Dance festival aims for wider reach with mid-year dates

I Have Nothing To Do With Explosions, by Singapore artists Adam Lau and Caroline Chin, will take place during Off Stage, a platform for promising works-inprogress.
I Have Nothing To Do With Explosions, by Singapore artists Adam Lau and Caroline Chin, will take place during Off Stage, a platform for promising works-inprogress. PHOTO: DAVE LIM

What do a Rube Goldberg machine, a circus performer and theatre actor Thomas Pang have in common?

They are all part of this year's M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival, which aims to draw a more diverse crowd to appreciate the beauty of contemporary dance.

The annual festival, organised by T.H.E Dance Company, is back from June 2 to July 7 with four ticketed and two non-ticketed performances. There will also be more than 30 dance and choreography classes.

The shows are by dancers from 15 countries, including Singapore, Vietnam, Spain and Britain. Tickets for each show cost between $25 and $36. Different passes will be offered, including a $70 "taster pass", which allows one to attend two shows and a dance class.

  • BOOK IT / M1 CONTACT CONTEMPORARY DANCE FESTIVAL

  • WHERE: Various venues in Esplanade - Theatres by the Bay, 1 Esplanade Drive; and Goodman Arts Centre, 90 Goodman Road

    WHEN: June 2 to July 7

    ADMISSION: $25 to $36 for ticketed shows. Different passes are available, priced between $37.50 and $400. Entry by donation for Off Stage (go to peatix.com to register).

    INFO: www.the-contact.org

The festival, which is in its eighth edition, is presented in collaboration with the Esplanade, with most of the shows held at the performance venue.

One of the free performances, Dance At Dusk, is a new outdoor component of the festival. It takes place at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre from June 2 to 4.

Swiss dance company Company Ici'bas will present L'envers, a collaboration between circus acrobat Mathias Reymond and dancer- choreographer Christine Daigle. There will also be excerpts of productions by T.H.E dancers.

Festival director Kuik Swee Boon, 44, says the free component will help give passers-by a good first impression of contemporary dance, "forged in a relaxed, welcoming environment, planting the seeds for potential return audiences".

Another new component is Off Stage, which will take place on June 9 and 10 at T.H.E dance studio at Goodman Arts Centre. This is a showcase of three promising works-in-progress - each between 15 and 20 minutes long - staged in an intimate setting. Entry is by donation.

One of the pieces, You/Me, is by theatre actor Pang and Malaysian dancer Lim Pei Ern. It looks at binaries such as masculine/feminine and actor/dancer.

Pang, 27, better known for his theatre work with companies such as Cake Theatrical Productions, says his dance experience comprises wushu, Afro-Haitian dance and actor training.

"I'm a fairly confident mover to music, but does that make me a dancer?" he says, adding that Lim will be teaching him how to dance in a more feminine way. "Whether or not we are successful will be decided on the day."

The other two works are I Have Nothing To Do With Explosions, by Singapore artists Adam Lau and Caroline Chin and inspired by the planets and stars; and Reveil by Singapore and Malaysia performers MODeCo, about the veil we wear in society.

The Off Stage works were selected from open-call proposals for the annual M1 Open Stage, which is a kind of open-mic platform for dancers and a returning platform of the festival.

This year, M1 Open Stage will be combined with DiverCity, a separate platform to nurture up-and- coming Singaporean talent. This will be held on June 2 and 3 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio.

M1 Open Stage features eight open-call and two invited performers. These are by dancers from Singapore as well as places such as Ukraine, South Korea and Japan.

For DiverCity, the festival has commissioned Corollary, a 25- minute work by dancer-choreographer Germaine Cheng, 27. The work is inspired by the Rube Goldberg machine, a contraption consisting of a series of devices which perform simple tasks before triggering the next set of devices.

Cheng, who has presented a work on the Open Stage platform in 2012, says: "It is hugely exciting to be commissioned for the festival this year, especially as it hits its stride and finds its new place in the packed arts calendar."

One mainstay of the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival remains - its international collaborations.

These include Borderline, a double bill of performances from June 22 to 24 by New Zealand's Muscle Mouth and T.H.E, which will premiere a new work, Vessel, choreographed by Kuik.

Asian Festivals Exchange on June 26 will feature performances and collaborations by Japanese, South Korean and Singapore dancers, while an International Artists Showcase on June 29 and 30, titled Binary, will showcase performances by artists from Spain and Britain.

With the M1 festival's varied programming and move to the less- crowded mid-year period - August to December is a packed time of the year for the dance calendar - Kuik hopes to be able to reach a broader demographic.

He says it is a pity that contemporary dance is perceived as difficult, abstract or niche. He adds that it is troubling "if society finds zero relevance for or connection to contemporary dance".

He says: "I believe a balance can be sought between mass appeal and non-compromising fulfilment of artistic intent, vision and quality."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Dance festival aims for wider reach with mid-year dates'. Print Edition | Subscribe