And The Travels Begin Again

Today I started travelling again.

“Again” in the sense of “I’ve just left Malaysia for another country.”

The first bit of the travelling isn’t particularly out of the ordinary, really. I’m in Singapore now, a country where I’ve spent over a third of my life, staying with friends that I’ve lived with for over two years (including all the time that I’ve spent visiting since I uprooted from Singapore mid-2017. Boy, it’s been almost two years without a full-time job!)

After Singapore though, this trip will take me to Korea, then on to North America, which I haven’t been to since I was a wee kiddo, not even 10 years old. I’m pretty excited!

I’ll try to keep this blog updated with posts about what’s happening where, and let you know what I like (and dislike) about a particular city.

In the meanwhile, where should I visit, what should I do, in Seoul (Korea), Los Angeles, and Victoria BC (Canada)? What have you done in those places that you liked/loved, and think that I should do? (No promises I’ll get around to them, but I’ll do my best to make space for ‘em!)

As mentioned earlier, excitement is growing for this trip. I’m in Singapore now for SCOPE #6, a weekend of presentations by performing artists on their work, as well as a workshop by Nik Haffner at Dance Nucleus, on Forsythe’s Improvisation Technologies, and then heading to Seoul after that for a couple of weeks of rehearsal with the guys from the Dab Dance Project, Ho-yeon and JungHa, before we perform our work Ignoramus in Victoria (the trip to LA is a small in-between, for my cousin’s graduation from his PhD course). Later on, Ignoramus will be presented at the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival in Singapore on the 20th of July on the Open Stage platform, and later we’ll be performing at New Dance for Asia in Korea in August.

It’s pretty evident that the Dab Dance Project guys and myself enjoy working together, and creating opportunities for the future. Watch out, for bigger things to come!

Travelling is something that I’m really thankful to be able to do. It’s not something that the majority of people in this world get to experience, though it is relatively commonplace among my peer groups of young urban professionals who went to university and are working in good jobs.

I didn’t go to university, and I’m sure lotsa people think that I’m not working in a good job. But hey, it’s taken me around the world, and I believe that it’ll continue to do so, and that’s good enough for me. For the moment, at least.

At times, not having a place to truly call home, that is my own, and that I can shape into the image that I desire, is pretty trying. Packing and unpacking a suitcase every few weeks is not the most fun thing to do, and is certainly the worst part of being nomadic. This doesn’t mean that I’m not thankful for these opportunities, by the way; it’s just letting you know that all the perks that come with travelling also come with a price.

That’s it for now. Many things are happening, in the months to come!

If you’re in Singapore and would like to see me share some of my art and give insight into my creative practice over the past few years, head down to Dance Nucleus at 3pm this Saturday, the 4th of May! There are presentations happening from 1pm all the way till 8pm, and on Friday as well.

Or keep an eye out for Paradigm Shift, which I’ll be organising for the 3rd year. It’s gonna be held on the 21st of July this year, and there are some big surprises in store!

Till the next one.

Wei-An Hwa
Every Christian A Dancer

This is a post for by a Christian for other fellow Christians, regarding a personal take on why I believe every Christian should include dance as a part of their lives. If you’re not a Christian and you take the time to read this, hopefully there are some perspectives that you’ll find interesting for yourself too. And whatever your religious affiliation, I’d love to hear your thoughts, either via email, by dropping me a line on social media, or by leaving a comment below.


At the end of March, I’m going to be teaching at the second Creative for the Creator camp, a camp organised for the practical teaching of the arts in the Christian church in Malaysia. I’ll be heading up the dance course, and just wanted to share some thoughts on why dance and the arts in general should be incorporated - in various ways and various levels - into our lives as Christians.

Why Should Everyone Dance?

To begin, I’d like to share some thoughts on why I think dance is an important part of life that everyone should participate in, performer or not, because there are various good things about dance that make it worthwhile.

First of all, the Bible makes it clear that we are made with body, heart, mind, and soul. (Admittedly, how heart and soul are defined can be a bit tricky, and I’m not always sure of how to differentiate the two. For the purposes of this discussion, I will link heart and soul with our ability to feel emotion.) At the beginning, when God created human bodies, and then breathed life into them, Adam and Eve were created. Our bodies are the things that God has given our souls to use to navigate this earth; but our bodies are more than just vehicles, and science has clearly shown us that our bodies and what they do are deeply tied to our emotional and mental health.

Because of this, exercise is important, as is sunlight, to make sure that our hormones are balanced, and our bodies are working well, so that our mental and emotional states stay healthy too. Dance is one excellent form of exercise.

Beyond exercise, though, dance is also an expressive form of movement. You don’t need to be trained to know what you want to do when you’re sad, happy, angry, or confused. The body responds instinctively. If we worry less about how we look, and consciously make time and space for our bodies to react, that immediately becomes a dance: a personal, expressive sequence of movements that provides catharsis for pent-up emotions, whether or not someone else is watching. And once these emotions are spent (preferably while accompanied by excellent music), then we are more able to continue with what we need to do to respond to a situation (or in the case of a joyous occasion, you can just keep dancing.)

