Death-defying acrobatics at Singapore River Festival this weekend

The Singapore River Festival and River Nights will feature art, performances and workshops

Performances choreographed by Spanish troupe La Fura dels Baus (left) and Les Voyageurs by French artist Cedric Le Borgne (above) are some of the highlights.
Performances choreographed by Spanish troupe La Fura dels Baus and Les Voyageurs by French artist Cedric Le Borgne (above) are some of the highlights.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG, ONG WEE JIN

A human net goes up over the Singapore River tonight.

Forty-two volunteers will be attached to a giant net suspended 30m in the air, in the Clarke Quay area, at 8 and 10pm tonight (Oct 23) and tomorrow.

Choreographed by Spanish performance troupe La Fura dels Baus, the Human Net act is a highlight of the Singapore River Festival 2015, on until Sunday.

Early childhood teacher Farhana Dewi Dawood is among the brave non-professionals who have signed up to dangle from an extreme- looking contraption.

Her reason? It was a "once-in-a- lifetime opportunity". She signed up after a casting call went out online and in the media in August. Daily rehearsals began on Sunday, and are held late each night from 9pm to 1am.

Performances choreographed by Spanish troupe La Fura dels Baus (above) and Les Voyageurs by French artist Cedric Le Borgne are some of the highlights. ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG, ONG WEE JIN

Calling the experience "a lot of fun" so far, Ms Farhana, 25, adds: "It's an indescribable feeling to be lifted up so high."

Says Mr Pera Tantina, one of La Fura dels Baus' creative directors: "We just brought the props. The energy and life comes from the participants."



    WHERE: Various locations at Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay

    WHEN: Till Sunday. Some programmes run till Nov 1

    ADMISSION: Mostly free. A nominal fee for some workshops


Apart from the Human Net, there are seven other acts, including one that features a giant hamster wheel suspended in mid-air. Only three out of the total cast of 56 are Spanish, while the rest are either Singaporeans or Singapore-based.

The Spanish group has been working closely with the festival's creative team since last November to create a visual spectacle to celebrate how Singapore has evolved around its iconic river.

The festival is organised for the first time by Singapore River One (SRO), a non-profit, private sector- led organisation that aims to increase footfall in the Singapore River precinct.

Previously, a festival with the same name organised by the Singapore Tourism Board had run from 2008 to 2010. The two festivals are not related.

The festival aims to reconnect locals and visitors to the significance of the Singapore River through a plethora of activities around Clarke Quay, Boat Quay and Robertson Quay.

Besides the death-defying acrobatics of La Fura dels Baus, there will be musical performances, an outdoor art exhibition in the back alleys of Circular Road, Lorong Telok and North Canal Road, and a riverside makers market.

Fringe events include workshops teaching acroyoga (a blend of acrobatics and yoga) and parkour, as well as complimentary river boat rides for the Pioneer Generation. Most activities are free or cost a nominal fee.

A highlight of the festival is River Stories, which pays homage to the olden-day street performers along the river who entertained migrants. The programme will feature puppet theatre, Chinese opera, dance, storytelling sessions and a modern interpretation of the mobile cinema of yore.

The festival's creative director Stan Lee says the organisers hope to fete forgotten trades and activities around the river.

Adds Mr Lee, who is also co-founder of experiential marketing agency Muse Inc: "The Singapore River was once a busy trading post.

"So we wanted to focus on the stories that people might have forgotten or not known about that are still culturally relevant today."

Held in conjunction with the festival is River Nights 2015, organised by the Asian Civilisations Museum, with the National Arts Council, National Parks Board, SRO and luxury brand Hermes. The extravaganza is envisioned as "a creative playground for both artists and visitors," says its co-director, Dr Lim Chye Hong.

The museum's facade will be dressed up in an explosion of colours each evening, from tonight until Oct 31, in a light show by French artist Yves Moreaux inspired by the museum's collection. Empress Lawn, in front of the museum, will also host theatre, music and dance performances.

At the river promenade, visitors can play with an interactive light and sound installation by French brothers Pierre and Joel Rodiere from creative agency Trafik. Named 160, it comprises 160 light bars covering an area of over 50m.

Regular Clarke Quay patron Aasha Khaira, 28, is intrigued by the riverside festivities and the Human Net.

Says the teacher: "I'm especially looking forward to the performances by La Fura dels Baus. I have never seen anything like that before and it's even cooler that it's happening over the Singapore River."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline 'Fun by the river'. Subscribe