Actor ready for pirouettes

Timothy Nga.
Timothy Nga.

Actor Timothy Nga's first dance performance is looming and he is ready - to "crash and burn".

He will be one of the 20 dancers in Jerome Bel's Gala, which puts amateurs and trained dancers on stage. "We haven't been told anything so I can only guess I'm going to have to attempt some things that I can already do and some things that I will completely suck at," Nga tells The Straits Times ahead of rehearsals, which kick off this week.

"Whatever it is, my aim is to have a good time and crash and burn in a big ball of flames."

He is on the right track then. Imperfection is not something Bel frowns on.

Nga, who has more than a decade of acting experience under his belt, good-naturedly dubs himself "chief amateur" this time around.

"I'm sure many of the other participants will be very skilled in their particular school of movement, so it will be quite exciting to see how we recreate the imperfection of real life in a fictional, traditionally error-free space," says the 43-year-old actor and director.

"I've heard we might have to do pirouettes. I'm pretty sh** at that, so I'm off to a good start."

While he is no stranger to the stage, he confesses to finding the concept behind the show terrifying. "Bel's work is pretty in-your-face. I like that he blatantly looks at theatre as voyeuristic, exposing and challenging accepted social norms," says Nga. "And there are all sorts of vulnerabilities that come up from being just myself on stage. Performers all have our bag of tricks and, with his work, I have a feeling I'll be stripping all of that away."

TheatreWorks' managing director Tay Tong, 53, says the company decided to present Gala here as it found the show to be an important work that pushes the boundaries of performance.

"It's making waves in Europe and North America and our Singapore audience deserves to experience it," he says. "We love that Gala creates a space where ability is dictated not by one's limitations, but by being the best that one can be. It is something which can resonate with us living and working in Singapore, don't you think?"

TheatreWorks first brought Bel here in 2004, when it presented his show Shirtology and his lecture, The Last Performance.

"Jerome is a visionary. We love how he inverts the status quo. He is unafraid to venture forward to the unknown. He often surprises with his ideas or vision and brings one out of one's comfort zone," says Tay.

"He constantly redefines what dance and performance mean. He encourages us to view dance and performance through different lens. He creates diversity - which TheatreWorks embraces and celebrates."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'Actor ready for pirouettes'. Print Edition | Subscribe