Dance performance comes with five-course dinner

Dancer Naomi Tan performing in a previous edition of Project Plait, which pairs dance with food. This year, the show will be at Jiakpalang Eating House.
Dancer Naomi Tan performing in a previous edition of Project Plait, which pairs dance with food. This year, the show will be at Jiakpalang Eating House.PHOTO: EUDEA TAN

Contemporary dancer Naomi Tan works with chef Nixon Low on a show that links the menu to the performance

In a world without hawker centres, what would you miss the most?

The food, the smells or maybe even the sound of hawkers repeating your orders?

Contemporary dancer Naomi Tan, 25, and chef Nixon Low, 31, will help create this possible future in their latest food-and-dance collaboration, titled Inheritance: A Food & Dance Affair.

The event takes place from Thursday to Saturday at two-month-old Jiakpalang Eating House. Low is the chef at the modern Singaporean zi char eatery.

For $78, diners get to enjoy a five-course meal while watching Tan present a dance performance. Children get a three-course menu which costs $38.

Inheritance is the fourth iteration of Project Plait, an innovative experience that weaves together food and dance. It is also a pun on the word "plate".

This edition is part of the Singapore Food Festival, which is on till July 30 and focuses on local cuisine and flavours.

  • BOOK IT/ INHERITANCE: A FOOD & DANCE AFFAIR

  • WHERE: Jiakpalang Eating House, 456 Alexandra Road, 01-06

    WHEN: Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm, Saturday, 12.30pm

    ADMISSION: $78 an adult, $38 a child (four to 10 years old)

    INFO: www.projectplait.com

The theme of the event is the "loss of traditions, culture and language", says Low.

He adds: "In our society, everything evolves so fast and we don't preserve what we had."

His menu will be closely integrated with the dance performance and theme. For example, the start of the meal is set 100 years in the future in a "dystopian hawker centre".

Instead of ordering food from a hawker, guests do so from a device and are served by a robot portrayed by Tan, who will dance solo in most of the pieces.

"For this first course, chef Low has created a series of dystopian hawker canapes, which are reinterpretations of local hawker dishes," she says.

In a performance about inheritance and tradition, it is perhaps apt that she will be joined by her mother Tan Ngee Wah, 55, for a duet. Madam Tan dances recreationally.

"She plays the character of my grandmother in the piece and the soundtrack is a conversation that is half in English and half in Hakka," says Tan, who cannot communicate with her Hakka-speaking grandmother in real life.

"So the conversation playing as 'music' is actually the imaginary conversation of all the things we would like to say to each other but can't," she adds.

Tan's sister, Eudea, 24, is the multimedia designer for Inheritance, creating all the videos which will be shown as projections.

For Low, not only does he design the menu, but he also conceptualises the presentation of the food to tie in with the theme.

For example, one of the ideas focuses on the raffia strings used to tie bak chang, or traditional Chinese rice dumplings.

"A lot of times when Naomi dances, people don't understand. For me, food acts as a bridge between the art and the audience," he says.

At the end of the meal, there will be a post-show discussion to talk about the themes.

Tan is hoping that audiences will learn how accessible contemporary dance can be.

In one segment, they can help "create a soundscape using Singlish words and phrases", each of which has a corresponding dance movement, she says.

"It doesn't always have to be a set choreography in which the audience merely sit and watch. They could also be playing active roles in affecting the dance and choreography," she adds.

"Seeing guests enjoy this experience will make all the work that has gone into creating and rehearsing for this show worth it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'Dinner and dance'. Print Edition | Subscribe