Secondly, I would argue that in the Bible, Jesus implies that dance is a good and natural thing to do. In the eleventh chapter of Matthew, Jesus says that the people who heard the words of the prophets but refused to turn back to God are like those who heard the music of the flute but did not dance, or those who heard the sorrows of others but did not mourn with them. Is it a stretch to say that Jesus thinks that dancing to music is the good and right thing to do, just the way that empathizing with someone who is hurting is good and right, and just the way that turning back to God is what we all should do, when we are rebuked by the God’s Word?

Though this isn’t licence to dance at all times and in all places; as it says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to dance, and as such also times when we shouldn’t.

What the Bible does make clear, though, is that dance is part of the spectrum of human expression, especially when it comes to joy, thanksgiving, and praise. Miriam led the women in dance, when the Israelites were led out of Egypt, and David danced before the Lord, as he led the procession that brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. In fact, the Psalms command us to praise the Lord with music, with instruments, and with dancing. And if when our favourite sports teams win a championship (if you support the right teams), or watching your favourite musician or band live, we can stand up, throw our arms in the air, shout in triumph and flail about like crazy people, why can’t we, why shouldn’t we, do this as part of our responses to God, his goodnes and his majesty?

Going back to David and his dancing, in 2 Samuel chapter 6, David responds to Michal who criticised his dancing as being embarrassing, him flailing about before slave girls, by saying that before God, he would become even more undignified that what Michal saw on that day. Once, as a teenager, at a youth praise and worship rally, we sang a song about this and were encouraged to act silly and make ugly faces in the spirit of the song. I think that missed the point of what David was saying, though.

To be with the last, the lost, the least, and to serve them, is the example that Jesus taught us about being undignified. Not taking the place of honour for ourselves, but rather humbling ourselves before others, to do what must be done, rather than take what we believe is entitled to us.

And learning dance is a great way to remain humble. I don’t mean to say that I don’t have a problem with pride; anyone who knows me knows that humility isn’t one of my strong suits. But in learning dance - this is one step up from dancing just as a personal form of expression, into a crafted form of expression - I am constantly reminded of how deficient I am, for every time I learn one thing new, there are hundreds and thousands of people who can perform specific techniques better than I can. YouTube and Instagram are constant reminders of this. And then, when I watch a video of myself performing this skill (rather than just feeling the joy of not killing myself when learning something) I am reminded that beauty and perfection in movement is something often far, far from me (though thankfully, a little less far than it was, say, 10 years ago). There is always a need to work, to learn, to fail and to try again, when learning dance. Pride in the learning of dance, or any other art form - again, as a crafted form of self-expression - simply leads to self-delusion and plain bad art.

The last reason I will give in this post, for why I believe every Christian should dance, is based on a saying that I have come across over the past few years. “Be strong to be useful” is a phrase the popped up when reading fitness websites that were talking, in particular, about the practices of parkour and CrossFit. The phrase comes from a guy named Georges Hebert, who back in World War I helped save hundreds of people from a town on the island of Martinique, after a nearby volcano erupted. This experience led to the development of his movement practice, the “Natural Method”, for which être fort pour être utile became the motto.

This has huge implications for us as Christians. Take, for example, this passage in Isaiah 61:1-3a:

The Lord’s spirit is upon me, as the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives, to the prisoners, release, to proclaim a year of favor for the Lord and a day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, to set out for the mourners of Zion, to give them turbans instead of ashes, joy’s oil instead of mourning, a glorious wrap instead of gloomy spirit.

Dance is a great way to prepare our bodies for this service, as to truly dance requires the full engagement of body, mind, and soul. But if nothing else, dance is a good reminder of which parts of our bodies hurt and are weak, and where we need to grow strong, that these tools that God has given us may be tuned, sharpened, and aligned properly, that we may be used for God in the way that he intends.

Or to speak with some cheek, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and he calls us to do the same, to serve those around us, whether or not they deserve to be served. It’s a little hard to wash someone else’s feet (if the situation ever calls for it; I’ve given foot massages to others, but not washing) if you can’t bend your knees and get into a squat, or easily sit down on the floor and get up again. Dance is a great way to (re-) learn these physical skills, on top of good movement principles, so you don’t sprain your back when trying to, y’know, pick up your baby, or abduct someone else’s. 


Further thoughts and reflections regarding dance will be posted in time to come. A follow-up to this specific post, regarding my thoughts on the performance of dance in church, will be posted soon.

Wei-An HwaComment
2018 In Review

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHjY5ndZTIc&list=PLwBxhG3iDp6qSSeuz7z-jxxRmSalNdEOn

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 hwa.weian@gmail.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!

Wei-An Hwa
Echo Echo Dance Festival Recap

It’s early days yet, but what exciting days they are.

Often, it’s easy to forget that life, and a career, are a marathon, not sprints. Many a day I find myself quite down and out, emotionally and mentally, as struggles to make sense of what I’m doing and how daunting the prospect of making a life as a choreographer and performer can be come to the fore. Frequently, these days exclude meaningful contact with other people, as I sit in front of my computer trying to learn how to apply for grants, or figuring out what to write in applications to perform in festivals or to participate in projects, and when the words and prospects don’t flow, doubts and unhappiness flow in.

