Dance Review: Noted With Thanks (DiverCity 2014) is an insight into a foreign world

Several weeks ago, the winners of the first Migrant Workers Poetry Competition- held among Bangladeshi workers here - were announced. That story quickly went viral, with thousands of shares on social media and a flurry of congratulatory comments posted online.

On Thursday, in a quiet black box theatre at the National Museum of Singapore, there were more migrants creating art. Their creation may not have had the lure of a foreign language or the magnetic draw of an unknown life, but their work was no less remarkable.

These foreigners live in Clementi, in Tampines, in Sembawang. They have local boyfriends. Their creation would not be a window into another way of life, but another perspective into my own, as a born-and-bred Singaporean.

Noted With Thanks, the opening act of the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival, was created by a quartet of four foreign female dancers who moved to Singapore between three and 12 years ago.

The economically titled work is the sum of each of their experiences in Singapore, and in picking out the best and worst of their lives here, they have also held up a mirror to us.

This is much more focused offering than last year's DiverCity, which was a hodgepodge showcase of works from different contemporary dance companies. This time round, the production is well thought-out, relevant and also deeply personal.

The evening began with the quartet taking to the stage in an ensemble, but it was during each personal segment which followed that the dancers shone.

Sheriden Newman's segment (27. Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. Date of Entry: February 2011) began with a soundtrack of nonsense syllables - Kee. Tah. Day. Da. - probably what Mandarin would sound like to a non-speaker.

Newman, a dancer with Maya Dance Theatre who is trained in the classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, then executed choreography which was a beautiful blend of her classical and contemporary training, among floating sheets of A4 paper. In this paper-chasing culture though, paper is never just paper - it might be a degree, a certificate of entitlement, a titled deed.

Her section segued into Yarra Ileto's segment (32. Canberra, Australia. Date of Entry: July 2002). Ileto, a dancer with T.H.E Dance Company, started with: "I'm definitely more Asian than she is. Locals think I'm local all the time." Newman fired back: "I even have a local boyfriend." In strong local accents (sorry Yarra, but Sheri's Singlish accent is more convincing), they rattle off a list of local friends, a barrage of CMIO names - embarrassingly, probably more friends of other races than I have. Sitting in the audience and watching them battle it out, I am slightly embarrassed that they are, in some ways, more Singaporean than me.

Jessica Christina's (26. Jakarta, Indonesia. Date of Entry: August 2007) and Wang Wei Wei's (25. Guangdong, China. Date of Entry: July 2007) segments were a lot more sombre and seemed to dealwith the struggles of being alone in an unfamiliar environment with no safety net of family and culture.

Although the show was an hour long, overall, at the end of it, I felt like I had just begun to scrape the surface of their world, before being thrown out of it again. There is potential for future collaborations among the quartet, to explore his topic further.

Noted With Thanks (DiverCity 2014)

Where: National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre

When: Nov 28, 8pm

Admission: $32 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

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