Going gaga over dance

In Innocent Until Proven Guilty (2), choreographer Lee Mun Wai explores the notion of subversion.
In Innocent Until Proven Guilty (2), choreographer Lee Mun Wai explores the notion of subversion.PHOTO: TAN NGIAP HENG

Home-grown dance company Frontier Danceland presents three works for its annual mid-year production

A male dancer, his legs and torso covered with blue spots and wearing black stilettos, turns so slowly your eyes can barely register that he has moved at all.

From the wings of the performance area, other dancers enter, their achingly slow jog reminiscent of Baywatch lifeguards running in slow motion.

This is Flat, a dance piece by 28-year-old choreographer Israeli Shahar Biniamini, which is grounded in gaga, a type of body-aware dance language developed by Ohad Naharin from the Israel-based Batsheva Dance Company.

Flat will be performed as part of a triple bill, Sides 2016, presented by local dance company Frontier Danceland. It takes place on Friday and Saturday at the School of the Arts Studio Theatre.

The show will also feature new works by local choreographer Lee Mun Wai and German choreographer Sita Ostheimer. Each piece is about 30 minutes long and will be performed by six to seven dancers from Frontier Danceland.

This is the first time that the Singapore company is working with all three of the choreographers. Sides 2016 is the company's annual mid-year production.

  • BOOK IT / SIDES 2016

  • WHERE: School of the Arts Studio Theatre, 1 Zubir Said Drive

    WHEN: Friday, 8pm and Saturday, 3 and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $30 for 8pm shows, $25 for 3pm show (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

    INFO:  www.frontierdanceland.com

The company is also celebrating its 25th anniversary. As part of its celebrations, there will be a mini photo exhibition held in the foyer of the Sota Studio Theatre.

Biniamini, who was a former dancer of Batsheva Dance Company, admits that it is "hard to verbalise" the gaga dance technique. "Kids move and dance very freely, but as adults, we lose this ability and become more cerebral. Gaga enables people to go back to their main tool - the bodies - after childhood."

His quirky work - the dancers jangle about with spare change in their palms and at some point resemble a languid, many-limbed creature - is titled Flat as it is a positive take on how globalisation has made the world into one "playground", where one can easily borrow from different influences. In creating this work, he borrowed from Indian, Thai, Israeli and American culture, among others.

For Ostheimer, 36, the title of her piece, Mangata, conjures up multiple images. The Swedish word describes the reflection of the moon in the water.

Her work attempts to "create an atmosphere of a happy nightmare". She says: "It is like walking on a big melting floor, in between candy, trampoline and quicksand, funny but also scary and dangerous."

The work, which she describes as being "like a display of images", is a collaboration between her and sound designer Adrien Casalis. Ostheimer was a former dancer of Britain-based Hofesh Shechter Company and is the rehearsal director at Staatstheatre Kassel in Germany.

Rounding up the triple bill is Innocent Until Proven Guilty (2), by 34-year-old independent local choreographer Lee.

The work explores the notion of subversion, using a song from a famous musical that he declines to reveal, to look at what lies beyond something that appears "beautiful and innocent". "When you start to read into it, it can start to look very guilty," he says.

Instead of using the traditional studio sound system, the song will be played from a mobile phone and one of the dancers will play the guitar - Lee's way of saying that art can triumph even with the barest of elements.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'Going gaga over dance'. Print Edition | Subscribe