And then, at other times, things are really quite awesome.


As mentioned before, after Korea, I spent a couple of weeks back in Singapore, rehearsing to take The Art of Falling to the Echo Echo Dance Festival in Derry, Northern Ireland. Made in Rimbun Dahan and first performed at MyDance Alliance’s Dancebox on May 1, 2018, I submitted the solo to the Echo Echo Dance Festival’s open call wall and was invited to perform on the festival’s platform called Short Works, which featured 8 pieces, each about 15 minutes long.

Echo Echo is a small festival, but that’s certainly part of its appeal. I didn’t know how small till I got there, and was quite surprised when I arrived. PAMS and SPAF in Seoul had been really big, with large socials organised for networking and mingling, and a huge international line-up of performances that spanned over a month. Echo Echo, on the other hand, was about two weeks long, with a focus on the community surrounding the company and the invited artists, rather than trying to build bridges between international producers and artists.

Don’t get me wrong - both types of festivals are needed and have their place, and I enjoyed both of the experiences immensely. I’m stating differences, not ranking preferences, here.

The size of the Echo Echo Festival meant that the first people that I met, besides the director, Steve Batts, were individuals from the community who took classes with the dance company, and not other artists. We talked, they showed me where to eat, and I found out that a good way to teach my name to the Irish is to tell them that I’m a wee ‘un. It’s not quite the right pronunciation of my name, but it’s close enough, and if it helps them remember me, then I can roll with that.

And instead of organised socials for the participants of the festival, after Short Works us performers were brought to a local bar by the locals, where we chatted, had a drink or two, and best of all, danced with some older folks who happened to be at the bar, and were just as eager to get down and have a good time as we were!

As a festival, Echo Echo is a place where every voice is heard, each opinion considered, both in conversation and performance. From “serious” contemporary dance and works with social and political points to make, to pieces based on contact improvisation or light-hearted movement and music based works, to improvised scores for movement and music, there was a little bit of everything for everyone.

On top of all that, Derry is a great place to visit. You can walk through pretty much the whole city, take a stroll on the old city walls, and see the street art and murals that remind you that the struggle for social justice and freedom is very much alive, even if you don’t always see it in places where you come from. Having lived in Singapore for many years, that certainly was quite eye-opening. And yet, the people are warm, friendly, and happy to have a chat and share their time with visitors.

I’d go back.

So thanks very much, Echo Echo Dance Theatre, Steve and team! It was a pleasure.

*On a sad note, Norwegian Air is stopping its budget Singapore-Europe route, and so, travelling to Europe is gonna get a fair bit more expensive in time to come.







Wei-An HwaComment
To Northern Ireland and the Echo Echo Dance Festival!

Sleep should be the priority at the moment, given that I have to get up in four hours or so. But tomorrow, I fly, and it's always a little tough to sleep the night before a flight. Normally cause I have to pack, admittedly! And because of the fear that once sleep creeps in, it'll stay till the flight has gone. Haha!

Tomorrow I fly to Europe again, to perform, for the first time, a solo at a dance festival. After submitting my piece called The Art of Falling to the Echo Echo Dance Festival's open call, they invited me to perform the work. (To see a trailer of the piece that I’ll be performing, scroll to the bottom of the post.)

It's quite exciting.

It also comes in the second half of a pretty crazy period that started back in the middle of September. A trip to Singapore to emcee for the Flux Dance Competition, followed by a trip to Korea to work with Ho-yeon and JungHa of the Dab Dance Project for the second half of our Asian Festivals Exchange collaboration, then back to Singapore for a few weeks to rehearse my solo before flying to Northern Ireland, then right back to Malaysia to participate in Hollow Lab, an improvisation workshop and performance led by Kuik Swee Boon, artistic director or THE Dance Company (Singapore) before heading back down to Singapore for one final presentation at Dance Nucleus’ SCOPE platform.

Pretty crazy two-and-a-half months.

I'm gonna be super free after that, though, so… anyone got any dance jobs? Haha!

In the midst of all of this, there's been a lot of time to think about many things.

One of those things has been the topic of thinking itself. As part of my over-enthusiastic YouTube diet, I watched a video by the channel Veritasium that discusses the benefits of boredom, of taking time to do nothing, and not allowing myself to be constantly stimulated (often by meaningless information) on my phone. The video resonated with lots of the little tidbits that I've picked up from various other articles and videos, as well as reflections on how I want to be in control of how I use my phone, and not let my phone control me.

Sitting down and staring into space has actually been pretty helpful for my creative process, the past week-and-a-half, no kidding. Had some ideas that hopefully will turn out really well, and not as absolute horrors. Will report back.

And in the midst of all this busyness, and the randomness of being an independent artist, my appreciation of my family and friends and the people around me really has grown deeper. The simple things really go a long way to showing who's really down to slog through life with you, even when you're a wandering independent artist who's often quite self-absorbed and always trying to find time to practice or answer emails. Friends who let me crash at their places, or buy me a beer or a meal, or take time out to watch a rehearsal and give me feedback; these little acts and great relationships make such a huge difference in my life. Literally, they allow me to survive and do what I do as an artist. You guys (and gals) know who you are.

