TheatreWorks goes big on dance

SINGAPORE - In TheatreWorks' upcoming season, expect to see a lot more dance than traditional theatre on stage.

The company's managing director, Tay Tong, says: "We have always been working across disciplines. For us, performance is not just theatre or talking heads in the classical sense. We're making performance as opposed to just theatre alone."

As such, it is no surprise that this year's line-up favours choreography over conventional plays.

Tay, 49, says: "We do feel that one of the areas where we can add to the scene is in contemporary dance. We are happy to bring in programmes that the audience has not experienced. There is the intention of looking at what contemporary dance can be in this city."

The first of three danceinspired performances this year is Nai Naii by Thai dancer and choreographer Pichet Klunchun, which will be held in June at TheatreWorks' premises at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road. Tay says of Pichet, who is trained in khon, a form of Thai dance that is performed only in the royal courts: "He's very concerned about how to make classical khon dance relevant. Not so much reinventing it, but reinterpreting it from a classical form to a more contemporary form."

Another highlight this year is an item called Retrospective by French choreographer Xavier Le Roy in August.

He is working with a dozen dancers here to create an "exhibition", which is open six to eight hours a day. Dancers will then situate themselves around TheatreWorks' premises and share their personal stories and choreography.

Tay says the project will "redefine what dance is and introduce this whole idea of personal stories and retrospectives".

In November, the company will present SoftMachine, by its associate artist Choy Ka Fai. The performance will explore dances across different cultures in South-east Asia.

Tay says: "He's very curious about what makes a dancer dance, what makes a dancer choreograph, what inspires him, what triggers him, what's in his body, what's the idea of a body and the memory of a body."

This year's season will feature the 17th edition of the annual 24-Hour Playwriting Competition, which will be held at the Malay Heritage Centre on June 21 and 22. There will also be performances of last year's winning play in the youth category, Marco Polo by Jovi Tan Yit Long, this month.

The season will not be helmed by the company's artistic director Ong Keng Sen, who is on a four-year leave of absence due to his appointment as artistic director of the Singapore International Festival of Arts. Tay says that though Ong is on hiatus, he retains close links with the company and still sits on the board.

He adds: "Keng Sen is on a leave of absence from TheatreWorks, but he is still continuing to advise artistically. The 2014 season is primarily thought out and thought through by him."

Book it


Where: Six venues in the south-east district

When: Feb 27 to March 29. Go to for the full schedule

Admission: Free. To reserve, call 6737-7213 or e-mail

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