da:ns festival is perhaps the most exciting festival of the arts calendar in Singapore. Of course, I am a dance aficionado, and I appreciate watching a fringe festival and works-in-progress throughout the year. However, when October finally arrives, I look forward to seeing international dance works that have toured extensively around the world – bringing seasoned and very talented dancers to the main stage of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. I also look forward to witnessing brand new commissions from regional artists unleashing bold and new ways of presenting dance, often followed by successful world tours.
Akram Khan Company returns to Singapore to open da:ns festival with Until the Lions, an adaptation of the book by Karthika Naïr, Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata. Khan uses his signature dance material of Kathak and contemporary dance with live music to tell the tale of Amba ‘a princess abducted on her wedding day and stripped of her honour, who invokes the gods to seek revenge.’ (9 & 10 Oct)
Nederlands Dans Theater 1 (NDT1) comes to Singapore with a remarkable quadruple bill featuring works from a particular favorite choreographer of mine – Crystal Pite. Earlier this Summer I managed to catch a preview of what NDT 1 is bringing at Sadler’s Wells in London. The Statement by Pite is quite a masterpiece. In fact, I have never witnessed a seamless composition of dance and text like this before where the soundtrack, based on the script written by Jonathan Young, creates the gloomy atmosphere for office workers to mastermind a getaway plan in a boardroom, moving around, under and on top of a huge conference room table. The movement lends itself to the text with perfect harmony as the dancers demonstrate the unique technique and curiosity so familiar of NDT1.
Paul Lightfoot (Artistic Director) and Sol León present two dance pieces: Shoot the Moon and Stop Motion. The former is an impressive set of transforming rooms where dancers appear in a film and on stage hanging from the walls in a dark and emotional psycho-drama set to Philip Glass. Marco Goecke will close the evening with the inspiring piece – Woke up Blind (13 & 14 Oct).
In 2015, I had the most intimate but exposing performance experience with Rianto ( I was taken on stage from the audience for a slow dance) in the phenomenal and hugely successful Soft Machine by Choy Ka Fai. In Soft Machine, Rianto practiced the traditional erotic dance of Lengger –investigating both feminine and masculine aspects of a dancer. This year, however, he performs his work MEDIUM – an intense reflection of Rianto the dancer, the artist that doesn’t stop giving incredibly expressive performances on stage an on camera. Revealing the richness of Indonesian traditional dance and music that seems so central to Rianto’s artistic practice. (16 & 17 Oct)
Dance takes many forms, it has expanded in the last centuries from traditional dance, ballet, modern dance and the contemporary dance world where collaboration between different art forms and the support of dramaturges brings out the new ideas, and a new context in which one can watch dance and wonder what else is out there for me to experience?
AH/HA by Lisbeth Gruwez and Voetvolka sits on the most cutting-edge side of da:ns festival, described as a ‘choreographic trip’, I am looking forward to feeling uncomfortable on my seat and to be taken away on a ride of laughter and dance. (19 & 20 Oct)
Daniel Kok and Miho Shimizu present xhe, an immersive installation and durational performance where design meets dance and live music. xhe lasts five hours, but the team at Esplanade recommends that you sit in for at least 90 minutes. (12 & 14 Oct)
Joy by Joshua Monten is a witty and vigorous dance comedy exploring the world of stage combat. Have you ever wonder how one choreographs a stage fight? Why the double-punch follows the high-sidekick? (19 & 20 Oct )
T.H.E Dance Company takes over the outdoor stage of Esplanade with the first full-length commission in Invisible Habitudes by Kuik Swee Boon in celebration of the company’s ten year anniversary.
As always the festival is packed with free performances, masterclasses, and workshops. LASSALE School of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts present the next generation of dancers in two separate bills.
da:ns festival at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay 9-21 October. Tickets and further listings here.
This post is sponsored by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.