Dancing - and trying not to kick the violinists

Arts Fission Company dancers during rehearsals with the Philharmonic Orchestra.
Arts Fission Company dancers during rehearsals with the Philharmonic Orchestra.PHOTO: THE ARTS FISSION COMPANY

More than two years after their last collaboration, two Cultural Medallion recipients are back with a new experimental production.

The latest offering from Angela Liong, founder of dance troupe Arts Fission Company, and conductor Lim Yau of the Philharmonic Orchestra, The Mazu Chronicle - Crossing The Maritime Silk Road, dramatises the story of Singapore's early settlers who arrived by boat, in a journey that took them through the Silk Road.

The production, to be staged at the Esplanade Theatre on Sunday, is loosely based on Chinese mythological figure Mazu, the patron deity of seafarers who was mainly worshipped in China's coastal areas and Singapore.

It is a complex arrangement where professional and volunteer dancers perform against a backdrop of orchestral and choral music. An ensemble of 25 non- professional senior citizens is also part of the performance.

Liong, 64, said she had no interest in producing "a straightforward autobiography or cut- and-dried history".


  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre

    WHEN: Sunday, 5 pm

    ADMISSION: $17, $21 and $26 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Lim, 63, says emphasis is placed on the "bold spatial treatment", a symbolic invitation for the audience to come "on board our ship".

He adds that the orchestra would be seated on stage rather than in the orchestral pit, with the musicians forming the outline of a ship and their backs facing the audience. This arrangement goes against established conventions in the Western classical tradition.

Lim, previously the associate conductor of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, says he had some reservations when Liong proposed the alternative arrangement. "We are all animals of habit. You can imagine we needed some persuasion because orchestras nowadays sit in a particular shape or form, and not without reason."

The pair's 2013 collaboration, The Rite Of Spring - A People's Stravinsky, was similarly notable for its unconventional use of space.

The dancers will perform from the choir gallery all the way up to the organ loft, as well as on stage.

But having the dancers and orchestra on stage at the same time offers another challenge. Arts Fission dancer Mimie Tavivoradilok, 30, says: "When we jump and kick, we have to be extra careful not to kick the orchestra members."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Dancing - and trying not to kick the violinists'. Print Edition | Subscribe