2018 was a year that started with a lot of uncertainty. It started out not knowing whether or not I was going to go to Europe once again, for some auditions (I ended up going in the end, largely because ticket prices fell by 100SGD four days before I had to fly, and so, I flew); it ended with much uncertainty too, but this time, tinged with great promise.
The auditions in Europe didn’t really pan out. The one company that I was really, really hoping to get a chance to work for, the Goteborg Operans DansKompani, didn’t invit me to its audition. (My excuse is that I don’t have the legs for the company, and that’s what I’m gonna keep telling myself. Haha!) I visited another company in the UK, auditioned for two others, attended Open Your Mind Eindhoven 2018, and at the end of February, found myself back in good ol’ Singapore, ready to embark on the first of the four residencies I had the privilege of having in my first full calendar year of being a freelance dancer and choreographer.
This first residency was held under Dance Nucleus. DN is an organisation in Singapore that is funded by the National Arts Council to promote the development of the independent contemporary dance scene in Singapore. There are two main programs that Nucleus hosts: ELEMENT and SCOPE. ELEMENT is a residency program in which artists are invited to come to Nucleus to use the space for a few weeks, part of which will be a mentorship with a guest artist with experience in a type of dance research. The other platform is SCOPE, which is held over a number of weekends each year, as a way for artists to share works that they are currently developing, and garner feedback and new ideas for the development of their work.
In my case, my mentor was Arco Renz, a German choreographer with a lot of experience in taking movement vocabularies he is unfamiliar with, studying them and then reconstructing them in a non-traditional manner, while keeping the essence of this dance form foreign to himself. (You can check out more of his work at www.kobaltworks.be.) This was quite apt, as my project was to translate ideas and elements of freeride mountain biking - in particular, the concept of a rhythm section - into contemporary dance. So definitely, a foreign movement language to both myself and Arco.
Now, just to clear the air, I’m not a freerider. I just really, really like watching the practice of it. Go to redbull.tv or YouTube and check out the events called Red Bull Rampage and Red Bull Joyride. These provided the main bulk of the inspiration for my work, and sometimes you’ll hear the commentators mention something called a “rhythm section” - a bit of the course where any mistake, no matter how small, will lead to the end of your run, cause the features of the rhythm section part of the course are too close together to provide time for any corrections in-between the elements of the course.
And so, after spending a lot of time watching extreme sports on the internet, I got to try some out. Sorta. And yes, that was my project! For a more detailed write-up, look here (if you’re looking at this as a pdf, my report starts on page 8): https://drive.google.com/file/d/17Bhl54cVBh464OUTqqeIwWY8kSr3JmN1/view
After a break at the end of March and beginning of April when my relatives from overseas came to Malaysia and my sister got married, I headed down to Rimbun Dahan (Sungai Buloh, Malaysia) for a month-long residency. There, I was supposed to continue the development of the work that I was doing at Dance Nucleus, but ended up creating a new solo called The Art of Falling, which some of you may know is also what I call my personal movement practice (which is a fancy way of saying it’s the name of the class that I teach).
In short, the work is what its name implies: the piece is an exploration of the process of falling down and getting back up again, at levels both functional and completely performative. It’s more than that, though. The Art of Falling (TAoF for short) is also a non-literal intepretation of the metaphorical aspects of falling down, such as failure (and how to avoid it) as well as, obviously enough, falling in love.
After making TAoF, it was performed at the end of my residency in Dancebox - a platform organised every few months by MyDance Alliance - on the 1st of May, in the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. And, later on in the year, I had the opportunity to perform the work in Derry, Northern Ireland, on a platform called Short Works which is part of the annual Echo Echo Dance Festival. (TAoF is 15 minutes long, and yes, that’s a short work.)
Here’s a trailer of the version performed at Dancebox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a071gOhC1QQ
What happened next (after Rimbun Dahan) was the Malaysian elections, in which we overthrew the corrupt incumbent government in Malaysia! And replaced them with… a new government. Different? Yes. How different and better are questions that are yet to be conclusively answered. We’ll see.
