Esplanade's da:ns festival unveils home-grown commissions and international co-production featuring Akram Khan

AS artistic director of T.H.E Dance Company, Kuik Swee Boon usually commandeers the action from offstage. But come October, he will be front and centre, soaking in the spotlight when he performs in Above 40.

Sharing the stage with Kuik will be three other seasoned dance professionals in their 40s, who all began their career as dancers but have now moved on to other roles in the industry.

They are: Silvia Yong, Kuik's wife and a member of the dance faculty at the School of the Arts; Albert Tiong, artistic director of Re:Dance Theatre, and Jeffrey Tan, principal of the Singapore Ballet Academy.

Kuik says that the journey back to the stage will be a very personal and emotional one.

"To perform on stage is completely different from running a company, or creating something. Me, Silvia, Albert and Jeffrey are very excited about this project, but also very scared.

"We ask ourselves, what can we do? Do we still have enough value to present ourselves on stage?"

The production will be the opening act of the Esplanade's annual da:ns festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year from October 9 to 18.

At a media event on Wednesday, they unveiled this year's three local commissions and one international co-production.

Ms Faith Tan, producer, says that the commissions were a response to the needs of the dance community.

"One of those key needs that we're going to be focusing on is the need to support local and regional artists to continue to create new work, especially in this region where such support is really lacking."

The full lineup of the festival will be unveiled in July, and tickets will also go on sale then.

The two other local commissions are SoftMachine by Choy Ka Fai, and Impulse by Kim Jae Duk and T.H.E Dance Company.

SoftMachine is a dance research project which began in 2012 to study the choreographic processes of Asian contemporary dance over the last decade.

Choy says: "I started wanting to find out about choreographers in Asia, so I went on a two-year journey to meet and interview them one-on-one. Then, I started to collect, and once I started to collect, it became an archive. I'm still working on how to present that archive."

To date, Choy has interviewed 88 dance-makers from Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, India and China.

At the festival, he will be presenting the personal journeys of four of them - Surjit Nongmeikapam (India), Rianto (Indonesia), Yuya Tsukahara (Japan), Xiao Ke and Zi Han (China) - in a documentary-cum-live performance format.

Impulse by Kim Jae Duk and T.H.E Dance Company is a backstage, site-specific work by the company's Korean resident choreographer.

Audience members will gather at the Esplanade stage door, and be taken to watch Kim's choreography in small groups at backstage areas which are usually not open to the public, such as hidden lifts and some sections of the basement.

This year's international co-production is Torobaka, by Akram Khan from the United Kingdom and Israel Galvan from Spain.

Ms Tan says: "In this performance, Akram and Israel, both masters of rhythm and powerful precision, of kathak and flamenco, will be coming together with a ferocious masculine intensity. "

This year will also see the launch of a new programme, da:ns lab, which is headed by local independent choreographer Daniel Kok.

Over the course of two weeks, 10 dance practitioners will come together to work on defining their choreographic practice, and to develop specific projects through collaborative transformation.

Ms Tan says: "While we present ready work on stage, one of the important things we realised that we need to focus on is to give space, resources and time for choreographers to focus on the process of creating itself."

Tickets for the festival will go on sale in July. To find out more, go to www.dansfestival.com.