Singapore International Festival of Arts

Swinging to an arty start

Whimsical installation Musical Swings is the teaser for this year's Sifa, which promises myriad collaborations

Musical Swings, the teaser for this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts, goes live at Dhoby Ghaut's Cathay Green from May 1. In the line-up: Revisor (top left), choreographed by Crystal Pite; Cold Blood (top), by choreographer Michele Ann
Musical Swings, the teaser for this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts, goes live at Dhoby Ghaut's Cathay Green from May 1.PHOTOS: ARTS HOUSE LIMITED, DAILY TOUS LES JOURS, JULIEN LAMBERT, SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS
Musical Swings, the teaser for this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts, goes live at Dhoby Ghaut's Cathay Green from May 1. In the line-up: Revisor (top left), choreographed by Crystal Pite; Cold Blood (top), by choreographer Michele Ann
In the line-up: Revisor (above), choreographed by Crystal Pite; Cold Blood, by choreographer Michele Anne De Mey and film-maker Jaco Van Dormael; and Buddha Passion, conducted by composer Tan Dun.
Musical Swings, the teaser for this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts, goes live at Dhoby Ghaut's Cathay Green from May 1. In the line-up: Revisor (top left), choreographed by Crystal Pite; Cold Blood (top), by choreographer Michele Ann
In the line-up: Revisor, choreographed by Crystal Pite; Cold Blood (above), by choreographer Michele Anne De Mey and film-maker Jaco Van Dormael; and Buddha Passion, conducted by composer Tan Dun.
Musical Swings, the teaser for this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts, goes live at Dhoby Ghaut's Cathay Green from May 1. In the line-up: Revisor (top left), choreographed by Crystal Pite; Cold Blood (top), by choreographer Michele Ann
In the line-up: Revisor, choreographed by Crystal Pite; Cold Blood, by choreographer Michele Anne De Mey and film-maker Jaco Van Dormael; and Buddha Passion, conducted by composer Tan Dun (above).

Make music by riding as high as you can on a swing.

Musical Swings, a whimsical installation of nine playground favourites by Canadian studio Daily tous les jours that goes live at Dhoby Ghaut's Cathay Green from May 1, will be the teaser for this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa).

The festival proper opens with a blockbuster trio of programmes on May 15. Composer Tan Dun will conduct the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and a 100-strong choir from the Internationale Chorakademie Lubeck in a performance of his new work, Buddha Passion. The ambitious six-act work was inspired by Tan's visit to the famed caves of Dunhuang, China.

In contrast to this large-scale show is Cold Blood, a quirky, intimate multimedia work created by Belgium artists, choreographer Michele Anne De Mey and film-maker Jaco Van Dormael. Three dancers' hands and fingers will cavort through a series of small dioramas as the action is captured and broadcast live via mobile film cameras. Seven stories about death will unfold throughout the evening.

Last but not least is choreographer Crystal Pite's Revisor, a dance-theatre work inspired by Nikolai Gogol's 1823 comedy of errors The Inspector General. Danced by Pite's company Kidd Pivot, Revisor remakes an old story for contemporary resonance.

Tickets for the programme go on sale today. Tickets to four Singapore commissions have been on sale since December. They are The Finger Players' Oiwa - The Ghost Of Yotsuya, Toy Factory Productions' A Dream Under The Southern Bough, The Necessary Stage's The Year Of No Return and Nine Years Theatre's Three Sisters.

This edition is the last festival helmed by director Gaurav Kripalani. The 48-year-old says the programme is the culmination of his three-year term: "The first year was put together in six months. The second year was a learning journey."

This year's programme is built on three pillars which has guided him through his tenure. The first pillar is programming game-changing artists such as Pite. The second is commissioning Singaporean work. Mr Kripalani says: "Giving these companies a three-year horizon allowed them to do productions they wouldn't have been able to do otherwise."

His third pillar is an emphasis on collaborations, such as Nine Years' co-production with the renowned Siti Company.

The festival, founded in 1977 as the Singapore Festival of Arts, has struggled to redefine itself in the past decade as the busy arts scene and entertainment alternatives have competed for audiences.

