FUSE is a bi-annual publication that documents the projects at Dance Nucleus .

FUSE is a bi-annual publication that documents the projects at Dance Nucleus .


Create successful ePaper yourself

Turn your PDF publications into a flip-book with our unique Google optimized e-Paper software.

Foreword<br />

ELEMENT#5 Social Choreography<br />

Strategies – spinnen by deufert&plischke<br />

Artist Lecture-Presentation: deufert&plischke<br />

A Personal Review of Practice from 2004 – 2019<br />

by Faye Lim<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

On da:ns LAB by Chloe Chotrani and Chan Sze Wei<br />

SCOPE<br />

A Reflection on Mulled Wine by Jocelyn Chng,<br />

Nidya Shanthini Manokara and Melissa Quek<br />

Sekelumit Cerita Tentang Proses Kerja Kreatif<br />

by Retno Sulistyorini<br />

Practice in the Making: Agency and Care in<br />

Faye Lim's Work as Dancer, Mother and Teacher<br />

by Jill J. Tan<br />

About Dance Nucleus<br />

1<br />

5<br />

13<br />

17<br />

25<br />

39<br />

41<br />

83<br />

85<br />

91<br />

95<br />

103<br />


Dance Nucleus<br />

Foreword<br />

Christmas carols are playing as I write this foreword in a cafe. “It’s a most wonderful<br />

time of the year!”, one of the songs exclaimed. Wonderful?<br />

Anyone who has been following the goings-on in the world would know<br />

that 2019 has been a very challenging year. It’s no longer just a question of<br />

Trump and Brexit, as if these are events taking place in a faraway context; disturbing<br />

yes, but life still goes on. By now, the effects of rightwingism and inaction<br />

on the climate crisis are emphatic and palpable. The heat is literally felt<br />

around the world this year, with forest and plantation fires in the Amazon, Africa,<br />

North India, Borneo and New South Wales. Severe funding cuts for the arts in<br />

Belgium, India and Australia are being made, exacerbating the already austere<br />

conditions for artists everywhere. And of course, there’s Hong Kong… But besides<br />

painting a depressing picture and evincing a pessimistic outlook, what else<br />

can I do? What are some necessary and ameliorative actions that my colleagues<br />

and I can take?<br />

I hadn’t expected myself to be seeing Singapore as a haven from the<br />

storm. Notwithstanding our own brand of political illiberalism, my recent experiences<br />

working locally and internationally has led me to see that the relative stability<br />

on this small island nation can be a useful resource to help enable artists<br />

and projects within a network of shared ideas and cooperation.<br />

At the time of writing, we are in the middle of wrapping up an eventful<br />

2019, and preparing for what looks like a big leap forward for Dance Nucleus<br />

in 2020. Moving out of our pilot phase, the National Arts Council in Singapore<br />

is extending its funding contract with Dance Nucleus for another two and a<br />

half years. This helps us to make plans for the longer term, deepening and<br />

expanding on the programmes that we have established over the past 2 years.<br />

It is certainly my wish, as I take stock of things presently, that Dance Nucleus<br />

can be steered even more towards assisting and enabling independent artists in<br />

tangible ways in Asia as well as in Singapore.<br />

As of now, it looks like a fairly large number of different creation projects<br />

that have been ‘incubating’ in Dance Nucleus over the past 2 years are shaping<br />

up as clearly formulated proposals, ready to be full realised in their respective<br />

ways. In the coming year, I look forward to collaborating with some of our regional<br />

partners to consummate meaningful artistic exchanges within Asia, and facilitating<br />

cultural conversations that are critically germane to our corner of the globe.<br />

In 2020, we will also be launching a new initiative to present a series<br />

of solo performances that have grown from their time spent in Dance Nucleus.<br />

VECTOR#1 will be a modest presentation platform for small-scale experimental<br />

performances, with the potential to develop into a salient platform for performance<br />

practices that do not easily fit into existing festival frameworks.<br />

I have been sceptical of the word ‘new’ since my undergraduate days.<br />

Since the late 90s, ‘new’ has also been critically understood as a myth proffered<br />

by neoliberal capitalism. Yet, as we arrive at a new decade, ‘new’ is ostensibly<br />

still a useful word when we review on our various modus operandi with a sense<br />


FUSE #3<br />

of urgency, and imagine alternatives based on principles of sustainability, simplicity,<br />

mutual support and care. In 2020, let us insist on art as a force for reconciliation,<br />

rehabilitation and rejuvenation, so that we can feel ‘anew’ from art.<br />

Yours Sincerely,<br />

Daniel Kok<br />

Artistic Director, Dance Nucleus<br />

3<br />

Photo credit to Bernie Ng

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

ELEMENT#5<br />

Social<br />

Choreography<br />

ELEMENT#5: Social Choreography looked at the social dimension of choreography<br />

and reorganises discursive and collaborative processes, as well as dance<br />

projects that deal with social engagement as a critical practice. In thinking<br />

about choreography as a social praxis that synthesises ethics and aesthetics,<br />

we began to look beyond participation and collaboration as ontological questions,<br />

and consider them as epistemological processes: social engagement is<br />

more than a question of if and what, or even how bodies, persons and identities<br />

perform as they encounter each other, but a question of how much do we<br />

get out of the encounter. How far can we take each other in the socio-political<br />

space of a dance? We invited Berlin artist duo deufert&plischke to be guest<br />

mentors, and to present their project Just In Time as an example of a social<br />