Apparently, being an independent artist has also made me a lot more sentimental. Haha!

At a certain point, though, I'm gonna want to stop moving around so often. I don't remember if I mentioned this before, but since June last year, I haven't stayed in any one place for more than three weeks before having to pack my bags and head off. No kidding.

It's been a ball of a time, but sometimes it's been oh so very hard. As Bilbo Baggins once said, the road goes ever, ever on, and the feet that follow it grow weary and start to look for the comfort of a lighted inn (that's paraphrasing, not what he actually said, just to be clear).

Well, let's see what inn these feet lead me to, eh? But for now, onward and upward, eh? (I see you too, Mr. Lewis.)





Wei-An Hwa
Asian Festivals Exchange 2018, and a Trip to Seoul

I thank God for the last three weeks in Korea. For the six weeks in total, devoted to creating “Ignoramus” with Ho-yeon and JungHa of the Dab Dance Project.

Thank you, M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival and Seoul Dance Collection.

It's been a ball of a time.

Ho-yeon, JungHa and I first met in June, to begin the creation of a collaborative work, courtesy of the dance organisations mentioned above. We had never worked together, and hadn't chosen each other as collaborators. (Well, they chose each other, they've been working together as two of the main guys of the Dab Dance Project.) The festivals were the ones who determined that we should work together. The festivals were the ones who trusted us to create a dance piece that other people would enjoy watching.

Quite the stroke of luck for the three of us. Turns out, we actually enjoy each other's company, and despite some language barriers, enjoy working with each other! Who says match-making doesn't work, eh? (Make of that what you will. Haha!)

It started with the two Korean dudes proposing a book* to read and draw ideas from, and me picking one of the many ideas the book contains. And so, we ended up making a piece inspired by the effects the Scientific Revolution had upon us humans.

Inspired by, not about. The work isn't a critical essay on the effects of the Scientific Revolution, nor it it meant to be a masterpiece of modern dance dramaturgy. It's a work put together by three guys who like to dance, enjoy exploring movement, and after doing a whole bunch of reading and  thinking, tried to make a piece that they could feel, rather than one they could think their way through, whether they were in it or watching the umpteenth video of themselves wobbling around a dance studio.***

It was a piece made in both Singapore and Korea. The representative of the Singapore festival proved to be a much worse host than the representatives of the Korean side though. I realise that I'm often preoccupied, looking forward to the next dance practice and jam session (not rehearsal) while Ho-yeon and JungHa were much better hosts when we were in Korea, taking me to experience something Korea is known for the world over - Korean BBQ. Man, it's so good in it's country of origin, if you know the places to go to. Barbecued pork belly and pork neck together with binaeng (bibim naengmyeon, cold buckwheat noodles with spicy sauce), on a cold autumn night…. Bliss. Hard to do better than that.

And no, before you ask, I didn't eat any octopus. The opportunity to do so with the guys didn't arise, and I'm certainly not an adventurous eater when I'm by myself.

Adventure for me was climbing Bukhansan, up to Baegundae, the highest peak on the mountain, trying not to die falling out of a handstand at the top, getting clawed by a cat so I would drop the food I was trying to tempt it with so I could pet it, stopping by a stream on the way down for a dip in the cold mountain water (must have been around 8°C outside when I shuffled my way into the water) and then trying to jump down the rocks of the stream, instead of taking the path. One way is certainly more fun than the other.

Climbing Bukhansan is no joke, though. There were bits where I had to crawl up. And the middle-aged Korean ladies climbing the mountain with their entourages to take Instagram pictures seemed perfectly fine when they go to the top. I think I need to work on my fitness.

That was Korea. There was more to it, of course. A lot can be done in three weeks, and was. But what else do you need to know about, besides Korean BBQ, Bukhansan and an excellent time with the dudes of the Dab Dance Project? A collaborative experience that will, if things work out, continue for many years to come?

The adventures for this year aren't over yet. In less than a month, I travel to Derry-Londonderry to perform a solo piece at the Echo Echo Dance Festival. The first time I'm ever performing a solo of my own creation in a foreign country, at the invitation of a foreign dance festival. And then I head back to Malaysia, for a short project for a few days, before wrapping up performing for the year (as far as I know) in Singapore with a sharing at Dance Nucleus that'll be a sort of summary of what I've been doing the whole year, watching and being inspired by freeride mountainbiking and trying to delve into my practice of The Art of Falling.

I don't know how these things happen, but I am thankful for them.


If you'd like to watch the works that I have been performing, do get in contact, and we can work out  a way to get you a video. Works aren't created and performed for free, and even after they have been performed, I believe that watching them on video has value too.

If you would like to support my creative processes and the sharing of knowledge that is given out for free, do check out www.patreon.com/weallfalldown to find out how you can be a part of creating dance for everybody.


*If you're wondering, the book - which I recommend that you do not read - is Yuval Noah Harari's “Sapiens”, a work that in my opinion, includes many really interesting ideas that are quite poorly explained and substantiated, as well as criticisms of various religious beliefs supported by bits and pieces of religious texts taken completely out of their contexts. A topic for another day. But if you're interested, take a peek at the “critical reception” section of the book's Wiki page.

