Singapore contemporary dance company celebrates 20 years

Choreographer Sun Shang-Chi’s piece, Traverse (above), is part of the triple bill for T.H.E Dance Company, which will be staged in April. -- PHOTO: ACHIM PLUM
Choreographer Sun Shang-Chi’s piece, Traverse (above), is part of the triple bill for T.H.E Dance Company, which will be staged in April. -- PHOTO: ACHIM PLUM
Homecoming (above, with Geraldine Phang) is one of the highlights of Arts Fission’s 10-day festival. -- PHOTO: EDWIN WEE AND META SETIAWAN
Homecoming (above, with Geraldine Phang) is one of the highlights of Arts Fission’s 10-day festival. -- PHOTO: EDWIN WEE AND META SETIAWAN

Former company dancers return to rework previous pieces to celebrate Arts Fission's 20th anniversary

One of the oldest contemporary dance companies in Singapore will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this month with a 10-day festival, Make It New.

Arts Fission's milestone event will run from Jan 30 to Feb 8, and will feature forum sessions and exhibitions, and former company dancers returning to perform.

Artistic director Angela Liong says the festival provides a good overview of what the company does.

She says: "This series, in a way, captures the kind of activities that Arts Fission has always been engaged in.

"We are always interested in cross-disciplinary art forms, doing research and dialogues with our artistic counterparts."

The festival pays homage to the company's penchant for site-specific works, with performances held at the National Design Centre, and also its constant cross-disciplinary engagement with a dialogue session, co-presented with The Arts House, on how to approach the ephemeral arts.

One of the festival highlights is Homecoming, which features three former Arts Fission dancers: Bobbi Chen, Elysa Wendi and Scarlet Yu.

Each of the dancers was with the company for seven to 10 years and currently, all three are studying for their master's degrees at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Liong says: "It is quite meaningful to bring back some members who started their journey with me and see what's happened to them now. We can look back and see how the Arts Fission experience has affected their careers and lives."

They will each be reworking and re-presenting pieces which they were involved in during their time at the company. Liong says that they will be bringing these old works "to a different level and making them their own".

Yu, 36, was with the company from 2000 to 2010. The former dancer and rehearsal director will be holding a solo performance at a tucked-away staircase at the National Design Centre.

She says she is glad for the chance to return and to "participate in and appreciate the transformation process within Arts Fission" since she left.

She looks back fondly at her time at the company. "We were like a group of climbers who took the most unconventional and unknown path to the summit," she says.

"Sometimes it was covered in fog, with unexpected events or challenges, but rain or shine, nothing could diminish the spirit of adventure in us."

Wendi, 38, will be choreographing a piece which uses 20 dancers from Lasalle College of the Arts, that abstracts 20 of Arts Fission's past works.

The former assistant artistic director, who was with the company from 1998 to 2008, says her return was an emotional one and accompanied by a sense of "pride, honour and gratitude".

While participating in the festival, she hopes to examine her "re-connection to the past, present and future behind the company's philosophy, spirit and approach to the arts and the field of dance in Singapore".

Other activities during the festival include a talk by current and former Arts Fission dancers, who speak about their experience of being professional dancers.

There will also be a dialogue session at The Arts House, hosted by Liong and National Arts Council director of arts and youth and strategic planning Kenneth Kwok.

The talk will be on temporal art forms and Liong says: "While I'm interested in this from the perspective of dance, we also look into related art forms, any discipline that is temporal, that is ephemeral. How do I relate to this? How do I appreciate a performance? And for people in the industry, how do you capture it and talk about it?"

Liong says of Arts Fission's 20th anniversary: "Well, I don't really think about this sort of thing, I just keep going on and then oh, is it 20 years already?

"But I guess it kind of validates the hard work that we put in in the early days, when we chose this path and went for it, and the tenacity we had."

lting@sph.com.sg

For information on the festival, go to www.artsfission.org