Swansongs and cross-cultural riches at the Esplanade's da:ns festival

The 10th edition of da:ns festival celebrates onstage cultural collaboration as well as dance veterans

Sylvie Guillem (right) and Emanuela Montanari in a pas de deux from Sylvie Guillem - Life In Progress.
Sylvie Guillem (right) and Emanuela Montanari in a pas de deux from Sylvie Guillem - Life In Progress.PHOTO: BILL COOPER

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Esplanade's annual da:ns festival, which showcases the best of dance across forms and genres.

This edition of the popular festival is, in part, a celebration of two or more cultures on one stage, with headliners such as British kathak dancer Akram Khan and Spanish flamenco artist Israel Galvan bringing together dance forms that both clash and embrace.

Singapore artist Choy Ka Fai is also working with dance artists from four other Asian countries to present an interdisciplinary performance series, after years of research into Asian dancers and dance-making.


At the same time, the festival puts the spotlight on stage veterans, some of whom are in a reflective mood - ballet darling Sylvie Guillem says her goodbye through Life In Progress and four of Singapore's veteran dancers reflect on their dance careers in Above 40, which is sold out.

Esplanade producer Faith Tan notes that the festival has enabled the creation of 23 new dance productions over the years and that the 10th edition reflects the arts centre's "long-term relationships with artists... we wanted to invite them to return and celebrate this special occasion with us".

Many of the artists, including Guillem, Khan and Choy, have been featured at da:ns before, and Ms Tan feels that such repeated exposure has helped nurture an appreciative audience for the festival.

She explains: "In many ways, the programming of da:ns festival has been about 'introducing'. There isn't a long history of dance knowledge and appreciation among most of our audiences, so there is a need to continually introduce audiences to a wide range of great dance artists, iconic productions and artistic styles."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Clash and mesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe