t walk in the middle of the path. You’re hard to manoeuvre around. While you’re having a forest bath, I’m racing to get a good seat. I had to throw my bike over a fence to get onto Bayview Avenue. I was that mad about it. And to cars taking Bayview: Slow down! You’re going to kill someone!
Now, I’m not an elegant cyclist. My posture is terrible; I expend too much energy on the wrong gear, and most of the time, I’m standing. It looks like I’m trampling a sad and noisy broom. I appreciate this better after seeing the Jeng Yi Ensemble perform the “P’yong (the ribbon hat dance).” Set to their own percussion, the dancers draw interlocking circles in the air with their beribboned Sangmo hats, at times galloping around the room with these white wisps in their own orbit, its motion separated from the deft yet subtle neck-work by a black whip. It’s incredible to watch.
Artistic director Charles Hong choreographed and composed music for most of the pieces with contributions from the ensemble. After two years, this is their first show indoors in front of an audience, and I really want to thank the Fringe lottery gods for letting me see it. The suite of pieces includes a feature performance by Joo Hyung Kim on the Korean zither for the affecting “The Empress Dowager (she enters the room and fondly remembers her youth)”. That’s followed by the title piece, “The Occasion”, with guest choreographer Soojung Kwon who, starting from a crystalline stillness, proceeds to wind around the whole stage in ever-faster yet elegant turns. The duet between her and a solo drummer incorporates a silent strike into its rhythmic matrix, bringing the stick to the drum’s rim without actually making contact, denying everyone the anticipated ‘tok!’
The concluding eleven-minute three-movement “Suite for Korean Percussion Ensemble” is what stole the show. I know this because this was the most receptive audience I’ve ever shared a room with, cheering multiple times when the rhythm became too much, clapping in time but never overpowering the massive sound of the drums. It was thrilling to watch duelling gong-players laugh as they challenge one another to see who can turn their hammers into a blurred figure-eight.