Kampung Baru (New village) by Raymond Liew Jin Pin
Kampung Baru (New village) by Raymond Liew Jin Pin

Another good old new dance

„Kampung Baru (New village)“ by Raymond Liew Jin Pin as a video-stream

Hamburg-based Malaysian choreographer Raymond Liew Jin Pin revised and deconstructed his autobiographic experience and body archive in traditional dance by delegating it to the bodies of contemporary dancers. He creates a new village on the stage – a space where traditional becomes new, while new might look old.

Hamburg, 31/03/2021

Von Anna Semenova-Ganz

The dance festival “TanzHochDrei digital” was initiated by K3 – Zentrum für Choreographie | Tanzplan Hamburg at Kampnagel in order to make the works of their residents from this and last year visible. The piece of Raymond Liew Jin Pin “Kampung Baru (New village)” was supposed to be shown a year ago but was postponed a few times in hope that sooner or later there would be a chance to show it live. Now, after one year, the piece is still presented without a live audience – as a video-stream.

On stage we see many round tables with table-cloth and white plastic chairs, which are usually used outdoors: this scenography is meant to be also the place for the audience, who would have sat on the stage like in some restaurant, wedding or party while the dancers move next to them. But instead of a full restaurant we see a closed one where only 4 performers stayed – like few last clients late at night.

A romantic song which might be popular in karaoke is opening the piece and is gradually replaced by a soundscape with original sounds recorded in Kuala Lumpur where the historic (and old) district called Kampung Baru (New village) is placed. Raymond researches what new and old means, what is traditional and what is contemporary in the dance. He works with his own memory and body archive deconstructing elements of traditional Malaysian dance which consists of a combination of Indian and Chinese. There are different nations living in Malaysia and their traditions can be fluidly mixed on a daily base.

The embodied cultural experience of the choreographer is passed to three contemporary dancers without any background in traditional dance, creating on stage a clash of an old and new, which is the key method and question behind the work. The movements are borrowed partly from the rituals (where most of traditional dances are rooted) and disconnected from their original meaning, but still create a meaning on stage, and we have to decide whether it is new or old. The heterotopian new village becomes the same as before in front of your eyes, like in the streets of Malaysia, where in the evening a shop during the day can turn into a café or a bar for friends to meet – everything changes all the time.

The time is growing inside of the work, which has its own slow pace, so you start to feel the atmosphere of a Malaysian night at +35°C. There are rare moments of synchronization in the piece: dancers whether perform alone or in couples. Their phrases interlay with each other, attracting attention and fading out, this layering of patterns, emerging and disappearance, sets a particular chilled flow and creates an effect of abandonment and fatigue, maybe, all this place exists only in a memory.

The round tables set a certain cyclicity within the performance, creating a reference to traditional Chinese dance where the movements are looped in a circle. At the same time the tables allow for an almost architectural statement bringing elements of performative installation into this work.

“Kampung Baru (New village)” was shown as part of “TanzHochDrei digital” festival with a new cast: two of the dancers who participated in rehearsals a year ago have not been able to join them now. Raymond approached the theme of continuity of tradition so deeply that he had to pass on the material from the previous year to the new dancers as if it were a tradition. In doing so he has kept most of the scenes from the original version, but the new participants have brought a new energy and several scenes which were not there before emerged. So instead of repetition, the work develops and modifies, just as any new village.


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