Dances inspired by Singapore plays

Artists from dance company Raw Moves look to home-grown writing as starting points for their pieces

Dance training usually involves, well, dance.

But rehearsals for contemporary dance company Raw Moves' new show, RawGround-SG51, have involved a different kind of preparation.

"When I looked into the studio, they were reading," exclaimed company manager Ebelle Chong with a laugh.

As starting points for the pieces, the dancers were given access to scripts of plays by Centre 42, an arts space dedicated to Singapore writing.

What resulted are personal works inspired by the plays, but not necessarily directly related to the plays.

8 on Ovidia Yu's play, Breastissues, which is about breast cancer.
Dancers Jeryl Lee (foreground) and Melyn Chow based their piece 1:8 on Ovidia Yu's play, Breastissues, which is about breast cancer. PHOTO: RAW MOVES

The show runs at the Raw Moves studio at Goodman Arts Centre from Sept 8 to 10 and Sept 15 to 17. Tickets for shows on Sept 10, 15 and 17 are sold out.

RawGround is a new platform to allow company artists to express their artistic voices in an informal studio setting.

SG51 is the dance company's umbrella theme for this year, referring to its desire to work with Singapore artists who are based here and overseas.

The inaugural edition comprises four multidisciplinary works that run 10 to 20 minutes each, by five of the company's dancers. One of the works is a collaboration between two dancers.

There will be a question-andanswer session at the end of the show.

Off Centre by playwright Haresh Sharma is the source of inspiration for two of the non-dance pieces - Unsteady, a video work by 22-year-old Wong Xinping and A Swee Way To Fly..., a monologue by 23-year-old Matthew Goh.

Referencing Sharma's portrayal of mental illness, Wong's piece looks at schizophrenia.

The video presents first-person perspectives of surreal moments captured within everyday scenes to reflect a blurring between reality and the imagination.

In A Swee Way To Fly... Goh shows off his acting chops, portraying a flamboyant character who interacts with the audience and questions the idea of a Singaporean identity.

The character he portrays, which he describes as a "mysterious Singapore icon", wears stilettos. This is his first time performing a monologue and in heels.

In creating the piece, he was interested in how Off Centre features characters that are relatable and authentic.

  • BOOK IT / RAWGROUND - SG51

  • WHERE: Raw Moves Studio, 90 Goodman Road, Goodman Arts Centre, Block B, 01-08

    WHEN: Tickets still available for Sept 8, 9 and 16, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $10 (Go to rawground2016.peatix.com)

    INFO: www.facebook.com/rawmoves.sg

"I could relate to the work. It was so Singaporean. I wanted to explore our local identity and what makes us Singaporean," says Goh.

Dancer Chiew Peishan, 34, questions how one might prepare for one's death in her solo dance piece, In Loving Memory Of Me.

She chose the topic after reading the play Poop by Chong Tze Chien, which looked at death and loss from a child's perspective.

She says: "The play talks about how sometimes in death, people heal. I'm looking at how pre-planning for my own funeral potentially has self-healing effects."

The last piece, 1:8, based on writer Ovidia Yu's play about breast cancer, Breastissues, is a collaboration between Melyn Chow, 22, and Jeryl Lee, 25.

Chow could relate as her mother had breast cancer 10 years ago and it made her recall "how I was affected or tried not to be affected by her situation then".

The piece examines how she might possibly inherit the condition.

Lee, who has diabetes, felt an affinity to the piece as well as it "allowed me to find my inner thoughts and feelings about my situation".

All five dancers admit that having to read multiple scripts was something they were not used to.

To help them along in their artistic process, Dr Nidya Shanthini Manokara - an independent arts practitioner and researcher - would ask them questions to help them parse the plays and understand why they resonated with them.

Explaining why he chose to make them work with text, artistic director Ricky Sim says he wanted to set them a different kind of challenge.

He says: "We're making them exercise their intellectual muscles. It's not just about technical or physical skill. It's an experimental platform for both the audience and us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'Dance inspired by Singapore plays'. Print Edition | Subscribe