Dance In Review

Unity in motion

Small rattan baskets were used effectively as props in The Basket. Just Teddy, based on a book of the same title by children's author Emily Lim, is performed by The Kueh Tutus. Home-grown pioneering Malay arts organisation Sriwana performing zapin.
Home-grown pioneering Malay arts organisation Sriwana performing zapin.PHOTO: PA MESRA, SAGE TAN, SHANIA REGINA
Small rattan baskets were used effectively as props in The Basket. Just Teddy, based on a book of the same title by children's author Emily Lim, is performed by The Kueh Tutus. Home-grown pioneering Malay arts organisation Sriwana performing zapin.
Small rattan baskets were used effectively as props in The Basket.PHOTO: PA MESRA, SAGE TAN, SHANIA REGINA
Small rattan baskets were used effectively as props in The Basket. Just Teddy, based on a book of the same title by children's author Emily Lim, is performed by The Kueh Tutus. Home-grown pioneering Malay arts organisation Sriwana performing zapin.
Just Teddy, based on a book of the same title by children's author Emily Lim, is performed by The Kueh Tutus. PHOTO: PA MESRA, SAGE TAN, SHANIA REGINA

A centuries-old dance form brings together Malay communities across South-east Asia

MESRA BERZAPIN GALA SHOWCASE

Sriwana (Main presenter)

Our Tampines Hub/Feb 15

Zapin is a syncretised Malay-Arab music/dance genre first introduced to the Malays of the region as early as the 14th century. The folk form has become a genre that has brought together Malay communities across South-east Asia.

The dance showcase was led by one of Singapore's pioneering Malay arts organisations, Sriwana, established in 1955. The first segment traced zapin's origins as a village form with movements inspired by fishermen and farmers in paddy fields.

Later, it progressed to show how the golden era of Malay language films in the 1950s became the main source of artistic inspiration with grainy excerpts of these films projected in the background alongside the performances. This segment was helmed by Sriwana and Malaysia's Yayasan Warisan Johor, which promotes zapin in Malaysia.

In the second segment of the show organised by the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Council (Mesra) and Tampines Central Community Club, other local groups showcased their unique takes on zapin.

The plethora of works showed how a centuries-old form has developed dynamically within the region, in particular the south of the peninsula.

Notable moments included special appearances by Azmi Juhari of Azpirasi Dance Group and Norlie Ismail of Kirana Seni, who demonstrated that age was not a barrier for veteran dancers.

The finale performance brought together the local groups to create a joint item titled Zapin Temasek, which acknowledged communality and commonality that attempt to bind rather than divide.


Exploring the ideas of holding and caring

THE BASKET

Rolypoly Family

Ground-Up Initiative

Last Saturday The Basket is a dance theatre performance inspired by local children's writer Quek Hong Shin's book The Incredible Basket and created for children aged four to eight.

Rather than retell Quek's story on stage, director Faye Lim focused on ideas of holding and caring.

These ideas were explored by the two performers through movement and the relationship between the two bodies.

Small rattan baskets were used effectively as props, which were also fun for the children to play with.

Near the start, Felicia Lim and Cheryl Ong played at balancing the small baskets using different parts of their bodies.

They looked at what items a basket could hold, using their body movements to portray the varying weights and textures of the different items, from feathers and water to apple and stones.

Their movements inspired some of the children to chime in with suggestions.

A small conflict broke out in the middle of the piece, when Ong, annoyed by Lim's taunting actions, started to sulk. Lim proceeded to comfort her and make up - perhaps introducing the idea of holding space for each other.

Despite the wet weather, which required that the performance move to a sheltered location instead of the original open-air venue, Lim and Ong took to the new space with confidence.

Their movements were assured and clear, which made it engaging to watch. Their welcoming manner also enabled ideas to be communicated to their young audience without being didactic.

A key strength of this performance was the venue - Ground-Up Initiative - a non-profit organisation focused on cultivating a sense of rootedness and care among people in Singapore.

The space and the performance aligned in their philosophies of care and the airy, green space contributed to the sense of openness.

Unlike a conventional theatre, the environment provided space for the children to run and play before and after the show.

Jocelyn Chng


Captivating children

JUST TEDDY; FOLD, CRINKLE, ROLL

The Kueh Tutus

The Artground

Feb 22

The Kueh Tutus, led by choreographer Melissa Quek, is among a handful of arts groups in Singapore focusing solely on young audiences.

Since 2017, the group has regularly performed various works at The Artground, an arts space for children located at Goodman Arts Centre.

Just Teddy, for children aged two to four, is based on a book of the same title by children's author Emily Lim.

It tells the tale of a teddy bear who feels alone in a shop with other stuffed animals. He is later discovered by a girl who loves him just as he is.

Two performers took on the roles of Teddy and the other characters, using movement to bring to life the various animal characters.

The audience was encouraged to join in at the end and it was nice to see most of the children needed little coaxing to get moving.

Fold, Crinkle, Roll, for those aged three to eight, is a whimsical piece encouraging play and discovery, perhaps especially needed in Singapore, where childhood can be dominated by rules, stress and anxiety rather than free play.

Music and sound were used effectively to capture the attention of the audience and signal changes in mood, as were the performers' movements as they played with and manipulated objects made of paper.

The whimsical mood was supported by the performers' light running movements and playful facial expressions as they interacted with each other.

It was heartwarming to see the audiences of both shows, many of whom were four years old, were captivated.

Jocelyn Chng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2020, with the headline 'Unity in motion'. Print Edition | Subscribe