Work-wise, what happened next was Paradigm Shift, held on the 19th and 20th of May, in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, my alma mater, and Frontier Danceland, my old company. An event that was first organised as a last hurrah before I left Frontier in 2017 became one of key interest in the Singapore dance scene. It is organised for a few different reasons, one of the chief of them being bringing dancers of different backgrounds together to create a space to play and explore together, and also, in time to come, to open up new possibilities for what dance events - yes, dance competitions specifically - can be. There are some big, interesting ideas in the works (I feel like this post is going to say that a lot), so I’m excited for what will happen this year, and in years to come!
Hopefully, Paradigm Shift will be able to move past the boundaries of Singapore in time to come, to my home country of Malaysia, and beyond. I need help, though! If you have contacts who are dancers - street dancers, especially! - in the region, do let me know, so that we can get more conversations going! To see what you or your friends may be getting into, check out the links below!
Paradigm Shift 2017:
Paradigm Shift 2018:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wdaEUpyGF0 (More videos are available at the channel's page.)
Also in 2018, as you all know, I went to Korea for three weeks, to work with two guys, Kim Ho-yeon and Lim JungHa, of the Dab Dance Project. We were brought together by the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival, a dance festival in Singapore, and Seoul Global Connection, an organisation that promotes the internationalisation of Korean contemporary dance. First, we worked together for three weeks or so in Singapore (residency #3), in June and July, for a performance on the Asian Festivals eXchange (AFX) platform, which is part of the M1 Contact Festival. Then we worked together again in October in Seoul (residency #4), where I got to live in a room with floor heating and really slow mosquitoes that were easy to kill. I also got to eat really good Korean BBQ, and my life is forever changed.
Our piece is called Ignoramus, by the way. It is based loosely on the idea that science has helped us humans get pretty far in life, but what are we now, besides mindless automatons glued to our phones?
So, What Happens Next?
The first half of 2019 looks to be a little quiet. Some things that I hoped to happen fell through, and as such, I'm left with an abundance of time on my hands.
As such, I'll be using this time to do some research of The Art of Falling and the project about freeride mountain biking. I've applied for funding to develop these works, but will only know if my applications are successful come mid-February. Regardless of whether I am given funding, I fully intend to continue working on these pieces, with the hopes of creating a full-length solo work (at least 40 minutes in length) to be performed somewhere in Malaysia by the end of 2019. Hopefully, performances in both Penang and KL will be possible, and maybe even Singapore too. (If you want to support this work in one way or another - looking for producers, mountain bikes and assorted gear as well as expertise, cameras, theatres, marketing and more - do feel free to shoot me a message!)
There’s also the hope that in the middle of the year, the guys from the Dab Dance Project and myself will find some way to work together again, in Malaysia, Korea, or Singapore. We’re working things out, and updates will be posted when things are confirmed.
In October of 2019, I will be heading to Campbelltown Arts Centre in Sydney, for a residency to develop this work. This connection was intitiated by Dance Nucleus, although I’m now in charge of figuring out what happens during the residency. Nucleus will be funding the travel and per diem (I presume) while Campbelltown will be providing accommodation and studio space.
And then, in November or December, hopefully a performance of the developed version of The Art of Falling would take place.
There are lotsa other possible happenings too, but as many are unconfirmed, I’ll hold my horses and not say anything just yet.
Beyond this, I hope to continue this journey of creating and performing contemporary dance. I’m open to new opportunities and possibilities, and am busy trying to make more things happen, but if you’d like to collaborate, or are looking to learn, do drop me a line!
And finally, I know I’ve written a fair bit about various projects that I’ve been involved in - research or performance - over the past year. If you’d like to watch the full videos of the works, do drop me an email at email@example.com or text me at +65 8545 0756 (WhatsApp or Telegram). Please understand that these works are made with a cost, and that I don’t work for “exposure”, especially not at this stage of my career. But get in touch, and we can work something out!
And trailers and snippets will eventually be posted, both on this blog and social media (my handles are @thenoisyhwa and @weallfalldown.dance on both Instagram and YouTube.)
Ah, and before I forget! On the @weallfalldown.dance pages, where I’m posting more work-based and less personal stuff, the occassional dance/movement tutorial will be posted. These aren’t just meant for dancers, but for anyone who is interested in movement and moving better. These tutorials are all free! But if you’d like to support the production of these, and of other work too, you can check out www.patreon.com/weallfalldown and see how you can be a part of this work.
Take care, all, and thanks for reading!