KUALA LUMPUR: From the time it was first identified in Wuhan, China, the invisible but potentially deadly Covid-19 has brought destruction on humankind.
As movement restrictions were imposed throughout the world to curb the spread of the virus, daily lives and routines were drastically altered. And for some, the social isolation took a toll on their mental health as they struggled with the loss of physical human interaction.
These are among the themes explored in local dance production “Psychosynthesis”, presented by the Kenny Shim Dance Collective (KSDC) and Asia Ballet Theatre.
The production is choreographed by award-winning Kenny Shim. Also the founder of KSDC, Shim trained at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and the London Contemporary Dance School.
“[During lockdown], I was craving to go back to the studio. The isolation created a hunger in me for human connection,” Shim, 33, told FMT recently.
“Isolation can also bring trauma, which is represented in the music as it is highly thumping. There are moments that are very energised to represent the rollercoaster of thoughts, as well as quiet moments that represent the loneliness,” he added.
The production also addresses the alteration of brain chemistry as a result of isolation.
Commenting on the title, Shim said: “The word ‘psycho’ refers to the psyche. During isolation, I was really synthesising information such as how it feels to be alone and how I want to be connected with someone. Hence the title, ‘Psychosynthesis’.”
Shim’s first full-length production features 26 local dancers, some established, others new on the scene. For this team, the journey has been long.
The production was initially developed in April 2021, in time for the grand opening of the Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPAC). However, a nationwide lockdown in June that year, and the general election last November, meant one postponement after another.
Thankfully, earlier this year, they premiered an excerpt of the production to a VIP audience during PJPAC’s “Once Upon a Stage: A Celebration of a New Theatre”. And now it is set to finally be premiered to the general public.
Components of multimedia, theatrical lights and setting designs are also highlights of the 90-minute production, making it more appealing to those new to contemporary dance.
“Ultimately, what I want the audience to feel – and this is represented at the end – is that there is always going to be hope when we empathise, have compassion and unite. That it’s not all dark and gloomy despite the unknown, losses, sacrifices and challenges,” Shim said.
‘Definitely remember the production’
Amirah Redza, 26, wears two hats in this production: one as dancer and the other as production manager from KSDC.
“It’s an honour for me to be in ‘Psychosynthesis’ as I have never been involved in a production of this scale. It’s also been inspiring and humbling to work with veterans of the industry,” she said.
She added that she was rather new to contemporary dance when she met Shim in 2020, to whom she expresses gratitude for understanding what his dancers are capable of and for bringing out the best in them.
Her journey with dancing began early, at age four, when she learnt classical ballet. She explored other forms of dance over time.
Citing self-discipline as key to keeping herself fit, she practised on her own during the pandemic when they couldn’t rehearse as a group.
As production manager, Amirah acts as a liaison between the dancers and Shim, and also handles administrative matters, thus giving her an opportunity to better understand how the entire production works.
“It’s been a really good learning process; challenging but rewarding at the same time. It has helped me grow, not just as an artist – I am also more confident as an individual now.”
As for what she hopes the audience gets out of the show, she replied: “It’s really open for interpretation, but whatever they take out of this would be interesting. That’s the beauty of contemporary dance: whether they love it or hate it, they will definitely remember this production.”
Date: Feb 4 and Feb 5 (Saturday and Sunday)
Venue: Stage 1, Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPAC) @ 1Utama Shopping Centre
Showtimes: 3pm and 8.30pm
- RM120 (Tier 1)
- RM100 (Tier 2)
- RM80 (Tier 3)
- RM60 (Tier 4)