As the environment around us changes, so does the human body, expressing itself in response to the ever-changing landscape. Whether for better or worse, it is in these times that we turn our attention to the arts, as we find a way to process all this change through the word of the body. And within the realm of the arts, the medium of dance offers a wealth of expression, with its abstract nature and infinite possibility.
Celebrating dance in all its forms, the Esplanade’s annual da:ns festival returns this October to show us where dance takes us; what it can reveal, the path it opens as we experience it and how it can inspire us to embrace the flow in these times of transition and change. Featuring both international and local artists, expect a diverse line-up of work at this year’s festival, with some that have survived the pandemic to finally make their premiere in Singapore.
Marking the very first public performance to be held at the brand new Esplaande Waterfront Theatre, T.H.E Dance Company’s Infinitely Closer sees artistic director Kuik Swee Boon developing this work as an artistic response to the impact that apathy and increasingly complex and opaque systems have on human expression and freedoms. Combining contemporary dance with holograms and three-dimensional sound, Infinitely Closer features a stellar international line-up of collaborators including Malaysian sound artist Kent Lee, Macau-based projection artist SEESAW, Korean costume designer Choi In Sook, Singaporean lighting designer Adrian Tan, Singaporean dramaturg Kok Heng Leun, Australian-Laotian guest performer Billy Keohavong and six dance artists from T.H.E Dance Company.
In Tree of Codes, audiences will be transported into a world of visual and musical overdrive from three visionaries—multi-award winning choreographer Wayne McGregor, Mercury Prize-winning producer Jamie xx and renowned visual artist, Olafur Eliasson. Inspired by author Jonathan Safran Foer’s art book of the same name, Tree of Codes considers how the book itself is a sculptural work of art, and sets McGregor’s visceral movement language against a kaleidoscopic backdrop by Eliasson, accompanied by Jamie xx’s soulful and electrifying score.
In Forward Shift, da:ns festival’s work-in-progress platform for Asian dancemakers, watch new creations by two emerging Asian dancemakers, Hwa Wei-An and Liu I-Ling, which navigate the theme of loss of control. In Hwa’s A Reason for Falling, the Malaysian dancer explores concepts of trying to do more than he can, and learning how to get good at falling. Meanwhile, Taiwanese artist Liu I-Ling’s Normal Life explores if virtual interactions can replace our innate desire for physical connection, and her own experience in self-isolation.
In No.60 by Pichet Klunchun Dance Company, finally arrives in Singapore after its tour in Europe. Building on 20 years of research, it offers an accessible entry into decoding tradition, paving the way for the appreciation and future trajectories of traditional dance. The work is a treatise on Pichet Klunchun’s two-decade-long research on the language of traditional khon. Stripping the classical form of its face mask and sequined costume, Pichet scrutinises the 59 poses and movements in the Theppanom canon which all Thai classical dancers acquire by rote-learning. He then generates six new principles that undergird the 700-year-old system and presents a manual of hand-drawn diagrams and notes that allows the younger generation to think and learn rationally, free of mysticism and ideological imposition of history.
Also featured is Singapore Ballet with Evening Voices, a spirited triple-bill set against the beautiful Marina Bay skyline. The evening opens with Absence of Story by Toru Shimazaki, a challenging piece that replaced narrative with lyrical energy to pay tribute to Brahms. Val Caniparoli’s Triptych, inspired by photographer Lalage Snow’s powerful portrait series of British servicemen before, during and after their deployment to Afghanistan, is an emotional response to the realities of war. Ending off the night is Tim Rushton’s Evening Voices, a tender yet magnificent piece set to the score of Sergey Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, that humbles as it uplifts.
Finally, check out FULL OUT! Next Gen , as the Esplanade brings together over 150 dancers from six different tertiary-based street dance groups; where audiences will be treated to three different shows under the direction of Zaini Tahir, with each night featuring a collaborative performance between two schools, a result of five months’ worth of preparation.
This edition of da:ns festival also marks the final edition in its current state, before evolving into season of dance programmes spread out through the year, each with specific themes that allow for richer appreciation of this art form. For now, let October open you to new journeys and connections we make through dance.
da:ns Festival 2022 runs from 13th to 23rd October 2022 at the Esplanade. Full lineup and tickets available here