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Packed calendar of dance shows to watch

There are at least nine dance shows for aficionados, from classical to experimental works

Dance fans in Singapore will be spoilt for choice in the coming months.

The two behemoths in the scene - the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa) and the Esplanade's da:ns festival - are set to dominate with dance and movement-related shows from next month to October.

But Singapore companies and presenting venues are not hanging up their dancing shoes during this period either. There are at least nine dance performances - from classical ballet by the Singapore Dance Theatre to wacky experimental shows by TheatreWorks - to catch from now until September, and they are not related to Sifa or the da:ns festival.

Some companies hold festivals too: T.H.E Dance Company's M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival takes place in November and December, while Odyssey Dance Theatre's six-month DanzINC festival is currently in progress.

Dance groups here acknowledge that they cannot match the big budgets and grand scale of shows presented by the likes of Sifa and the da:ns festival. But they also credit them for nurturing an appetite for dance, which seems to have grown in the last five years or so.

The rebooted Sifa under festival director Ong Keng Sen started in 2014 and the Esplanade's da:ns festival started in 2006.

Ricky Sim, 46, artistic director of five-year-old contemporary dance company Raw Moves, says these festivals are "advantageous to the scene in terms of audience development and wooing new audiences". "For example, they teach audiences to view pieces such as durational works and this opens up avenues for us."

Janek Schergen, 65, artistic director of Singapore Dance Theatre, credits the Esplanade for giving dance a greater presence in Singapore. He has helmed the 28-year-old ballet company since 2008. But he laments that some audiences still prefer big international names over home-grown offerings. "Some people really do not want to support local. There's nothing you can do about it except to strengthen your organisation."

The companies here acknowledge the efforts of the National Arts Council to support the growth of dance here. Just last year, it launched Got To Move, an initiative aimed at making dance accessible to the masses via dance showcases, taster sessions and activities. This year, it will be held from Oct 7 to 23.

With not only a packed dance calendar but also a lively arts scene in Singapore, what results is a competition for attention and wallets.

Low Mei Yoke, 61, artistic director of Frontier Danceland, believes most people think "contemporary dance is difficult to understand and hence are reluctant to watch, as compared with other art forms like theatre".

But looking at the number of upcoming dance shows, companies do not seem to be losing heart, choosing to explore new ways of working, such as creating cross-disciplinary work.

Danny Tan, 43, artistic director of Odyssey Dance Theatre, says: "It's not really competition. If all companies are doing the same work, then that would be scary."


Assemble The Pieces Of Dreams (above) is part of the DanzINC festival.
Assemble The Pieces Of Dreams (above) is part of the DanzINC festival. PHOTO: SHIN YONGGU

DanzINC

DanzINC is a biennial international dancers and choreographers' residency festival, organised by ODT International, a division of Odyssey Dance Theatre.

The seventh edition of the six-month festival, which runs until Nov 30, features a full programme of events including performances, masterclasses and exhibitions. Info: danzincfestival.com

River Walk

What: In this 20-minute show, Taiwanese artist River Lin explores an unusual way of walking, discovering new forms of body dynamics by making trails on materials. It will be followed by a dialogue session. The performance is rated R18 for containing full nudity. Where: ODT Black Box, Aliwal Arts Centre, 28 Aliwal Street, 03-08 When: Aug 6, 8pm Admission: $38

The Anatomy Of Will

What: This work by Austrian performance artist Milos Sofrenovic is inspired by the artistic legacy of German orchestral conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler. The 40-minute presentation will be followed by a dialogue session. Where: ODT Black Box, Aliwal Arts Centre, 03-08 When: Aug 13, 8pm Admission: $38

Assemble The Pieces Of Dreams

What: Korean performance artist Shin Yonggu examines everything that starts from dreams, giving meaning to situations and things which are considered meaningless to others. The 30-minute show will be followed by a dialogue session. Where: ODT Black Box, Aliwal Arts Centre, 03-08 When: Aug 20, 8pm Admission: $38

Masterpiece In Motion

Launched six years ago, Masterpiece In Motion is the Singapore Dance Theatre's (SDT) international repertory season, showcasing choreographers who have large reputations outside of Singapore.

This year's triple bill includes the company premiere of Symphony In Three Movements by Nils Christe, a Dutch choreographer.

Featuring 10 couples onstage, the work is named after its score, which is by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.

The programme also includes works which have been part of the 28-year-old company's repertoire - classical work Schubert Symphony by the late Singapore choreographer Goh Choo San; and Age Of Innocence, which references the world of Jane Austen's novels, by Taiwan-born American dancer- choreographer Edwaard Liang.

SDT's artistic director Janek Schergen, 65, says the programme for Masterpiece In Motion combines works which are more classical (such as Goh's) alongside more contemporary ones (such as Christe's).

"The way you put together an evening is with balance. You don't want to overload the audience with works which all have heavy music, for example. We have neo-classical, classical, contemporary - it balances out." Where: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive When: Aug 19 and 20, 8pm Admission: $30, $50 and $70 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555) Info: www.singaporedance theatre.com or facebook.com/singaporedancetheatre

Ramayana

The epic poem of Ramayana will be presented through the Javanese art forms of wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), traditional beksa (Javanese court) dance and gamelan (Javanese traditional instrumental ensemble).

The wayang kulit and dance components will be presented by Sanggar Tari Soerya Soemirat Istana Mangkunegaran, an arts group from the Mangkunegaran Palace in Surakarta, Indonesia.

The dancers, aged 14 to early 40s, will interact with the puppets.

The music is played by two Singapore groups: Gamelan Asmaradana, a Singapore professional gamelan ensemble, and Gamelan Singa Nglaras from the National University of Singapore.

The show will be performed in Bahasa Indonesia, with some English descriptions being provided on a screen.

