30 Days Of Art With NAC: Day 25

Dancing around the ideas of viewership

To inspire and uplift readers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 circuit breaker, The Straits Times, supported by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, has commissioned 30 works by local writers and artists on the pandemic and what it will be like when all this is over

Contemporary dance company P7:1SMA, produce a short dance film, The Audience for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series.
Contemporary dance company P7:1SMA's (from left) Jonit On, Norhaizad Adam and Ismail Jemaah.
Contemporary dance company P7:1SMA's (from left) Jonit On, Norhaizad Adam and Ismail Jemaah.PHOTO: P7:1SMA

For contemporary dance company P7:1SMA, the commission for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series offered a chance to put into practice some ideas the group had been discussing.

Norhaizad Adam, 32, the company's founder and artistic director, says: "At present, our associate artists are having discussions about performance-making in times of crisis with Ming Poon, a Berlin-based choreographer who was born in Singapore.

"This project reminds me of our discussion on the fate of theatre, a physical infrastructure and the economy of it."

The result is a short dance film, The Audience, which plays with ideas of viewership.

The choreography places dancers in the seats of an empty auditorium. Norhaizad says the seats become "a point of departure to question hierarchy, body memory and personal narratives".

He conceived the work both as a dance and a film, thinking about how the choreography would work with the cinematography so as to produce something that is uniquely made for the digital medium.

While the finished product looks effortless, he confesses: "Directing and video-editing through online meetings have been a steep learning curve."

Like other performers, he misses the energy of live interaction, like "bouncing off ideas, having a good laugh, running and rolling in every direction with friends in between rehearsals and conversations".

Being forced away from the dance studio, he says the company is "relooking our strategy in performance-making".

The project has also challenged his notions of performance: "My takeaway is making a conscious decision to let go or throw away some habits of making performances within my comfort zone."

P7:1SMA is a relatively young company which Norhaizad, who is trained in classical Malay dance, founded in 2015 to explore contemporary dance. The company aims to balance the traditional and contemporary.

It also runs a platform for artists to share works in development called Permisi: Open Sharing, the sixth edition of which is scheduled for July 24 at the company's home at Stamford Arts Centre.

The pandemic's isolating effects, Norhaizad notes, has created an even greater hunger for interaction: "Covid-19 and the term 'safe-distancing' make me notice a yearning for closeness and intimacy."

While people may not be able to return to performing venues for the foreseeable future, he holds a firm belief: "There will always be an audience."

• Watch The Audience at str.sg/30Days.

• For more local digital arts offerings, go to a-list.sg to appreciate #SGCultureAnywhere.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2020, with the headline 'Dancing around the ideas of viewership'. Subscribe