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS

  • WHERE: Various venues

    WHEN: May 15 to 31, various times

    ADMISSION: From $38

    INFO: www.sifa.sg

Mr Kripalani, who was on the Arts Festival Review Committee convened in 2012/2013 to look at how the festival could reinvent itself, acknowledges that the festival has some ways to go yet, but reiterates that it has made a strong start by implementing some of the committee's original recommendations: building its home base at the Arts House and keeping to a tight time frame.

May will be the calendar month for the festival and, from this year, festival collaterals will sport a cheery yellow, which he hopes will become the event's signature colour.

He says: "It's very important we build this institution. The arts festival opened my horizons and inspired me growing up. Over the last three years, a lot of young people will have had the same experience. That's why Sifa is important - it brings these shows to us.

"Not everyone has the luxury of flying around the world to watch these shows."


Six other shows to catch at Sifa

NO LONGER GAGOK: ROOM 5

Park Minhee Experience up close and personal the spine-tingling warbling that is the traditional Korean song form of gagok. Performer Park Minhee created this intimate experience, during which a small group of 17 audience members will move through five rooms. In three of those rooms, each audience member will encounter a singer one-on-one. Gagok, inscribed as an intangible cultural heritage by Unesco in 2010, is the world's slowest music.

Where: Living Room, Festival House, 1 Old Parliament Lane  When: May 22 to 24, 7.30pm Admission: $25 Info: Go to str.sg/JG6Z


A 24-DECADE HISTORY OF POPULAR MUSIC

Taylor Mac Performance art, drag spectacle, music history, queer theory and social commentary collide in a dazzling collage of blinged-out glamour in American artist Taylor Mac's performance. This 2017 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship has been building his masterpiece, A 24-Decade History Of Popular Music, for years. He will curate a two-hour version of his 24-hour original for Singapore.

Where: KC Arts Centre - Home of SRT, 01-13, 20 Merbau Road When: May 22 & 23, 8pm Admission: $48 Info: Go to str.sg/JG6p


QUEEN BLOOD

Paradox-Sal Seven women dance their life stories in this piece choreographed by Frenchman Ousmane Sy. Set to a heart-throbbing soundtrack of Afro house, this work offers an energetic mash-up of hip-hop dance battles and precision corps de ballet ensemble work. Sy will give a talk about his genre-busting work on May 23.

Where: Performances at Sota Theatre Studio, 1 Zubir Said Drive; talk at Festival House, 1 Old Parliament Lane When: Performances: May 23 and 24, 8pm; talk: May 23, 11am Admission: $38; free for talk Info: Go to str.sg/JG2t


SOURCE X AUDIBLE LANDS

Eric Lee, Migrant Worker Musicians, Otomo Yoshihide and The Observatory Film-maker Eric Lee's documentary about musicians from Singapore's migrant worker community premieres at the festival. The evening will also feature musicians performing an improvisational set alongside renowned Japanese musician Otomo Yoshihide and Singaporean experimental band The Observatory. Source is a film and music series curated by The Observatory.

Where: Play Den, Festival House, 1 Old Parliament Lane When: May 24 & 25, 7pm Admission: $25


100% SINGAPORE

Rimini Protokoll One hundred Singaporeans are set to take the stage in this intriguing grassroots-level production workshopped by Berlin-based performance group Rimini Protokoll. The group invites one local to take part, and that person will recommend another and so on till 100 people are found. These impromptu performers will share opinions and anecdotes and, in the process, paint a cross-sectional portrait of Singapore society.

Where: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive When: May 29, 8pm; and May 30, 3pm Admission: $38 and $58 Info: Go to str.sg/JG6i


ENSEMBLE INTERCONTEMPORAIN

The Wind Quintet French group Ensemble Intercontemporain is considered one of the world's leading contemporary music groups. Its Wind Quintet will be presenting a programme of 20th-century music in this Singapore debut, including Gyorgy Ligeti's Bagatelles and John Cage's Music For Wind Instruments.

Where: Chamber, Festival House, 1 Old Parliament Lane When: May 31, 5pm Admission: $25 Info: Go to str.sg/JG6J

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2020, with the headline 'Swinging to an arty start'. Print Edition | Subscribe