In a world where our body no long feels like our own, it is perhaps most liberating of all to watch bodies move onstage, freed and performing that which cannot be expressed by words, breaking past our histories of culture informed by the social norms on race, gender, sexuality, type and age.
For the 14th edition of the Esplanade’s da:ns festival then, the annual dance festival will feature a line-up of exciting dance programmes for both veterans and the uninitiated to the genre, presenting some of the strongest voices in dance as they illuminate and reveal the spaces within self or in relation to others, excavating and exploring them in their movements.
This year’s edition is headlined by three primary programmes for da:ns’ Centrestage segment, showcasing the world’s most inspiring dance productions and renowned artists. In Acosta Danza, acclaimed international ballet superstar Carlos Acosta brings his company for its first ever performance in Singapore. Hailing from an impoverished district of Havana, it is Acosta’s talent and drive that allowed him to become the first Cuban principal dancer of London’s Royal Ballet, and one of the most celebrated dancers in the world. In this mixed bill, Acosta himself will be featured in one of these pieces, as audiences watch these works effortlessly combine both classical and contemporary dance to pay tribute to Cuba, carving the way for more Cubans to perform on international stages.
FULL OUT! places street dance at the forefront of da:ns, in an epic showcase of mind-blowing street dance from Japan, Taiwan and more, from s**t kingz (Japan) to Fabulous Sisters (Japan), IP LOCKERS (Taiwan) and even local crews as they showcase immense creativity and unique choreographies and the sheer power of dance.
Rounding off the Centrestage performances is the Olivier Award nominated Grand Finale by Hofesh Shechter. A spectacularly bold and ambitious piece featuring 10 dancers and a live band of musicians, the work is at once comic, bleak and beautiful, evoking a world at odds with itself, full of anarchic energy and violent comedy. Part gig, part dance, part theatre, and wholly original, witness the tension and tenderness vibrating through a modern tribe searching for hope in crisis amidst a state of chaos.
Under the Shift programme, the Esplanade aims to present thought-provoking works that shift audience notions of dance and choreography. Artists featured in this segment include 70-year-old German dance artist Raimund Hoghe, the former dramaturg of Pina Bausch known to challenge notions of beauty in his intimate, poetic works reflecting on vulnerability and interdependence, history and memory, and absence and complete presence. For da:ns, he will be presenting Pas de Deux.
Filipino dance artist Eisa Jocson, who presented Macho Dancer and Corponomy at da:ns festival 2017, investigates the construction of racial and gender identities and biases in the entertainment industry. In her work Princess, she embodies Disney’s Snow White as a commentary on the Filipino body and economic labour as entertainer or domestic worker, hijacking the physicality and speech of Snow White. They overwrite Disney’s pre-programmed narratives, corrupting this closed world with their foreign bodies, and transpose the Filipino body from the supporting position in the margins to the main role at the centre.
The cross-country creation Forward Shift features Raka Maitra (Singapore), Ming Poon (Singapore/Germany) and Pichet Klunchun (Thailand), as they come together to perform gentle protests that explore the isolation and loneliness experienced in modernity. Raka Maitra and Dharma of The Observatory present What She Said, based off Tamil poetry by AK Ramanujan; Ming Poon presents The Intervention of Loneliness, an extension from his work Dance with Me where he travelled around the world asking strangers on the streets to slow dance with him, and Pichet Klunchun presents No. 60, as he examines the classic Thai dance canon of Theppanom which consists of 59 core poses and movements that all Thai dancers need to master.
In Next Generation, watch performances crafted by the new wave of young dancers, with performers from both local arts institutions LASALLE College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, along with France’s Compagnie Arcosm. In Humans, Slugs, and Other Creatures, LASALLE celebrates the flaws, abilities and subtleties of the body and our ways of moving, while NAFA’s The Third Space reinterprets Homi Bhabha’s theory on hybrid identities is used metaphorically to describe Singapore’s increasingly complex cultural landscape.
Finally, young audience dance specialists Arcosm present Echoa, where two percussionists and two dancers meet onstage, attempting to understand each other with the creative use and jubilant play between both expected and unexpected instruments, while dance emerges in moments of comedy, non-verbal conversation and tenderness to get audiences tapping away in their seats.
Plenty of free to attend performances will also be available to catch over the 11 day festival, ensuring that dance in all its forms remains accessible to all. This October, let the Esplanade’s da:ns festival 2019 feed your inspiration, as you imagine making the impossible, possible.
da:ns festival 2019 runs from 10th to 20th October 2019 at the Esplanade. For full programme and tickets, visit their website here