Now in its 12th edition, the cont·act Contemporary Dance Festival returns this year to present new ways of making, performing and experiencing dance. Presented by The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company, this will be the Festival’s first edition after the conclusion of title donor M1 Limited’s support since 2014. With its newly stylised name of “cont·act” – meaning “continued act” – the Festival renews its commitment towards contributing to the local contemporary dance landscape, and bridging experiences, perspectives and people through dance.
“I am proud to present the 12th edition of the Festival this year, with a refreshed Festival name: cont·act Contemporary Dance Festival. Woven into the new Festival name is a sense of persistence through time, an enduring commitment towards creating opportunities for making, performing and experiencing dance, and supporting our community of dance professionals and enthusiasts alike,” says Festival Director and founding Artistic Director of The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company Kuik Swee Boon.
The festival begins with the debut of their sister platform, Stre@m – An Asian Digital Dance Platform, presented in partnership with Seoul International Dance Festival (SIDance). Stre@m launched on 11th March 2022, and runs for a year as a video-on-demand platform that features a curated selection of dance films and digitised performances from Singapore, Southeast Asia and South Korea. In turn, the programmes for cont·act 2022: Breathing Ground are slated for completely live presentations as an ode to the shifting ways of making and performing dance, as more digital and hybrid formats come into play.
This year’s festival theme, “Breathing Ground” serves to hold space for respite, reflection and reconnections to transpire. The 2022 lineup then is an invitation to explore and experience the open and versatile nature of contemporary dance through programmes that present unique, creative approaches towards embodiment and performance. Holding steadfast to its purpose of nurturing the next generation of artists and arts leaders, this year’s Festival sees a heightened emphasis on process-oriented platforms, and the invitation of young creatives to the organisational and curatorial process.
“Embarking on the next chapter of our journey, I want for the Festival to build collaborations and connections that transcend borders and ethnicity, and to continue nurturing the emerging generation of artists and arts leaders to develop more well-rounded perspectives as global citizens and critical thinkers,” says Kuik. “I believe that the principles and value systems that contemporary dance propagate help build mindsets and attitudes crucial for a future so unpredictable, and I welcome any individual, organisation or corporation that resonates with our ethos to come on board and lend us your support.”
Co-curated by Kuik and Chew Shaw En, the festival’s main line-up of live performances begins in June, kicking off with Open Stage. Interdisciplinary artists art naming (Taiwan) and Caroline Chin (Singapore) engage in a duet exploring the temporality and preciousness of new connections in i have nothing to do with explosions, while the respective solos in Limbo by Chloe Chua (Singapore/USA) and The Other Half by Puri Senja (Indonesia) position the body as points of departure and return, familiar safety and trauma.
As movement practitioners, in Standard Practice, Eng Kai Er (Singapore/Germany) ruminates on the notion of practice that has pervaded, and still pervades, life and society, while in Soliloquy in Sweat, Katrina Bastian (New Zealand) confronts the exploitation of the dancer’s practice and labour. In There was no room for food, Seo Jeong Bin (South Korea) finds Man at the mercy of the environment; in ORGARHYTHM, Kenji Shinohe (Japan/Germany) contemplates the possibility of technology eclipsing the need for our bodily presences.
Also curated by Chew Shaw En is Off Stage, an intimate works-in-progress studio sharing where artists can test their budding ideas on a small audience, who in turn are invited to engage in the choreographic dialogue with the artists. This year’s rendition reorients the platform with a greater focus on the creative process than product, and further facilitation by Chew. Featuring interdisciplinary artists Pat Toh and Sonia Kwek, and emerging artist Jozef Chua, the sharing will take place at T.H.E’s home studio in Goodman Arts Centre.
Grey Space, which commenced in the previous Festival edition as a week of Zoom meetings, continues this year with curatorial direction and artistic facilitation by Anthea Seah. Meeting in Singapore this June, the artists, comprising of a mix of regional and international independent artists, will continue their conversations and collaborations in their physical residencies, with work-in-progress presentations.