**Also, sorry Ho-yeon and JungHa. I actually never discussed my feelings about the book with you. Plenty of interesting ideas, but boy, I hate the way it was written.

***Yes, that's a personal beef with the art form of which I'm a professional practitioner. Sometimes contemporary dance is too much thinking, and not enough feeling. Or, strange as it seems to type, too much movement and not enough feeling. Not enough feeling - yes, I just said it again - to create a sense of the suspension of disbelief.

It seems, based on feedback I've heard, that our work, Ignoramus, achieves that to a degree at least. And you can hold me to this claim, that this is what I hope to achieve in the work that I create, this suspension of disbelief, so that you can stop looking at how a work was constructed and then be present to receive what it has to communicate.

Wei-An Hwa
The Flying Fish!

Hello everyone!

The first tutorial on We All Fall Down’s YouTube channel is up!

(There’s a much shorter version of this tutorial on Instagram @weallfalldown.dance)

This tutorial is based on what I call The Flying Fish, which is something that I did for an impromptu photoshoot with my friend, Nicholas Chung (@nicchunglow). This tutorial was certainly not the plan; I had thought to make something a little more applicable to dance and movement in general, but figured I’d go with the flow.

Just to be clear, I don’t believe that this channel is one that’s meant just for “cool moves” and definitely not just for Instagram uploads and likes.

We All Fall Down hopes to be a platform to share information for everybody, dancer or not, and at whatever level of movement experience you may be at. It’s also not a channel that aims to create videos that are merely entertaining, so explanations and demonstrations may get a little long sometimes, I should warn you. But hopefully it’ll be useful information.

So if you ever have any questions about anything on the channel, or if there’s anything that you would like to see me teach and explain, leave me a comment, PM me, or drop me an email!

And if you’d like to see some other ways of getting into The Flying Fish, there are heaps of explosive push-up variations that would help you achieve it. Check out some channels like ThenX, BarStarzz or The Bar Brothers on YouTube for some examples.

Thanks for reading and watching!

Signing off,

Wei-An

@weallfalldown.dance

@thenoisyhwa

If you would like to support the creation of more content, and the development of future dance projects, go to www.patreon.com/weallfalldown to see how you can play a part of We All Fall Down!

We All Fall Down's YouTube Channel

Well, this is happening.

After all my years of training, my brain is about to explode, so this is meant to be a little bit of a pressure release.

I kid. It’ll probably be more pressure to regularly produce videos with quality content than it is to just let information sit in my head. But I truly believe that dance should be something that everyone can appreciate and enjoy, and which makes a positive difference in people’s lives. That’s what this YouTube channel is aimed towards: teaching people dance and its principles so that whether or not you desire to dance professionally, you can see what dancers (or at least this dancer) have learned about health and fitness and how it can benefit you.

Also launching together with this YouTube channel is my Patreon account, which you can contribute to if you would like to support the production of high quality dance tutorials, as well as the development of my art. And in return for supporting me, you’ll receive any content created in your inbox, as well as links to full videos of my performances.

Find out more here.

Thanks very much! See you soon.

Wei-An HwaComment
Reflections on A Year of Uncertainty

(This post jumps around a little, chronologically. But know that I speak from a present day perspective, even if sometimes I'm referring to events in the past.)

In the midst of the highest of highs came some of the toughest life experiences I've had. 

This was particularly evident when, some months ago, on my 28th birthday, I was sitting alone on a train, travelling from Gothenburg to Hamburg (that's a whole day's journey, counting transit time in Copenhagen, and waiting for the ferry from Rodby to Puttgarden), and wondering what in the world I was doing with my life. 

Now, you might think that sitting on a comfortable, high speed train in Scandinavian countries isn't such a bad thing, and you would be spot on. But when you've also spent most of the past three months alone and with no promise of a permanent home, while searching for your future and having no idea where that may lie, things quickly become a lot more bleak. 

One year ago, I left my job and the promise of a life in Singapore, where I had been living for over 12 years. On 1st June 2017, I was unemployed, and had no idea what was going to happen, except that I was going to head to Europe to try to get a job with a dance company there and make my dreams come true. 

'Cause boy, if you've ever woken up on a sunny morning in the Alps and walked out to the fresh mountain air to play with a neighbour's cat (ok, not my neighbour, but the neighbour of my AirBnB host), saw the green grass and breathed the fresh mountain air, then you've lived in a dream. (Sure, a nightmare if you don't like cats, but you get my drift.)

And that was the dream. To go to Europe, find work, and build a life there, because the world is so big and so wide, and all I had ever known deeply was a few spots in Malaysia and Singapore. 

Unfortunately, things didn't quite wind up the way I hoped when I started my trip. The reasons are varied, and important, but I won't list them here. For another time. 

Anyway, after not one, but two trips to Europe, and bouncing back and forth a fair bit between Malaysia and Singapore, it looks like I'll be here in familiar territory for a while. I don't say that with resignation, but with excitement as to what the future holds. 

