From being bedridden at 26, choreographer Osman Abdul Hamid is going strong at age 54.
In 1988, he was diagnosed with the rare autoimmune disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes rapid-onset muscle weakness.
He was paralysed for two to three months and was out of action for nine months between 1988 and 1989 - a big blow to the dancer and former sportsman who loved hockey and soccer.
The artistic director of the seven-year-old Era Dance Theatre references this dark period in his latest work, Wujud - Bangkit Dari Debu (Existence - Rising From The Ashes). The 70-minute work will be staged at the Esplanade Recital Studio on March 18.
"During that time, I started to reflect a lot on myself and to think about my future," says Osman.
"This show is about how I learnt to turn something negative into something positive."
BOOK IT / WUJUD - BANGKIT DARI DEBU
WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio
WHEN: March 18, 3 and 8pm
ADMISSION: $25 (Call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
KACIP MAS DULANG PERMATA 6
WHERE: Black Box, Goodman Arts Centre
WHEN: March 4 and 5, 3 and 8pm
ADMISSION: $20 (call 9829-9410 for ticket bookings and inquiries)
Osman - who started his dance career in 1979 when he joined the People's Association and the cultural troupe Sriwana - was back on his feet in 1989 after a plasma exchange procedure.
The latest performance continues from a previous work, Wujud - Badai Berdamai (Existence - Calm Within The Storm), which was staged last year and told the story of how he got involved in the performing arts and the people who influenced him.
The second edition in the series will focus on how Osman rebuilt his life after recovering from the disease, including the support he received from those around him as well as his feelings about dance and how it can elevate lives.
The performance, which will be presented by five to six dancers, including an appearance from Osman, will be accompanied by live music.
There will also be wayang kulit, or shadow puppetry, with dancers providing dialogue as well as manoeuvring the puppets.
The veteran choreographer also knows the value of supporting new voices.
On March 4 and 5, Era Dance Theatre will present the sixth edition of its emerging choreographers' showcase, Kacip Mas Dulang Permata. The annual event presents new 12-minute works by five choreographers this year.
Before being selected to create these works, the five choreographers had to attend 150 hours of dance and choreography workshops under Osman.
One of the choreographers featured, Noormaya Abdul Rasiad, 36, will present a dance inspired by childhood games that she used to play in school, such as yeh yeh, which is akin to the local version of jump rope, and five stones.
She says: "These were the games we used to play in the past, but now, young people don't know them and have never even seen them."
Her six dancers, all women, will wear red wooden clogs, known as terompah in Malay. Despite the contemporary subject matter, Noormaya says the work adheres to traditional Malay dance - something Era Dance Theatre considers very important even while embracing contemporary styles.
Says Osman: "What I want to share is the importance of tradition. It grounds us and represents our roots in the earth we stand on."