SINGAPORE - The Esplanade's annual Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts returns with a hybrid programme from Feb 19 to March 14.
While there are none of the usual shows from overseas arts troupes, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be collaborations with foreign artists, such as music and dance programmes, which will be streamed live or available on digital platforms.
The pandemic has affected not just the logistics of the festival but also influenced the themes of some productions.
The Esplanade's senior producer Delvin Lee, 41, says the shows are "not entirely a response to the pandemic", but adds: "When the artists are going through the pandemic, it will be reflected in their practice. It is inevitable they will do a lot of thinking. The introspection and reflection are shown in the works."
Six new works have been commissioned for the festival. Local theatre company Toy Factory Productions, which headlined last year's festival with Seven Sages Of The Bamboo Grove, will be presenting All The World Is One Stage.
The work will focus on the life stories of four local acting veterans - Yong Ser Pin, Liow Shi Suen, Johnny Ng and Ong Teck Lian - exploring their common passion for theatre, how they entered the profession and the challenges along the way.
The Finger Players' Citizen X, one of the shows cancelled abruptly last year due to venue closure, will finally see the light of day at the festival.
Directed by Oliver Chong, it stars actor Liu Xiaoyi in a story about migration, inspired by the parallel paths of Liu's journey to Singapore and his grandfather's trip from Swatow to Nanyang in 1928.
The music and dance programmes offer some experimental productions. Siong Leng Musical Association, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, is remaking nanyin music with Fantasia - Nanyin Reimagined, rearranging classic nanyin tunes for electronic music and Western instruments.
In Not Only Music In Anticlockwise, Hong Kong media artist-composer GayBird and Singapore's Concordia Quartet will perform live together despite being separated by 2,581 kilometres.
Audiences will be in the Esplanade Recital Studio with the quartet while GayBird will join in live from Hong Kong.
In dance artist Ricky Sim's Interspace, the audience will help create the final work as they choose pathways through an immersive installation.
Mr Lee says: "The concept of this is a question: Can dance still be dance if there are no dancers?"
In an ambitious new series, Dance en Scene, the Esplanade has partnered with Taiwan's National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts (Weiwuying) and National Taichung Theatre as well as Hong Kong's Tai Kwun to produce four dance films. Each film will feature a dancer partnered with a film-maker.
The Esplanade's commission, Rooms, will feature choreographer-performer Albert Tiong and is co-directed by Elysa Wendi and Liao Jiekai. Mr Lee hopes that this initiative can be expanded to other performing arts centres in the future.
Priority bookings for the festival will begin next Tuesday (Jan 19) and Wednesday for Esplanade&Me cardholders while general ticket sales will begin next Thursday.