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