Putting the audience on display

A dance production blurs the lines between who is watching and who is being watched

In most dance performances, the audience does the watching.

A new production by contemporary dance company Raw Moves will turn the tables on this traditional format.

During some parts of On Display, the four dancers in the show will turn their attention to the audience, to "draw awareness to the audience about how they behave in a public setting", says Chiew Peishan, one of the company dancers who choreographed the three-hour durational piece.

Watching and being watched are an important part of On Display, which examines the idea of "performance", albeit not quite in terms of putting on a show.

Chiew, 34, says: "I was reflecting on my behaviour as a human and my need to perform to get by in public - by watching my words, for example."

To further blur the lines between who is watching and who is being watched, On Display features a lot of audience interaction. At times, the dancers might even come close to the audience.


  • WHERE: Goodman Arts Centre, 90 Goodman Road, Block O, Multi-purpose studios 1 and 2

    WHEN: 1 and 7pm (Friday and Saturday), 1pm (Sunday)

    ADMISSION: $20 (tickets allow multiple entries on all three days and re-entries during performances). Go to ondisplay.peatix.com.

    INFO: www.facebook.com/rawmoves.sg

On Display will be performed from Friday to Sunday at the multi- purpose studios at Block O, the repurposed container units at Goodman Arts Centre. Tickets cost $20 each.

The show is part of Raw Moves' Run Another Way platform, which explores collaborative works with non-dance practitioners in non- conventional settings.

For On Display, Chiew is collaborating with photographer and film-maker Caleb Ming, 38.

"I've always wanted to do something other than photography," says Ming, who has been practising photography since 1992. This is the first time he is doing a collaboration of this sort.

"As a photographer, my work is always on display. But I am always never at the exhibitions themselves."

During the show, Ming will be visible to the audience as he moves around the studio to film the dancers. The footage will be screened during the show.

This makes him one of the performers as well, although he gives a cheeky caveat: "I cannot guarantee my movements will be beautiful."

In creating the piece, Chiew and Ming discussed issues of objectification and their personal experiences related to those themes. They discovered that their two creative fields shared similarities.

"Photography is valued for its ephemeral quality and dance is similar," says Chiew.

Ming had talked about French photographer Henri Cartier- Bresson's concept of "the decisive moment" or that split-second when an iconic photo is taken.

The two of them then discussed how this concept could be achieved in the context of a performance.

On Display is Raw Moves' first durational work.

The decision to make the work three hours long was to "allow the audience and the performers time to take in what they see and reflect", says Dr Nidya Shantini Manokara, 31, the dramaturg of the work.

Audience members can leave at any point during the show. Their tickets allow them re-entry during the show or even on another date.

Chiew hopes that if people do leave mid-show because they feel uncomfortable or vulnerable, that they try to examine how the performance made them feel and why they decided to leave.

Says company manager Ebelle Chong, 40: "It's a test of patience and endurance for the audience for the first time. It's something new and something different. I hope the audience will come prepared to participate and to be challenged."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2016, with the headline 'Putting the audience on display'. Print Edition | Subscribe