One reason for the excitement is that towards the end of my tenure in Singapore, connections with old acquaintances in the street dance scene began to revive themselves, and new relationships also began to form. By the divine providence of God, or stroke of luck, whichever you prefer, I found that there were dancers who had walked very different paths than myself over the past ten years, but all of us had ended up looking towards the same destination: seeking to bring street dance forms into the theatre, to merge them with the sensibilities of contemporary dance, to create art that was at the same time both epic and accessible. 

In short, there is a community and a movement that can be built back in Singapore. 

And back in Malaysia, there is a whole 'nother dance world that I've only begun to get to know in these early months of 2018. And yes, as I get older, nostalgia becomes a little more accessible. Things like pride in my national heritage come to the fore too. So the recent change of government in Malaysia? Man, that's been exciting!

Realising that Malaysia and Singapore are where I am going to be for now doesn't at all mean that the time spent in Europe wasn't meaningful, though. If nothing else, it was an epic adventure. Travelling around the place, sometimes with little or no plan was exciting and deeply rewarding.

On my journeys, so many cool people were encountered, with whom I'm trying to keep in contact with via the Internet (at least in the Facebook-stalking sense), some of whom I hope to work with in a professional capacity one day. These individuals, and the dancers that I just got to see (and not hang out with) at events like The Notorious IBE 2017 and Open Your Mind Eindhoven 2018 have challenged and motivated me, and reminded me that there's always so much more to do and learn and grow into that resting isn't an option, unless I want to sell myself short. Conversations with these artists have been fun and meaningful, and have broadened my horizons far beyond what they once were.

There was time spent with relatives that I haven't hung out with in years (some of that is, no doubt, my fault, as I wasn't back home in Penang when they chose to visit) and friends who I haven't had a meal or coffee with for a decade or more. 

The epic scenery that I got to see was one aspect of the trip not to be forgotten! I've always liked looking out the windows of moving vehicles, but being able to do so in European countrysides is really different from what you get to see in Malaysia.

The sunset on the ferry from Puttgarden to Rodby, part of the trip from Hamburg to Copenhagen.

The sunset on the ferry from Puttgarden to Rodby, part of the trip from Hamburg to Copenhagen.

And walking around cities in Scandinavia? (Well, three cities. Oslo, Copenhagen and Gothenburg) was such a treat. They're so clean, and the old architecture so well preserved, and the new architecture integrates with it, rather than just forcing itself upon the old. And so integrated with nature, particularly certain bits of Oslo. Sometimes, it feels like you're walking through a fairytale. 

Let's not forget the food! Oh the food. If you ever go to Berlin, make sure you drop by Zur Haxe for some traditional German fare, and Outbreak Food for the best burgers that I've ever had in my life! And the kebab. Berlin wins for kebab, hands down. 

Perhaps the most important thing that I realised over this past year is how thankful I should be for all these opportunities that have come my way. Sure, I might not have secured a dream job in an idyllic country of choice (mosquitoes, among other things, definitely make SEAsian countries non-idyllic), but how many people will ever have the chance to travel the way I have the past year? In ages past, and in time to come? Sure, in this day and age the number isn't insignificant (and if you're reading this, I'm guessing you're not overly strapped for cash and are lucky enough to be able to fly overseas on holidays), but how many people actually would? 

Beyond that, the family and friends that I have, and the hospitality they have shown me whether because I am the traveller or because I don't have a regular full-time job (I've done some work over the past year, just not heaps, and certainly not much work that will make me rich) has been pretty overwhelming. I could try to count the number of free meals that I've had over the past year, or the number of days I've lived rent-free in other peoples' homes, but it would be a big number, and I don't like math. 

Moving into the future, where uncertainty continues to reign, there is still the promise pronounced in Matthew 6: that even Solomon, in all his glory, was never arrayed as marvellously as the lilies of the field, and my Maker knows my needs. He has set in me this desire to dance, and I have seen that there are needs in the dance world that should be filled, and so that is the work that I can look forward to doing in time to come. And hopefully, it will be meaningful, and make a difference in the world around me. 

And so, that's where I am now. One year into uncertainty, with many more lying ahead. Never more than four weeks living in one place, and often quite a bit less than that. I'm a little bit tired of packing my bags, but I'm certainly not tired of being excited about life and all its treasures to be discovered. 

 

(Below is a little gallery of my trip. I'll add more photos to it in time to come.)

 
 
Wei-An HwaComment
Paradigm Shift - Shifting Into Second
Designed by the one and only Faye Tan, to whom I owe a massive debt of gratitude for being the ever-ready sounding board for the event, and the patient designer for all the posters that you see. 

Designed by the one and only Faye Tan, to whom I owe a massive debt of gratitude for being the ever-ready sounding board for the event, and the patient designer for all the posters that you see. 

(This is a lengthy, post that bounces around a somewhat, about Paradigm Shift, how and why it happened. You are welcome to challenge my opinions, ask questions about things and discuss anything that comes to mind.

And if you would like to come on board and engage with me in any future works, that would be deeply, truly, appreciated!)

Paradigm Shift - Shifting Into Second is in the books. What’s there to say about it?

Man, so much.

It was never a sure thing that a second edition of the event would take place. After 2017’s inaugural edition of Paradigm Shift, I uprooted myself from Singapore, where I had lived for more than 12 years, and headed off to explore the world.

