Arts Dance with Me Esplanade Theatre Studio Preview Singapore

Preview: M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival 2021

2021 is significant in many ways for T.H.E Dance Company’s M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival. After being interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, this year’s edition marks a stirring return to live programmes alongside digital ones, as well as being the final edition under M1 Limited’s title donorship towards the Festival since 2014.

Festival Director and Artistic Director of The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company, Kuik Swee Boon shares: “As a Festival, we should be very proud of all that we have accomplished over more than a decade of sheer hard work.”

“From our initial years of supporting local dance companies to championing independent dance artists in the later editions of the Festival, our strong network of connections with international festival partners has allowed us to successfully
promote local dance artists and their creations abroad and to expose our local audiences to award-winning international works. We have come a long way, and my heart is filled with gratitude towards M1 for their unwavering support in standing by the Festival, as well as to everyone who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes.”

“As we continue forging forward, I believe it is also time to look at deepening the general public’s understanding of the art form so that more will fall in love with contemporary dance and the principles and value-systems it propagates,” Swee Boon adds.

“It is also my desire to nurture more up-and-coming local artists to be able to deal with the complexities of hybrid performing art forms, think with a more well-rounded, international perspective as global citizens, and for the Festival to emphasise the importance of cross-border and cross-ethnicity collaborations. I know it will not be easy but I look forward to welcoming any individual, organisation or corporation that identifies with our ethos to come on board and join us as next year’s title donor.”

This year’s festival opens with a series of physical and online classes and workshops, including the signature T.H.E Mid-Year Intensive, learning excerpts from T.H.E’s original repertoire and attend workshops on Kuik Swee Boon’s HollowBody dance methodology. Other highlights of this year’s festival include Scissors Paper Stone, a 3-hour game-based workshop on 19th June by Ruby Jayaseelan, Bani Haykal and Irfan Kasban, where participants embrace their mental states through embodied practices, improvisational jamming and mindfulness. Meanwhile, internationally renowned choreographers Jos Baker (Belgium/UK) and Dimo Kirilov Milev (Netherlands/Bulgaria) will also be conducting Festival classes via Zoom.

T.H.E Dance Company - Bedfellows 2013

On the live show front, T.H.E brings back their inclusive programme Dance at Dusk on from 18th to 20th June (the show will also be live-streamed on 19th and 20th June). Held at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, T.H.E prioritises the accessibility of contemporary dance with this free, family-friendly performance in a wheelchair accessible venue and Singapore Sign Language (SGSL) and live audio description will also be available.

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During the performance, dance artists from T.H.E Second Company will take to the open-air stage as they revisit and perform excerpts from two works, Parallels (2013) by Kuik Swee Boon and This is How We Meet/ Part — Phase 3 (2019) by Marcus Foo (Associate Dance Artist with T.H.E Second Company) that traverse the themes of shared spaces, human connections and celebrate diverseness. In Parallels, they will be joined by Tung Ka Wai, Associate Artist of Access Path Productions.

Featuring a double-bill of work by international choreographers Jos Baker (Belgium/UK) and Dimo Kirilov Milev (Netherlands/Bulgaria), InterBeing will be livestreamed on 25th and 26th June. Choreographed in collaboration with the full-time dance artists of T.H.E Dance Company, who will be performing the works, these cross-border creations were first shown online as works-in-progress in October and November last year, and mark the Company’s first experiment with premiering new works created entirely over Zoom for a live audience, without the choreographers being physically present at any point in the process. Like its title suggests, InterBeing draws inspiration from this digital choreographic process, inviting its audiences to freely reflect on what it means to be in the present and to interdependently co-exist.

Topography of Breath by Pat Toh | Photo by Joe Nair
Pat Toh

At M1 Open Stage, local independent artists are put into the spotlight, with deeply personal movement works. The line up features husband-and-wife duo Wayne Ong and Leia Ang; co-founder of P7:1SMA dance collective Hasyimah Harith who will be making her debut performance post-maternity; former T.H.E Second Company dance artist and alumni of Taipei National University of Arts Tan Sen Cai, in a duet with Reneejo Euriel Villarosa Lascano; and interdisciplinary movement artist Pat Toh.

At Off Stage, audience members may visit T.H.E’s home studio at Goodman Arts Centre to experience an intimate works-in-progress studio sharing of new works by newer choreographers, including Chua Pei Yun and Maybelle Lek, Xenres Kirishima, and Chloe Chua.

Performance photo of Kwon Hyuk. Photo by Company Siga.

Finally, watch as the Esplanade Annexe Studio plays host to unconventional works at Co.Lab.Asians. Kwon Hyuk (South Korea) works with local dance artist Adele Goh on a brand new creation, with dialogues since last year that culminated in an online sharing session, Thinking Afoot. Ruby Jayaseelan presents TERBALEK, produced in collaboration with National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award recipients – sound artist Bani Haykal and production designer Irfan Kasban, digging deep into the mental struggles of our increasingly complex society. Finally, Syimah Sabtu’s H A S E R , first featured as a work-in-progress at Off Stage in 2019, returns to the Festival as a complete work about the duality of meanings which recognises silence in strength.

As a pillar event in the local dance community, the Festival constantly responds to the needs of the Singaporean and regional dance scene. Hence, this year’s Festival will be extended to feature two other platforms, Dance Kopitiam and Grey Space. Organised by local dance practitioners and supported by M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival, this is the second year of Dance Kopitiam, an online Zoom gathering of dance practitioners based in Singapore, a space dedicated for sharing and discussion on pertinent issues surrounding the local dance community.

On the other hand, Grey Space is a new Festival initiative started in preparation for the repositioning of the Festival come 2022. With curatorial direction and artistic facilitation by Anthea Seah, the platform, which takes place over Zoom this year, seeks to act as a meaningful meeting point for selected local and overseas dance artists to discuss ideas and sow seeds for collaborative creations that will eventually be realised physically over the course of three years. It is supported by an international network of performing arts festivals and organisations.

“M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival is a key platform for dance in Singapore that has been committed to supporting the growth of Singapore and Asian dancers and dance-makers. We welcome the Festival back with live performances at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay this year, and are pleased they could continue regional and international interactions and exchanges through new ways despite the challenges amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Esplanade has been a collaborating partner of the Festival since 2011, and we look forward to continuing conversations with T.H.E Dance Company as the Festival moves into its next phase of development,” said Faith Tan, Head of Dance & International Development (Programming) at Esplanade.

Petrina Teoh, Assistant General Manager, CSR and Sustainability, M1 Limited, remarks: “It has been M1’s great privilege to be the title donor of the M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival for a decade, contributing to our local arts scene, and to grow its quality, diversity and depth from strength to strength. This year, we are proud to present a series of workshops, performances and exchanges, even despite the many challenges Covid-19 has posed. We remain excited to see what springs forth from future iterations of CONTACT Festival with its showcase of high quality, culturally diverse and thought-provoking performances, in the years to come.”

M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival 2021 runs from 5th June to 4th July across various venues. Tickets and more information available here

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