|Rarely does one enter a performance venue with its observation areas this irregularly and peculiarly demarcated with the floor marked seemingly haphazardly with tape that formed circles and odd wavy shapes. Admittedly, we found this strange at first. However, in hindsight, perhaps this should have been a hint at the world of chaotic unfamiliarity into which the dancers from T.H.E Dance Company were about to thrust us into with their performance titled PheNoumenon.
Upon entering, you are greeted with smoke as far as the eye can see, and what appears to be bags thrown around in the room. Nothing much happens for a few minutes. Just audience members walking around orange bags and observing their surroundings. And then, all of a sudden, the bags move and dancers appear. For a while it is confusing and chaotic, and this chaos only gets more intense as the dancers let out an ear-splitting scream. The lights fade to black and a softer, lighter atmosphere is ‘born’ (but not for long).
The theatre is divided into performance space and non-performance space, and this is how the theatrics of this performance come into play. With the dancers encircling us in such close proximity and the audience free to move to obstruct the path of the dance, one oddly reaches a moment of understanding in this frenzy: with the weight of humankind’s problems bearing on the future hurtling towards us, there is simply no escape to speak of.
That is what PheNoumenon tries to convey: the apocalypse of our world that we as a human race are going through. It expresses the dancers’ worry about our dependence on modern day technology, the socio-political climate, and the crisis that is climate change (which is real by the way). Without a single word (but a whole lot of shouts and accelerated breathing), it impressively says so much about the intangible things in life, like our need for empathy in this cold, cold world.
What adds to the magnificent choreography is undoubtedly the thunderous, booming even harrowing soundtracks that almost haunt you during the entire performance and adds to the mayhem of this dance.
We don’t know much about dance and nor have we been to many dance performances. But we do know this — it might have been the most riveting dance experience we have ever seen, and we have great admiration for the execution of such a novel concept. PheNoumenon is a performance that has to be appreciated both during its frenzied confusion; and after, when one realises they cannot help but marvel at the extent to which dance can be stretched to convey the profound.