Preview: da:ns Festival 2017 by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

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The Esplanade’s 12th da:ns Festival makes a return this month with a whole new programme of some of the very best dance performances from both the international dance scene, and here in Singapore. A grand total of seven ticketed productions will be available to catch this time round, including two festival commissions by Choy Ka Fai and Eisa Jocson. In addition, audiences can also take part in over 70 workshops and masterclasses, as well as over 70 free performances and activities. Check out some of our top picks below!

Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake by The Dance Factory

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Photo Credit: John Hogg

South African dancer-choreographer Dada Masilo will open this year’s festival with her celebrated take on Swan Lake, overturning classic notions of the ‘perfect’ ballet body to instead embrace new and different body types, fusing ballet, contemporary and African dance moves into a completely new production. Swans are played by both men and women, while feet will be stomped and hips will be swayed in between arabesques set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score. Masilo herself will be playing the role of the fiery Odette, and this version of Swan Lake is noisy, humorous and earthly, bringing a spirited, modern take on prejudice and freedom that will surely have audience members in both stitches and tears.

Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake plays on 20th and 21st October at the Esplanade Theatre. Tickets available here

Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project by L.A. Dance Project

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Photo Credit: Laurent Philippe

We first heard of Benjamin Millepied after watching Darren Arronofsky’s film Black Swan, in which he choreographed the dance sequences and also appeared as a dancer. The performance will consist of a set of four contemporary works performed by the L.A. Dance Project from the USA, ranging from a tribute piece to modern American dance icon Martha Graham, to New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck’s Murder Ballades, inspired of course, by American murder ballads with their cheery exterior and sinister undercurrent.

Millepied himself has choreographed two works for the performance, both set to music by leading contemporary composer Philip Glass. The first Closer, set to Glass’s rhapsodic piano score Mad Rush, while the second is titled Hearts & Arrows, set to Glass’s sublime String Quartet No. 3 (Mishima). Both pieces promise to showcase the dancers moving in fascinating asymmetrical and contrapuntal patterns, telling the stories of tiny narratives and histories as the dancers surge in and out of groups.

Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project plays at the Esplanade Theatre on 24th and 25th October. Tickets available here

Rocio Molina’s Bosque Ardora by Rocío Molina with Eduardo Guerrero and Fernando Jiménez

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Photo Credit: Alain Scherer

The fearless Spanish choreographer-dancer Rocío Molina has an enduring story attached to her: legendary Soviet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov himself knelt before her in homage in her own dressing room before she hit the age of 30. At da:ns this year, she presents Bosque Ardora (Forest Worship), transporting audience members to a strange forest where sexual energy is rampant and dangerous games are underfoot. Hunt or be hunted – Molina becomes a force of nature itself, metamorphosing over the performance from Greek goddess of the hunt Artemis to a sex kitten in a boyfriend shirt and stilettos, as two male dancers and a band of musicians support her esoteric performance. Reality and fantasy become blurred, as do past and present, and this unique performance becomes an event in and of itself, merging Molina’s classic flamenco roots with contemporary influences from cinema, literature and philosophy.

Rocio Molina’s Bosque Ardora plays at the Esplanade Theatre on 27th and 28th October. Tickets available here

Dance Clinic by Choy Ka Fai

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Photo Credit: Katja Illnes

In addition, there will also be two new commissioned works for da:ns, featuring artists from Singapore and the Philippines, as part of the festival’s Shift platform. Having previously presented at da:ns festival 2015, Berlin-based Singaporean performance maker Choy Ka Fai returns this year with Dance Clinic. Collaborating with tanzhaus nrw in Dusseldorf, Dance Clinic takes the form of a lecture-demonstration where “dance doctor” Choy will attempt to use his newfangled technology to treat the choreographic problrms in his “patients” Austrian-Dutch theatre practitioner Florentina Holzinger and West Papuan dancemaker Darlane Litaay.

Dance Clinic plays at the Esplanade Theatre Studio on 20th and 21st October. Tickets available here

Macho Dancer and Corponomy by Elsa Jocson

Image 1 Photo credit Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker
Photo Credit: Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker

Meanwhile, Philippines based dancer Elsa Jocson will be returning to present a double bill at this year’s festival – Macho Dancer, in which Jocson performs a gender-bending “macho dance”, traditionally performed by young men in Filipino nightclubs, and the festival commission Corponomy – a performance lecture where audiences will be treated to a recap of Jocson’s work  exploring gender, politics and power over the last nine years, from an exploration of women in pole dancing, to the mysterious world of “Japanyuki”, where foreign entertainers hired to perform for the pleasure of salary-men in clubs through Japan.

Macho Dancer and Corponomy play at the Esplanade Theatre Studio on 27th and 28th October. Tickets available here

Condanced Histories by Neopost Foofwa

Photo Credit Gregory Batardon (3)
Photo Credit: Gregory Batardon

For the first time at da:ns, there will even be a performance perfect for families. The one night only Condanced Histories by Neopost Foofwa is a humorous and insightful one-man performance lecture will condense 100 years of western dance into two hours. Watch as the Swiss dancer, who has worked with both the Stuttgart Ballet and Merce Cunningham Dance Company, introducing and decoding the techniques behind these famous choreographers, transforming with each costume change, handily packed into a single suitcase.

Condanced Histories plays at the Esplanade Recital Studio on 26th October. Tickets available here

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Photo Credit: Jack Yam

Besides the above performances, the da:ns festival will also be showcasing young emerging talent from LASALLE and NAFA in a performance entitled The Next Generation, consisting of short dance pieces choreographed by both local and international choreographers, along with free showcases of international and regional dance performances at the Esplanade Concourse and Outdoor Theatre. Plenty of peripheral activities are also available for audiences from all walks of life and intent, from fun and interactive dance workshops, to intimate chats with local artists and choreographers at Coffee Chats, including RAW Moves’ Ricky Sim and multi-medium Life! Theatre Award winning artist Edith Podesta (tickets to this include a slice of cake and coffee too!)

Chowk_Pallavi_106_Photo Credit Berne Ng
Photo Credit: Bernie Ng

Whether it’s impeccably choreographed classics or boundary breaking contemporary pieces, the largest dance festival in Singapore is sure to have something for each and every audience member. There’s no better place to fall in love with dance than at da:ns; take your pick (or picks) of your favourites this October, and celebrate the undeniable beauty and innovation that surrounds this incredible art form.

Photos Courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

The da:ns Festival runs from 20th – 29th October at various locations around the Esplanade. For the full listings, check out the website here

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