Bodies tumble in new dance

Bodies tumble in new dance
Nexus, a "part choreography sketch, part travelogue", is created by Sun Shang-chi for T.H.E dance company.

The choreography of a new work by Taiwan's Sun Shang-chi first appears like a tumbling house of cards - lithe bodies collapsing and falling over one another in disarray.

But the Berlin-based choreographer is not concerned about how it looks, deeming it as "intimate and at the same time physical, not as minimal as my other works".

Titled Nexus, the "part choreography sketch, part travelogue", as it is billed, will be presented as part of a triple bill of contemporary dance works by T.H.E. dance company, from Thursday at the School of the Arts.

It is the only original work to be staged this time.

The other two are As Is, a work that explores desire and vulnerability by China's Xing Liang, and local choreographer Jeffrey Tan's Remains Remain, which pays tribute to the spirit of human resilience. Both were first performed here in 2012.

Nexus marks the first time that Sun, whose repertoire has been presented at dance festivals all over Europe, has created a work for T.H.E. He was engaged by the company to perform his own pieces here at the M1 Contact Festival in 2012.

"I'm always glad to be here. Berlin is so cold compared to Singapore," he says, switching easily between English and his native Mandarin during an interview with Life! on a recent stopover here.

The choreographer, who has spent much time working with Western dancers, also found it refreshing to supervise Asian ones, saying they have "great technique".

"In Berlin, we do a lot of interviews. The dancers are verbal and emphasise communication. But Asian dancers tend to be more reticent and use their bodies to express themselves," he says.

One challenge that he faced was the short three weeks that he had to meet dancers here and grasp their personalities and styles, which he says are essential in formulating the work.

"Normally, I would need a few months to interview my dancers and get to know their quality, bodies and character. This is to get them to develop their own stories," he says.

T.H.E dance artist Zhuo Zihao, one of the six dancers in Nexus, says: "It's a new way of moving, compared to what we usually do. Sun's approach is fresh, improvisational and uncommon."

The company's artistic director, Kuik Swee Boon, selected Sun, Xing and Tan as he wants to showcase three male Asian-Chinese artists from different countries and cultural backgrounds.

"Sun's new creation allows the dancers to experience a different work process, one influenced by Asian and European styles," he adds.

In May, he will also re-stage his own composition, Silences We Are Familiar With, an amalgamation of dance with sound and spoken word first performed in 2012.

Such re-stagings, he points out, allow artists to "refine and reflect upon their work and emphasise that art is not a throwaway product created for the consumer".

"I'm very excited about revisiting Silences, a piece about love and human connection. It's an opportunity to re-think my approach towards certain things and how I convey this to an audience."

The Hong Kong-based Xing, who came here in February to oversee rehearsals, notes that at least a quarter, if not half, of his piece will be different compared to the previous iteration.

"It'll definitely be different. Previously, I was under time constraints, so I used a tighter structure.

"This time, I get to explore more areas and open up the performance. As Is is about the things you can't control in life, like the changing of the four seasons."


This article was first published on March 28, 2015.
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