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Preview: M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival 2020

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After a record high of close to 9,000 festival-goers at its 10th edition last year, T.H.E Dance Company is back to present the 2020 M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival from 6th to 28th June 2020.

Presented in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, the festival returns to begin a new decade of contemporary dance with 15 shows, 28 classes, 4 workshops and 1 summer intensive. Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, Festival Director and Artistic Director of T.H.E Dance Company, Kuik Swee Boon, has carefully considered the move to proceed with the festival.

Abstinent by Nobuyoshi Asai. Photo Credit: Higaki Kozumi

“Just like global warming, environmental pollution and other global social and political crises, the viral epidemic is yet another predicament and calamity in human history where we directly experience the fragility of life,” says Swee Boon. “It further compels us to reflect on cultural hegemony that governs the relationship between humans and nature, human to human or even amongst organisations and countries. In this situation, we are also reminded to live without regrets, practise resilience and cherish every opportunity to share a dance with our loved ones and everyone around us. In some ways, it gives enlightenment; to waste no time executing what is important to us, and the things we believe in. For us, this is dance.”

Landing Party by Goblin Party. Photo Credit: Cheung Chi Wai

In a bid to give an all-rounded experience of what each artist has to offer, the Festival kicks off with classes and workshops from 6th June. This year’s classes and workshops, alongside a five-day T.H.E summer intensive, have been curated as complementary programmes for featured Festival artists to not just teach techniques or skills, but to share the core of the creative processes behind their performances.

The Crossing. Photo Credit: Kate Holmes

For the very first time, there will be a Butoh workshop, as well as a workshop that welcomes participants who are persons with disabilities. Led by The Farm’s Gavin Webber and Kayah Guenther from Australia, this inclusive workshop thoroughly investigates the reasons behind why one dances. Guenther, who is a young dancer with Down Syndrome, will also be performing The Crossing together with Webber at this year’s Dance at Dusk, a free outdoor programme staged at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre from 26th to 28th June. The programme also includes an excerpt of T.H.E’s signature work, Silences We Are Familiar With.

In the same vein, five young choreographers are not spared the challenge to reveal their innermost thoughts about their new creations as they vulnerably share their works-in-progress at Off Stage, held on 15th and 16th June at T.H.E Dance Company’s premises. In this intimate studio sharing, human-to-human connection is prioritised and the audience is invited to stay behind for a facilitated conversation to respond to each work. Dialogues in the previous runs of this platform have lasted from 45 minutes to more than an hour. This year’s choreographers include Indonesian dance artist Puri Senja, as well as Singapore’s Chua Pei Yun, Maybelle Lek, Xenres Kirishima Chi Hong, Chloe Chua and T.H.E’s main company artist Nah Jieying.

Remaking Bach. Photo Credit: Serena Nicoletti

The world premiere of Remaking Bach by 30-year-old Italian dance company Compagnia Zappalà Danza will be opening this year’s lineup of shows as it hits the stage at the Esplanade Theatre Studio for two nights on 9 and 10 June, before heading to Hong Kong, Slovenia and back to Italy for its series of performances. Organised as an exchange with T.H.E Dance Company (that will be performing in Italy come February 2021), Remaking Bach presents an hour-long masterpiece created by Artistic Director Roberto Zappalà to the familiar music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Zappalà will also be sharing his unique language, MoDem (his short-form of “democratic movement”) through a 3-hour workshop, and giving a pre-show talk on 10th June.

H A S E R by Syimah Sabtu. Photo Credit: Kuang Jingkai

On 11th and 12th June, local artists will be at the forefront of Co.Lab.Asians. Held at the Esplanade Annexe Studio this year, audience can expect a radical transformation of the experimental space. The triple bill includes an intriguing cross-disciplinary collaboration that explores mental impairment as a physical score, helmed by Ruby Jayaseelan and joined by multi-talented production designer Irfan Kasban and award-winning sound artist Bani Haykal, who will incidentally be featured thrice in this year’s Festival. Adele Goh, talent-spotted by Seoul International Dance Festival’s director after last year’s premiere of her solo, Disappearing Act, returns to co-create a new duet with Korean artist Kwon Hyuk, while Syimah Sabtu presents a developed version of H A S E R, a quartet performance developed from a work-in-progress trio showcase last year and drew attention for its exceptionally creative use of space.

Topography of Breath by Pat Toh. Photo Credit: Joe Nair

Other local artists include husband-and-wife duo, Wayne Ong and Leia Ang; performance-maker, Pat Toh; co-founder and current company manager of P7:1SMA, Hasyimah Harith; as well as former T.H.E Second Company artist Tan Sen Cai. These homegrown artists will be featured on the same stage as various international artists in this year’s M1 Open Stage, over three different programmes on 13 and 14 June at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. The programme also includes performances by two overseas Festival directors – director of Fang Mae Khong International Dance Festival in Laos, Olé Khamchanla, as well as director of Japan’s New: Kogane Asian Dance Festival and former Sankai Juku dancer, Nobuyoshi Asai.

Lazarus Parable Movement by Wayne Ong and Leia Ang. 

Rydwan Anwar, Assistant Head, Theatre, The Esplanade Co Ltd, remarks: “We are excited that the 11th edition of M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival continues to create opportunities for the Singapore dance community to learn from and interact with their regional and international counterparts. As an arts centre with a social mission, Esplanade is heartened to support the festival’s new inclusive initiatives that allow more people to encounter dance. As it evolves and moves into a new decade, we continue to share the festival’s commitment to supporting Singapore and Asian dance-makers, and we are also very proud to see that the festival has grown its partnerships with key dance platforms that enable Singapore works to be presented overseas.”

“M1 is delighted to present the 11th edition of the M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival. With over 40 shows, workshops and classes, this year’s festival promises to offer an all-rounded experience to festival-goers. Besides teaching techniques and skills, a five-day summer intensive programme will also see artists sharing insights of the creative processes behind their performances. As part of our efforts to build an inclusive environment, this year’s festival also includes an inaugural workshop for persons with disabilities to participate. We are heartened to see the growth and recognition that this festival has garnered over the years with T.H.E’s Artistic Director, Swee Boon, and his team’s hard work, dedication and perseverance,” said Petrina Teoh, Assistant General Manager, CSR and Sustainability, M1 Limited.

The M1 Contact Dance Festival 2020 runs from 6th to 28th June 2020 across various venues. Full programme and tickets available from their website here

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