The biggest factor, though, was probably the fact that there was never any plan to hold a second run of Paradigm Shift. The first one, back on the 27th of May 2017, held at Frontier Danceland, was organised more as a hoot than anything else. (Some of you may have heard or read this before, but for those who haven’t, here is my confession!)


The main intention behind the first Paradigm Shift was to do something really fun before my tenure in Frontier Danceland and Singapore came to an end. It was a plan to go out with a bang, and Paradigm Shift was the perfect platform for a variety of reasons.

Dance has been a part of my life since before arriving in Singapore. (This was before YouTube existed, or was easily accessible, and certainly before tutorials were amazing. Who else tried to learn 1990s off a gif and series of typed out instructions from a website like Style2Ouf?) Once Singapore became my home, I spent many years wandering around the street dance scene, and connecting with the odd individual here and there.

And then contemporary dance started, and I went to NAFA, and danced in Frontier Danceland. This journey was one I embarked on alone, though. Most of my friends in the street dance community that I talked to had never watched a Frontier show, and a few had not even heard of it.

Paradigm Shift was one way to remedy that situation.

(On a side note, Frontier, THE, Arts Fission, RAW Moves and Maya are not “dance troupes” but professional dance companies. Please don’t tell us that we dance in a “troupe.” It’s kinda like someone telling you that your crew is a co-curricular activity.)

Also, street dance was something that I never completely left behind. In the midst of having to point my feet or float through a Gaga class, the desire to rock a beat or flare or backflip or something or other never disappeared, and in late 2016 and early 2017 the effort was made to connect with this side of myself more actively. This led to sessions at SMU, and through these sessions I realised that more and more street dancers were becoming interested in exploring the expressive, theatrical side of dance, while I just wanted to jump back into the vibes of street dance.

And so, the idea desire to put something that brought everyone together, and helped the dance community to be a dance community instead of  several disparate ones, slowly developed and grew into...

Paradigm Shift! A “contemporary dance battle” that was intended to bring the street and contemporary, commercial and theatrical dance scenes together. A chance for everyone to get together and get down, and to show each other what dance really is in the contemporary sense. For everyone to get out of their heads and bubbles and see what else is happening within the island community that they may have missed, to network and establish a chance to talk and develop future collaborations or learning and teaching opportunities with each other.

That’s why the first edition of Paradigm Shift took place in 2017, and I’m hugely grateful to Frontier Danceland and my ex-boss, Miss Low Mei Yoke, for letting it happen.


There’s also a huge debt of gratitude to be paid for Miss Low allowing the organising of Paradigm Shift to be continued independently of Frontier Danceland, like it was this year. And although Frontier did come on board as a collaborator for Shifting Into Second, there was no guarantee that we would continue to work together, and that Paradigm Shift would continue to be organised.

And that brings us to NAFA, my alma mater, where I studied pointing my toes and contracting the transversus abdominis (Martha Graham! Martha Graham! Check out this video of the epic Robin Williams, though it doesn’t quite deal with contractions.). Dr. Caren Carino, the Vice-Dean of Dance, who judged the first edition of Paradigm Shift, was down to support the event right from the beginning. And eventually, through a series of negotiations - with the help of Bryan Lee, another dancer who most of the Singapore street dance scene should be familiar with, and another individual who was helpful, encouraging and involved right from the beginning of Paradigm Shift - we got things sorted out, and found ourselves a venue for Paradigm Shift - Shifting Into Second!

There's one more person who's been hugely important to Paradigm Shift, both this year and last, and that's Faye Tan, my collaborator and co-conspirator in getting this thing organised, discussing ideas, meeting people to talk about where everyone thinks this should go, and designing all the great graphics that you see for the event. Thank you, Faye!


Here’s where I give a huge shout-out to all the people who came up to me last year after Paradigm Shift, saying they wished that they had attended the event after hearing how it went down. Random individuals from a variety of different dance backgrounds who accosted me at various occasions. If not for you guys, I wouldn’t even have thought about organising the 2018’s event. So thank you, for your support and encouragement. And to all of you who came down to attend the event, or supported it in one way or another this year, thank you very much!


This year, the event took a very different turn. Sure, our “main event” was still billed as a battle, but it had some pretty fun twists. More on that in a moment. We also doubled the length of the event this time, having a second day that consisted of a series of workshops and a closing party.

Some of the feedback received from last year was that although Paradigm Shift was sub-titled “A Contemporary Dance Battle” there weren’t many elements that actually made it “contemporary dance.” The main highlight of 2017’s event was the music played by the eminent DJ Bolo, aka Tan Zhiming. There were, all told, 13 different genres of music that they dancers had to dance to (including silence). The dancers would pick cards determining the musical genres of that round, the DJ would drop his tracks, and off the dancers would go. The reason for this choice of “challenge” was just to remind everyone of some of the musical possibilities that are available to us all as dancers, or as fans of music. Not everything is fun or easy to listen or dance to, but there’s always more out there from which we can draw ideas and inspiration.

