Off Stage

Attracted to tragedy

Jovien Ng
Jovien NgST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Incarnation Of The Beast, the new work of dancer-choreographer Joavien Ng, explores the themes of obsession, ritual and tragedy. The piece, to be performed from Thursday to Saturday by nine dancers, has been in development for two years.

"I'm quite attracted to tragedy. One famous example was the (American) choreographer Isadora Duncan, whose scarf was entangled in her car and killed her," says Ng, 42, who is married.

Describe your first performance .

I think it was with Dance Dimension Project in 1995 or 1996, when I was a dance student at Lasalle College of the Arts. I was performing a contemporary work at The Substation back when it still had a garden. I had to stand on a bar chair and sing. And I'm not a good singer. It was a bit nerve-racking.

What are your pre-show rituals?

I don't do anything during the week when I perform. I chill at home and get in the mood. Sometimes, I have a glass of wine.

How do you overcome nerves on stage?

You just have to suck it up. What choice do you have? You're already cast, you have to perform. Even now, when I perform, I still get afraid.

When I was young, before performances, there was a lot of mental preparation. But once I stepped on stage, the nerves didn't get to me.

I used to stand in the wings, rehearsing and going through the steps in my head. As an artist, you have to deal with it. It's something you chose.

What is the funniest or most memorable thing that has happened to you on stage?

I remember I did this piece in 2011 called The Diary Of Alice, a collaboration with Spanish dancer Paloma Calle. It was written such that it was controlled by a card game.

If you lost, you would have to take a shot of whisky, then go to the microphone to read out a story. It was kind of like lottery. You had to control your liquor intake. And we had to do back-to-back shows in one night, so we would drink a lot of water backstage. Paloma and I would keep asking each other: "Are you okay? Are you okay?"

What is the harshest criticism or review you have received?

I have been called a mediocre dancer. It's human nature when you're younger to take it a bit more personally. It's part of the journey of growing as an artist, to find confidence in your own ideas.

The process helps artists to learn to take comments. Works are subjective, so there are people who will praise and trash you. Staying true to and honest about what I create is important to me.

Where do you head to when you have post-show food cravings?

Sometimes, I think about oysters and wine, but it's not always easy to find a bar serving those. I like places that are dark, dim and quiet.

I like to go to this place called The Yard in River Valley. I know the owner and it's been around for very long. You find old men drinking by themselves there. It's nice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2015, with the headline 'Attracted to tragedy'. Print Edition | Subscribe