As a three-year initiative spanning 2021 – 2023, Grey Space is a dedication of resources in the spirit of championing independent dance artists by offering a meaningful meeting point, and an extensive time-space for a thoughtful, considered brewing of ideas. The platform is supported by an international network of performing arts festivals and organisations, and the Festival’s local supporting partner, Dance Nucleus.
A highlight in this year’s thrilling lineup of performances is Italian dance company Compagnia Zappalà Danza’s Caino e Abele #1 (Corpo a Corpo), featuring a novel blend of the mediums of dance and boxing. Contemplating humanity’s struggle between good and evil, the work puts forward the original fight of Cain and Abel as a warning against contemporary conflicts, and demonstrates Founder and Artistic Director Roberto Zappalà’s choreographic sensitivity to current affairs and social issues. Initially programmed for the Festival’s previous edition, the company’s debut appearance in Singapore was delayed with the onset of the pandemic.
The Festival’s free outdoor programme, Dance at Dusk, returns this year on 24, 25 and 26 June at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre with two restaged works from the repertoire of T.H.E Second Company: Kawayan by Klievert Mendoza and Rising Winds by Albert Tiong. The two works connote and riff off visual structures – a calm, standing bamboo forest in Mendoza’s juxtaposes an unyielding arrangement of chairs in Tiong’s – with both works communicating a quiet sense of strength in the face of change and adversity. Staying true to its ethos of making contemporary dance accessible and inclusive, this family-friendly performance is in a wheelchair-accessible venue, guided by an emcee who will elucidate certain aspects to enhance audience understanding and appreciation, and accompanied by Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) translations and live audio description by Access Path Productions.
“Since its inception, the Festival has persisted in supporting the development of contemporary dance in Singapore, and it is with this shared commitment that Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay welcomes the Festival’s key productions to our venues this year,” says Faith Tan, Head, Dance and International Development at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. “These platforms will introduce more voices in dance and offer broader perspectives that contribute to enriching the experiences of Singapore dancemakers, dancers, and audiences. Esplanade will continue to be a collaborating partner of the festival as it embarks on its 12th edition, and we look ahead in anticipation of this new chapter for T.H.E Dance Company.”
In addition to the live performances programmed, an array of physical masterclasses and workshops are also on offer at the Festival, taught by selected local and international Festival artists. A key feature in this year’s selection of classes is the opportunity to experience and encounter the movement languages and methodologies of two acclaimed contemporary dance companies. First, the T.H.E Mid-Year Intensive: an all-encompassing look into T.H.E Dance Company, where participants get the exclusive opportunity to learn excerpts from the company’s original repertoire and attend workshops on HollowBody, Kuik’s advocated dance methodology that forms the foundation of T.H.E’s dance artists’ movement quality. Second, a highly-anticipated workshop with Compagnia Zappalà Danza, with Roberto Zappalà himself introducing the company’s movement language MoDem – which stands for “Democratic Movement” – over a 3-hour workshop session, illuminating the possibilities of our limbs and muscles through investigating everyday movement. Also accompanying these are technique and improvisation masterclasses catered to a range of levels, from beginner to intermediate.
Amidst a rapidly changing world, the Festival remains grounded in its raison d’etre to be responsive to the needs of the Singaporean and regional dance scene. The Festival continues to support the 3rd iteration of Dance Kopitiam, a space for local dance practitioners to gather, discuss and share on pertinent issues surrounding the local dance community. To further generate discussion, reflection and awareness, a new initiative will also be introduced on the Festival’s blog: a section for community-generated content, be it reviews, musings, sketches or any other creative responses from audiences, artists, and aspiring arts writers, critics and thinkers.
“As we continue braving and adapting to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, I want to bring forth the spirit of staying grounded and open: embracing that less is more, noticing and appreciating the finer details around us, and reconnecting with our community,” concludes Kuik Swee Boon.
cont·act Contemporary Dance Festival 2022 runs from 17th June to 1st July 2022 across various locations. More information and tickets available here