Officially, each round was meant to consist of a 1-minute solo per dancer, but as the event when on, more and more interaction took place, and things ended up being a gigantic freestyle improvisation game. It wasn’t how I envisioned things to go, but I’m really glad it went the way it did. Dancers didn’t come just to rep themselves and to throw their biggest moves. They came to dance with other people, to enjoy dancing together and sharing crazy, ridiculous, hilarious and amazing ideas that translated into an evening of fun and good spirits and enjoyment.

Don’t take my word for it. Watch the videos. Read what other people had to say.

Check out the representation of different styles, backgrounds and experience levels in one shot, taken this year at Paradigm Shift - Shifting Into Second! One of my favourite photos from the evening, not because we're doing cool things, but simply cause we're together. Photo by Elijah Zechariah@ejhzqn

Check out the representation of different styles, backgrounds and experience levels in one shot, taken this year at Paradigm Shift - Shifting Into Second! One of my favourite photos from the evening, not because we're doing cool things, but simply cause we're together. Photo by Elijah Zechariah@ejhzqn

And so this year, some of that feedback was taken into account. Rather than simply changing up the music with each round, the dancers were given tasks that challenge the sensitivities that contemporary dance often taps on. Namely, the ability to connect with another dancer, and also the dancers’ ability to portray emotion in their dancing (and I don’t mean executing amazing pirouettes while crying because the song says your lover died, but making us feel like crying while you do pirouettes because your whole body exudes sadness; or joy, or anger, or frustration, or hilarity, or whatever else you feel like portraying).

You don’t need to read about the details here. There are videos. The channel is here. You’ll see what’s up. All you need to know here is that the dancers didn’t just have to battle each other; they had to work their way through a series of improvisational and choreographic tasks that took them to the finals.

The finals though, those are worth mentioning. After having to rack their brains and think heaps about what they were going to do, now there was no real challenge or task set, besides the fact that the dancers were given a fairly long amount of time to dance. The only instruction to Nic Chung and Luqman - who coincidentally happen to be the two members of the Mellow Maniacs - was that they had from the time the DJ started playing music till the time she, FFINN, stopped.

The two friends and crewmates chose not to battle one another.

Instead, they put on a show, which included some of the best interactive improvisation I’ve ever seen in my life. There are no words. Just go watch the video. It’s right here.

Luqman and Nic Chung, at the end of the finals. Photo taken by Elijah Zechariah@ejhzqn.

Luqman and Nic Chung, at the end of the finals. Photo taken by Elijah Zechariah@ejhzqn.

At the end of the event on the 19th, I stated that Paradigm Shift seeks to be more than just something that happens once a year. The hope is that Paradigm Shift will be a community in Singapore that brings dancers from all backgrounds together. We want to gather to train, to learn from each other, to play, experiment, create and one day, perform. 

It shouldn't just be about dancers too. To have artists like Zhiming AKA DJ Bolo and Fiona AKA FFINN come on board to play music for us, and to work together to open more doors in the public space and in our minds as well.

Ultimately, we also want to remember that our dancing is not just for us. We create to entertain others, yes, but also to move them emotionally, to inspire, to do whatever it is that you may dream of doing with dance. 

Thanks for reading.

See you soon. 


Paradigm Shift is over, but the dance doesn't stop. Do keep your eyes open for these upcoming events and the groups associated with them!

First off, there is the official Paradigm Shift group. Join us for calls to session and cipher, and to engage with some really weird dance situations. And of course, to see what else is happening with Paradigm Shift as an event, but also as a community!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/234734833710054/

Coming up in a few weeks time, we have Culture Circle, an event that Clarence, the organiser, graciously moved to the 16th of June so that Paradigm Shift -Shifting Into Second could happen this past weekend. Culture Circle is a 2 vs 2 dance battle that is open to everyone, regardless of what dance background you come from. 
https://www.facebook.com/events/171647793541160/

Open Concept, organised by Nicholas Chung, co-champion of Paradigm Shift, is a showcase competition and all-styles abstract dance battle that seeks to bring together dancers from different backgrounds to dance to a wide variety of music, and for everyone to challenge each other to do better! Find out more at the link below!
https://www.facebook.com/events/537157260012819/574767699585108

Also, happening throughout June, Daniel Rojas aka Bboy Sonic will be teaching a practice called Fit Flow every Friday. This is an outdoor strength, mobility and movement series that is part of Sonic's larger practice that he called Embodied Dance. Find out more here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/385868098556696/

Dance, it must be remembered, is much more than just battles. The Working Group for Dancers' Advocacy seeks to help dancers make a living dancing professionally in this modern world, connecting dancers with professionals from other fields in order that we may better navigate this modern life. Their next event will discuss how we dancers can produce our own shows, instead of waiting for somebody else to give us a job. The event page isn't up yet, but you can find out more by joining the group at the link below. 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1620565094862088/about/

And let's not forget The Flux Collective, a new group put together by Ethel Foong and Natalie Khoo that seeks to promote the development of contemporary dance specifically among those below 25. The collective will be organising a contemporary dance competition, by dancers for dancers, that will take place in September.
https://www.facebook.com/thefluxcollectivesg/

Finally, do follow Frontier Danceland and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to find out about upcoming performances or opportunities to learn and grow.

Wei-An HwaComment