When choreographer Joseph Gonzales was looking through some of his older works, he noticed something fascinating. A lot of them shared a similar theme: that of a call to action.
“This theme was literally, a call, a response, to the world and to the environment. A response to many the tragedies that are happening all over the world. Innocent people are dying everywhere on a daily basis, everywhere from Kuala Lumpur to Japan, to Pakistan and Turkey and America,” says Gonzales in an interview at dance institution Aswara in Kuala Lumpur last week.
“The question was, what do I do? And what can I do?” he adds.
“As a teacher, as an aspiring artist, someone driven by a certain call, I needed to respond. How do I put things together creatively, as a piece of art that will touch the audiences without being too literal? I explored it through my medium, dance.”
The result is Seru, a mixed collection of short contemporary works, which have been produced by Gonzales since 2010.
Seru will run at Black Box, the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC), in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on April 9 and 10.
Presented by Aswara’s Faculty of Dance, the show features 35 dancers, almost all of whom are either students or graduates of Aswara.
Gonzales, a lecturer at Aswara’s Faculty of Dance, has performed and choreographed professionally in multiple genres of dance, theatre, musical theatre and music since 1981.
He is also artistic director/choreographer at Aswara Dance Company.
“I’ve done many shows that are entertaining, or about frivolous matters. But I think these five works that I have put together in Seru are really works with a message to send to people. It’s a message for us to look at certain incidents that have happened, and respond,” he says.
Seru will start off with The Last Tea Party, a site-specific piece that will be performed on the grounds outside DPAC. This piece imagines a situation where a couple in love goes for a tea party in the park, only for disaster to strike.
“I don’t provide any kind of answers. But I decided to do this in a way that I hope will make people interested in the creative process of turning tragedies into works of art. I wanted to see how far I could push boundaries for myself,” says Gonzales.
Seru’s second piece is Tanah Pusaka, a haunting piece exploring patriotism and sacrifice, set to an instrumental version of the classic Sudirman tune Warisan.
It will be followed by Enter/Exit, done in a neo-classical ballet style, which tackles the abstract concept that life is a series of entrances, exits and subplots.
Elsewhere, Suara is a tale of star-crossed lovers told in the structure of rundai, a traditional Minang performance art.
Seru will close with the premiere of Other Echoes, the only piece specifically created for the show. Performed to the music of Sri Suriya Prakash, with lighting by Tan Eng Heng, the piece is inspired by a quotation by T.S. Eliot: “Other echoes inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?”
Gonzales will soon have the chance to make echoes overseas, as Other Echoes will also be staged in New York at the Peridance Capezio Theatre on May 28 and 29, produced by Fairul Zahid and the Asia Duo Company.
“I’ve never presented my work in New York before! At the age of 56, I get my debut. Why not?” says Gonzales, candidly.
According to Gonzales, Seru will also feature two Boh Cameronian Award-nominated dancers who have just completed their Masters degrees at the Korean National University of the Arts.
“I’ve given space for them to be almost like the narrators, or the link between the different works. They will come out and dance in between each piece. And they are stunning dancers,” says Gonzales.
“I think people will be very fascinated by the range of dance vocabularies that will be seen in this show. For example, they will be able see something very traditional, with the vocabulary of joget and rundai, and also classical ballet, with two dancers en pointe. And I think that can really appeal.”
Seru will run at Black Box, the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC), H-01, Empire Damansara, Jalan PJU 8/8, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya in Selangor on April 9 and 10. Showtimes are 8.30pm, with an extra show at 3pm on April 10. Tickets are RM50 (with 10% discount for DPAC cardholders) and RM20 for students. For more information, call (03) 2697-1777. Online: (www.dpac.com.my).