Dance revolution

Dance revolution
An all-male corps de ballet will perform Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake the Da:ns Festival 2014.

The dance floor will be set ablaze over the next few months, as the curtain rises on two major festivals in Singapore.

The ninth edition of the Esplanade's da:ns festival opens on Oct 9, with headline acts such as Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, which famously boasts an all-male corps de ballet; Wayne McGregor's Age of Enlightenment-inspired Far; and a world premiere by flamenco virtuoso Maria Pages.

The festival is a mainstay of the arts calendar with its international stars, its Shift series of experimental works by home-grown and foreign performers, and its wide array of outreach performances and workshops where the average Singaporean can try his hand at everything from salsa to hip hop.

Then, come November, home-grown group T.H.E Dance Company will present the fifth edition of the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival. This is the first year that telco M1 has come on board as a title sponsor for the expanding festival and it will feature a medley of international works, platforms for local companies and independent artists, as well as masterclasses for all levels.

Though there is barely a month's gap between the festivals, both dismiss talk of competition.

Artistic director of T.H.E Kuik Swee Boon points out that both are very different creatures. "We are more focused on contemporary dance and promoting contemporary dance in Singapore and in the region. I think da:ns is more focused on the international level," he says.

He adds that Contact, unlike da:ns, does not boast a directory of dance superstars.

Ms Faith Tan, the producer of da:ns festival thinks both events complement each other. She says a healthy arts scene should have "different platforms and programmes which allow the audience to experience a wide range of perspectives". The Esplanade has been a venue partner of Contact since 2011 and has also worked closely with Kuik on other commissions.

Among the wide variety of acts, da:ns' blockbuster line-up is always a crowd-pleaser.

The festival does not release attendance figures but its headline acts typically draw a strong crowd.

Student Brandon Tan, 19, will be watching Swan Lake next month with his friends. He says he likes the variety of international acts in the festival, which "makes the dance scene here more vibrant and interesting".

Meanwhile, Contact's strength lies in its focus on local and regional programming, and creating platforms for artists in Singapore. For example, the festival's opening act, DiverCity, is a collaboration between four female artists who are past or present members of local dance companies.

Freelance dancer-choreographer Chiew Peishan thinks the collaborative aspect of DiverCity is more interesting than companies working in isolation.

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