New and old dance works in marathon

Zan Yamashita will present Daikoushin, a dance centred on a railroad track.
Zan Yamashita will present Daikoushin, a dance centred on a railroad track.PHOTO: TPAM

Get ready for three weekends of contemporary dance performances by 14 artists starting this Friday, aptly titled Dance Marathon.

The mini festival, which is part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts, runs until Sept 5. The main festival runs until Sept 19.

The dance extravaganza will feature a mix of new and existing works by dancer-choreographers, mainly from two contemporary dance scenes in Asia - Tokyo and India.

Aside from the 14 performances, there will be two free nights of newly created works, on Aug 29 and Sept 5.

Titled Archive Boxes, seven primarily Indian contemporary dancers have created new pieces in response to archive boxes prepared by their Japanese counterparts. The boxes contain objects referencing the sender's seminal works.

The venues for the performances are 72-13 in Mohamed Sultan Road, the School of the Arts studio theatre and Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

  • BOOK IT / DANCE MARATHON: OPEN WITH A PUNK SPIRIT!

    WHERE: Sota Studio Theatre, 1 Zubir Said Drive; Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, 30 Keppel Road ; 72-13, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

    WHEN: Friday to Sept 5

    ADMISSION: $35 each for 13 of the performances; free admission for Aug 31 performance, The Projectionist, with any ticket to Dance Marathon.

    INFO: sifa.sg/sifa

    ARCHIVE BOX 1 & 2

    WHERE: Aug 29: 72-13

    Sept 5: Sota Studio Theatre

    WHEN: Aug 29 and Sept 5, 8pm till late

    ADMISSION: Free with registration

    INFO: sifa.sg/sifa/show/archive-box

    DISCOVER THE WORLD OF KATHAKALI

    WHERE: Fort Canning Park, Lawn@The Foothills (opposite Liang Court)

    WHEN: Aug 29, 5.30am: Training session, make-up and costume demonstration; 7am: Talk and breakfast

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: sifa.sg/sifa or call 6323-9656 for information

Commenting on the packed schedule of performances, festival director Ong Keng Sen says that he felt that it was "important to bracket some things".

He says: "If we had different dance pieces scattered throughout the festival, the audience might become confused. We felt a need to bring it together in a coherent way for them."

One of the performances audiences can look forward to is Daikoushin (A Grand March), which will be performed on the old train tracks of the decommissioned railway station. It is presented by Japanese dancer-choreographer Zan Yamashita.

The work depicts a situation in a disaster zone, with rubbish strewn around the performance area. Conceived in 2010, it was performed in Japan using old railway tracks loaned from private rail companies.

Yamashita says: "It's the first time the work is being performed outside of Japan. I'm excited to see how the Singapore audience responds to my work."

For his upcoming solo performance on Aug 28, he has sourced scrap materials from scrap yards in Sungei Kadut and Defu Lane.

The theme for Dance Marathon is Open With A Punk Spirit! and one performance which fits well into this theme is A Male Ant Has Straight Antennae, which takes place on Aug 26 and 27.

New Delhi-based dancer-choreographer Mandeep Raikhy presents a cheeky, rebellious and at times intense take on masculinity, exploring how it might look like when played out on the human body.

Incidentally, he will be responding to Yamashita's archive box, which consists of four audio cassettes, a Walkman and a letter on A4 paper. The two have never met.

It is a blind date of sorts for these dancers as they work off what they receive, which range from documentation of the original dancer's seminal works, personal letters and other manifestations of their inspirations.

In conceptualising the Archive Box programme, festival director Ong was interested in the question of how contemporary dancers could archive their works, an idea related to the bigger festival theme of Post-Empires.

"How do you archive the contemporary? Its movements draw from daily life, it's about the dancer's expressions and how he feels at that point of time. How do you archive the everyday life?" he muses.

"In asking them to create archive boxes, I'm trying to be a bit cheeky and to see what happens. Hopefully, we can find a solution in a rather simple way."

For Raikhy, the solution is to focus on the form of Yamashita's cassettes, instead of its contents. The resulting new work is inspired by the rotation of tape around the spools within the cassette.

"It's been a highly wonderful process," he says. "It has pushed my imagination and made me invent another way of looking at dance making. It's a game changer for sure."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'New and old dance works in marathon'. Print Edition | Subscribe