Identity and immigration laid bare

T.H.E Dance Company is taking Invisible Habitudes on a five-city European tour next month and in July.
T.H.E Dance Company is taking Invisible Habitudes on a five-city European tour next month and in July.PHOTO: BERNIE NG/ ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

Six dancers contort their bodies, thump their hands and feet on the ground in unison and take turns to climb and dance on two 150kg metal structures fitted with ladder rungs and reflective boards.

Titled Invisible Habitudes, the 60-minute performance is staged by T.H.E (The Human Expression) Dance Company and was commissioned by the Esplanade for last year's da:ns festival.

T.H.E will be taking the production abroad for the first time on a five-city European tour, performing at festivals in countries such as Italy, Poland and Latvia, over next month and July.

The company will also hold one performance at its dance studio at Goodman Arts Centre on May 17.

T.H.E artistic director and principal choreographer Kuik Swee Boon, 46, says the work explores three themes - personal identity and belief, the culture of authority and gender equality.

His identity as a long-time resident of Singapore holding a Malaysian passport partially inspired the work.

Although he has been living here since he was 17 years old, people sometimes still draw a distinction when he tells them that he is Malaysian, says Kuik.


  • WHERE: T.H.E Dance Studio, 01-54, Block M, Goodman Arts Centre, 90 Goodman Road

    WHEN: May 17, 8 to 9.30pm

    ADMISSION: Donation at the door


"Does that mean I'm not allowed to like Singapore? People around me, especially here, often define people by their nationality, race or gender."

Kuik says this is the kind of topic that he is trying to discuss with Invisible Habitudes, adding that it is relevant internationally.

Tour coordinator and touring manager Giulia Poli, 34, agrees that the issues of identity and immigration will resonate with European audiences.

"It may not be from the same perspective as the Asian one, but we can still relate to the idea of being a foreigner in your own country," Ms Poli, who is Italian, adds.

"It will be important for audiences to see that the problems they are facing in their own country are the same in a completely opposite part of the world."

Dance artist Anthea Seah, 29, who will be part of the touring cast, is excited to revisit the dance with a fresh perspective after performing it at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre during the da:ns festival last October.

"We're looking forward to challenging ourselves with new countries and audiences," she adds.

For Kuik, the European tour is an opportunity to get feedback from overseas audiences and critics, which he says will influence how he leads the company in the future.

T.H.E celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.

He adds: "To have this tour is also an acknowledgement of the hard work we've put in for the past 10 years."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2019, with the headline 'Identity and immigration laid bare'. Print Edition | Subscribe