Pichet Klunchun presents Dancing with Death, the first commissioned work for da:ns series Esplanade.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing Pichet Klunchun on his upcoming production and its creative process as well as learning further from Esplanade’s role as producer of dance in 2016 through the da:ns series.
In conversation with Faith Tan, Producer (Dance Lead) The Esplanade Co Ltd I have learned where this exciting creative relationship originated.
FT: Our relationship with Pichet Klunchun goes back further to 2007 when we presented his duet with Jerome Bel, and in 2010 when we presented him as a featured artist in ConversAsians. For da:ns festival 2011, we contributed to a major milestone in his career by commissioning Black and White, a production which has since toured to Belgium, Japan, and China.
Esplanade is investing in the creation of new dance works through their seasonal programming, with a particular focus on giving support to Asian choreographers that are important voices in the region. ‘ but often don’t have adequate resources to create performances’. Dancing with Death is the first da:ns production by an Asian choreographer where Esplanade has actively gone out to secure a diverse range of co-producers from Japan and Australia to present performances as well as co-financing the production.
Esplanade is an international producer of contemporary dance, establishing an important network of co-productions across the region, bringing new works to Singapore and further afield that stand out from the national landscape of production of contemporary dance choreography.
I became curious about Dancing with Death and Pichet Klunchun. As an avid spectator and maker of contemporary dance, I am particularly interested in understanding traditional forms crossing over into the contemporary dance field. Culture as tradition, as form – the ecology of dance and its creative processes. This week, I interviewed Pichet Klunchun to find out more details about his creative process for Dancing with Death – youtube preview.
EO: Pichet, I understand that Dancing with Death is inspired by the ‘dances, culture and philosophy of a folk festival that celebrates death. On a personal level, how do you imagine death?
PK: There are so many beliefs about death in the world, in my opinion, death encompasses three aspects: rupa – form, nama – name and citta -mind. Death is just a name; death does not exist because citta still remains even though the body no longer lives.
EO: Death has been a subject of inspiration across centuries in the fields of the visual and performing arts, what is your particular angle on the subject?
PK: Death is the only thing that humans can’t win. Humans are willing to pay unlimited amounts of money – giving everything to fight for life or to win death, but still failing. It is the only thing that we can’t see on stage.
However, we might be able to see other kinds of real acts on stage such as hugging, kissing, lovemaking, fighting, torturing, etc, but not killing or seeing people dying. In the present time, when we are talking about equality in life in the fields of politics, education, social status, etc. death is the only common ground on equality because everyone has to die eventually.
EO: The process of distilling knowledge from one artist and to use the latter as the premise for one work is a wonderful experience – I would like to know what happens to those memories and the bits of choreography that didn’t make it to the stage, in essence, what happens to your creative process once the performance is finished?
PK: This question is wonderful and very interesting. It’s the first time for me to get such a question. Those memories are very important and I acknowledge it as teaching/learning curve. It is like a jigsaw that helps to create a perfect picture.
However, the process of creating work lands me into a final destination of a finished product or performance but 70-80% of my memory is taken away in the process of creating work.
EO: What can we expect from this performance at The Esplanade? What are your goals with this particular work, what impact do you expect to have in the audience?
PK: Audiences will get the sense of folk culture; my goal is that the performance will be the reflection of the unstable emotions or feelings – Citta.
These emotions or feelings are subject to change as in Tilakkhana: born, live, die, continually in every moment. Citta is immortal; it is emptiness.
EO: I am curious to understand the aesthetics of the performance and weather its influences come directly from the culture you sourced, or whether the aesthetics are the result of a different line of inquiry.
PK: The aesthetic of this performance are the freedom that is in the heart of the folk culture – distinguishing the individuality of each person.
EO: Last but not least, please let us know what can we expect from your workshop. Will participants be working with you directly and your dancers?
PK: Participants will work with me directly. They will learn how to bridge the classical practice to the contemporary dance practice and how to question the process of body movements in traditional style, in order to be able to unleash themselves from traditional frames.
If you are interested in this workshop, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a short write up on your dance training, why you would like to attend this workshop and your contact details.