The performance is related to the Malay Heritage Centre's current exhibition, Pusaka: Heritage And Culture Of The Javanese In Singapore.

Mr Faezan Redwan, 32, the project coordinator of the show and vice-president of the Javanese Association of Singapore, says that holding it outdoors at the centre, which used to be the Istana Kampong Glam, is reminiscent of the grand outdoors setting of dance performances in Indonesia.

He says: "It can't be staged in a small theatre. The Istana Kampong Glam is a former Malay palace in Singapore. We thought it was apt to pay tribute to the whole environment." Where: Malay Heritage Centre Lawn, 85 Sultan Gate When: Aug 27, 8.30pm Admission: Free Info: www.malayheritage.org.sg or www.facebook.com/malayheritage

Dancers' Locker

Dancers' Locker by Singapore dance company Frontier Danceland is an opportunity for company dancers to choreograph works for one another.

Artistic director Low Mei Yoke, 61, says: "Frontier Danceland believes that in order to nurture our dancers' versatility, we need to allow them time, space and resources to create works of their own."

The intimate showcase at the company's studio "gives room for the dancers and the audience to interact and discuss their works", she says, which helps both sides understand the work better.

This year's edition presents three, roughly 10-minute pieces by company artists Adele Goh, who is Singaporean; Malaysian Hwa Wei-An and Aymeric Bichon, who is from France.

Besides these three works, the show will also premiere a new 25-minute work, Focus, by Australian choreographers Gabrielle Nankivell and Luke Smiles. It adapts camera mechanisms and film-editing techniques in its treatment of movement. Where: Frontier Danceland studio, 90 Goodman Road, Goodman Arts Centre, Block M, 02-52 When: Aug 12 to 14, 8pm, with 3pm shows on Aug 13 and 14 Admission: $15 (8pm shows), $12 (3pm shows) (go to tinyurl.com/Locker2016tickets) Info: www.frontierdanceland.com and www.facebook.com/frontier.danceland

New Vision 2016

New Vision is the T.H.E Dance Company's yearly experimental showcase by its main company dancers. In this third edition, there will be five works which span about 15 minutes each.

Kuik Swee Boon, 43, the company's artistic director, says: "The dancers always work with choreographers so they often don't have to think about the concept of the works.

"This is a good chance for them to experiment and not be afraid of making mistakes."

Each work reflects the distinct personality of the dancers and explores topics close to their hearts. For example, dancer Chia Poh Hian's piece looks at why Singaporeans use packets of tissue paper to reserve tables and seats. Those tissue packets will feature as props.

In another work, Australia-born dancer Billy Keohavong examines his feelings about moving to Singapore this year from New Zealand, where he attended school. In his piece, he will explore the initial culture shock and also personal connections he has formed. Where: T.H.E Dance Studio, 90 Goodman Road, Goodman Arts Centre, Block M, 01-54 When: Sept 15 to 17, 7.30pm Admission: $19.50 (go to newvision2016-show1.peatix.com) Info: www.the-dancecompany.com or www.facebook.com/THEDanceCo

RAWGround

RAWGround is a new platform for the company members of Raw Moves - and not necessarily just the dancers in the company - to develop their voices as artists.

It is intended to be a yearly event.

There will be four pieces of work this year by five of Raw Moves' company dancers.

While the staging will be simple, the topics which are mined in the works will be complex and sometimes difficult. They include planning for one's funereal arrangements, the manifestation of breast cancer and mental disorders.

In creating these works, the dancer-choreographers started with text, specifically looking at scripts and materials by Singapore theatre-makers from the archives of Centre 42, a venue that develops and champions writing for the Singapore stage.

This is in line with Raw Moves' focus of SG51 this year, building on collaborations with Singapore artists from near and far.

Plays that were looked at included theatre pioneer Kuo Pao Kun's The Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole and Off Centre, an intimate story about mental health by Singapore theatre company The Necessary Stage.

Ricky Sim, 46, artistic director of Raw Moves, says: "The works are not meant to be a direct translation of the texts or movement-based plays. These young choreographers will have the opportunity to think beyond the movement." Where: Raw Moves Studio, 90 Goodman Road, Goodman Arts Centre, Block B, 01-08 When: Sept 8 to 10 and 15 to 17, 8pm Admission: $10 (go to rawground2016.peatix.com) Info: www.rawmoves.net and facebook.com/rawmoves.sg

She Ain't Heavy, She's Reaching Into Space

Independent dancers Eng Kai Er, 32, and Faye Lim, 33, collaborate in this experimental piece which will see them "perform" a discussion and discuss what constitutes a performance. The work, which lasts about an hour and blends real conversations with theatrical elements, is presented by theatre company TheatreWorks. Eng is an associate artist of the company.

Eng and Lim met in 2013 through their love of dance, meeting to chat about Strangeweather Movement Group, a cross-disciplinary collective Lim directs. Both also do contact improv, a dance technique which uses physical touch as a starting point.

Their work will include elements of contact improv, though Eng says it will also show them talking andworking together. Its title - She Ain't Heavy, She's Reaching Into Space - alludes to a philosophy taken from contact improv, where the weight of your partner can be better managed if he or she reaches into space.

Metaphorically, for the work, this translates into how they will collaborate, working out tensions by helping each other lighten the load.

Eng says: "I hope audiences will have moments where they will think about what we're proposing. There will also be moments where they will be carried away by the wacky theatrical world of the work. That part is important in life, too, that sense of escape. It's a mix of both." Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road When: July 28 and 29, 8pm Admission: $25 (e-mail sheaintheavy@theatreworks. org.sg or call 6737-7213) Info: sheaintheavy2016.wordpress.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'Myriad faces of dance'. Print Edition | Subscribe