A H Dance Company’s Habitat is a short but sweet multi-media work that blends contemporary and modern dance, projections and voice-overs to explore the relationship between identity and our surrounding environment. Four dancers, including choreographer and artistic director Alaine Handa, take turns on the bare stage and occasionally come together to highlight the relationship of bodies with their surrounding space and with each other.
The performers often dance against projected videos of urban spaces, many of which seem to be filmed in South-East Asia. Rather than constituting a mere background, however, the projections become an active presence in the show, with the dancers either moving as if in the projected space or casting shadows whose silhouettes seem to have been designed specifically to fit in with the projections.
Music is rather sparse in Habitat. The soundtrack is mainly made of minimalist sounds such as birds chirping or water gushing, or noises made by the performers with their own bodies. On the one hand, this sparseness highlights the materiality of the dancers’ bodies, as the audience can hear them fall and slide on the floor. On the other hand, one can’t help feeling that there is something missing from the show, and that more music might have given the dancers the chance to fully display their talent.
All the performers of Habitat are clearly experienced dancers; yet, perhaps because of the nature of the choreography, they often appear to be constrained in their movements, bursting at the seams with energy yet not letting themselves go. An exception to this is the show’s last act, in which Alaine Handa dances to a voice-over in which a female voice reminisces about a time of her life spent in the USA. Watching Handa dance is pure enjoyment, one only wishes that the other dancers were given similarly fluid choreography.
Habitat, currently about twenty-minutes long, appears to be more a work-in-progress than a completed project, but it leaves the audience wanting more.