Above 40 and dancing on stage again

Above 40 and dancing on stage again
Dancers (from far left) Jeffrey Tan, Silvia Yong, Kuik Swee Boon and Albert Tiong will present Above 40 at the da:ns festival.

As artistic director of T.H.E Dance Company, Kuik Swee Boon usually commandeers the action from offstage. But come October, he will be front and centre in the spotlight when he performs in Above 40.

Sharing the stage with him will be three other seasoned dance professionals in their 40s, who all began their careers as dancers but have since moved on to other roles in the industry.

They are: Silvia Yong, Kuik's wife and a member of the dance faculty at the School of the Arts; Albert Tiong, artistic director of Re:Dance Theatre; and Jeffrey Tan, principal of the Singapore Ballet Academy.

Kuik says the journey back to the stage will be a personal and emotional one.

"To perform on stage is completely different from running a company or creating something. Me, Silvia, Albert and Jeffrey are very excited about this project, but also very scared.

"We ask ourselves, what can we do? Do we still have enough value to present ourselves on stage?"

The production will be the opening act of the Esplanade's annual da:ns festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year from Oct 9 to 18.

At a media event on Wednesday, they unveiled this year's three local commissions and one international co-production.

The international co-production features Akram Khan from the United Kingdom, an acclaimed dancer-choreographer who has performed here several times, most recently in 2012 in Vertical Road, which was part of the Singapore Arts Festival.

Da:ns festival producer Faith Tan says the commissions were a response to the needs of the dance community.

She explains: "One of those key needs that we're going to be focusing on is the need to support local and regional artists to continue to create new work, especially in this region where such support is really lacking."

The full line-up of the festival will be unveiled next month and tickets will also go on sale then.

The other two local commissions are SoftMachine by Choy Ka Fai and Impulse by Kim Jae Duk and T.H.E Dance Company.

SoftMachine is a dance research project which began in 2012 to study the choreographic processes of Asian contemporary dance over the last decade.

Choy says: "I wanted to find out about choreographers in Asia, so I went on a two-year journey to meet and interview them one-on-one. Then, I started to collect and once I started to collect, it became an archive. I'm still working on how to present that archive."

He has interviewed 88 dancemakers from Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, India and China.

At the festival, he will be presenting the personal journeys of Surjit Nongmeikapam (India), Rianto (Indonesia), Yuya Tsukahara (Japan), and Xiao Ke and Zi Han (China) in a documentary-cum-live performance format.

Impulse by Kim Jae Duk and T.H.E Dance Company is a backstage, site-specific work by the company's Korean resident choreographer.

Audience members will gather at the Esplanade stage door and be taken to watch Kim's choreography in small groups at backstage areas which are usually not open to the public, such as hidden lifts and some sections of the basement.

This year's international co-production is Torobaka by Khan and Israel Galvan from Spain.

Ms Tan says: "In this performance, Akram and Israel, both masters of rhythm and powerful precision, of kathak and flamenco, will be coming together with a ferocious masculine intensity."

This year will also see the launch of a new programme, da:ns lab, which is headed by local independent choreographer Daniel Kok.

Over the course of two weeks, 10 dance practitioners will come together to work on defining their choreographic practice and to develop specific projects through collaborative transformation.

Ms Tan says: "While we present ready work on stage, one of the important things we realised that we need to focus on is to give space, resources and time for choreographers to focus on the process of creating itself."

This article was first published on June 12, 2015.
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