choreographic project that can simultaneously host the different questions<br />

and approaches of our artists-in-residence, and engage various Singapore<br />

communities. This project was also part of Got to Move ISLANDWIDE 2019.<br />

Our Artists-in-Residence (AIRs) were Chan Sze-Wei, Hasyimah Harith,<br />

Hwa Wei-An, Faye Lim, Lee Ren Xin and Shanice Nicole Stanislaus, all of whom<br />

have been working on socially-engaged projects. Aside from participating in<br />

group mentoring sessions, these AIRs also assisted deufert&plischke with the<br />

execution of Just in Time, bringing the various communities they worked with<br />

into our studio for the project. Here, Faye Lim shares her reflections on her<br />

project in relation to the programme. deufert&plischke have also contributed<br />

a piece based on their practice centred on the myth of Arachne, following<br />

their sharing of their artistic practice in a Lecture-Presentation. We have also<br />

included an edited transcription of it. ELEMENT#5 was kindly supported by<br />

the National Arts Council and Goethe Institut Singapur.<br />

deufert&plischke’s works focus on time,<br />

memory, myth, and how we should live together.<br />

As an artistic duo for more than 17<br />

years, they have adhered to the radical notion<br />

that choreography can build society,<br />

not merely illustrate it. Thus, collaboration<br />

and participation are central themes in deufert&plischke's<br />

methodology, process and<br />

performance: in their multi-faceted work, be<br />

it a choreographic concert, lecture, or exhibition,<br />

theatre takes place only insofar as it<br />

can be knit together by everyone – artists and<br />

spectators – in the moment of performance.<br />

Choreography thus becomes a social activity,<br />

not determined by aesthetic principles, but by<br />

existential and philosophical concepts such as<br />

war and peace, freedom and truth. Theater as<br />

a social situation – from the common rehearsal<br />

to the performance – is the driving force<br />

of deufert&plischke's choreographic form and<br />

artistic expression. They author their works<br />

collectively. The theatre of the Berlin based<br />

deufert&plischke interweaves the sensuous<br />

with the intellectual through the immediacy<br />

of body, voice and community. It unfolds as<br />

a landscape of choice and commitment for<br />

all, where the political is inherent to the act<br />

of theatre, and where art is defended as necessary<br />

excess. In their unrelenting search for<br />

expanded notions of (social) choreography,<br />

deufert&plischke have also recently turned<br />

their attention to letter-writing – a nostalgic<br />

medium for digital times, a once-private activity<br />

made public. In August 2019 they premier<br />

their new dance piece Liebestod in the frame<br />

of the Berlin dance festival Tanz im August.<br />


FUSE #4<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

7 8

FUSE #4<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

9 10

FUSE #4<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

11 12

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />


– spinnen<br />

In German, the word »spinnen« has many meanings. It can denote the art of<br />

creating and drawing out a yarn, the following of a particular train of thought,<br />

pondering over something or exaggerating something to the extent that it<br />

becomes unbelievable or fantastical. It also denotes the animals that many<br />

people fear: spiders. Spiders can produce thread from their own bodies and<br />

construct webs. But the most terrifying aspect of these delicate creatures isn’t<br />

their vast webs, rather the sudden, unpredictable movements with which they<br />

attack their prey or beat a retreat. These perceptual transgressions seem to<br />

create an insurmountable fear of spiders within humans: arachnophobia.<br />

At the end of the story of Arachne the weaver, Athena speaks these<br />

words: »Live on then, and yet hang, condemned one!« (Ovid, Metamorphoses,<br />

Book 6, Arachne the Weaver) The story is about Arachne (Greek for spider),<br />

a highly talented young artist who has taught herself to weave in her own<br />

workshop. By regularly opening the doors to her workshop and sharing the<br />

socially interactive method of producing her art, she soon gains a name for<br />

her unique tapestries well beyond the local area. Rumours spread that she<br />

is the best weaver of her day. The goddess Athena (Greek goddess of warfare,<br />

wisdom and crafts) hears of this and visits Arachne in her workshop,<br />

with the intention of confronting and humbling her. Arachne is unfazed, and<br />

even challenges Athena to a weaving contest, which takes place there and<br />

then in front of an audience in Arachne’s workshop. Athena weaves a tapestry<br />

on which she glorifies herself and other gods; Arachne weaves a rug<br />

depicting numerous scenes of the mighty gods enacting violence and rape<br />

on defenceless people. »[Arachne] gave all these their own aspects, and the<br />

aspects of the place.« (ibid.) The realistic nature of Arachne’s depiction is so<br />

magnificent that she emerges as the clear winner of the contest. This angers<br />

Athena to such an extent that she strikes Arachne with a spindle and begins<br />

tearing up her tapestry. Just as in the depiction on her tapestry, Arachne feels<br />

mistreated by Athena and attempts to hang herself with a thread of yarn.<br />

Athena hesitates, and out of pity decides to let Arachne live, forever hanging<br />

from a thread, and with poison turns her into a spider in front of all present.<br />

»Departing after saying this, she sprinkled her with the juice of Hecate’s herb,<br />

and immediately at the touch of this dark poison, Arachne’s hair fell out. With<br />

it went her nose and ears, her head shrank to the smallest size, and her whole<br />

body became tiny. Her slender fingers stuck to her sides as legs, the rest is<br />

belly, from which she still spins a thread, and, as a spider, weaves her ancient<br />

web.« (ibid.) Gradually, the talented artist is transformed into the much-feared<br />

creature with the oversized abdomen that is only capable of weaving fragile,<br />

non-pictorial webs of a purely functional nature.<br />

We’ve been telling this story for many years and have used it in many<br />

different works, yet we never tire of it. In the context of the ‘Me Too’ debate,<br />

the cruel, unjust fate of Arachne has never seemed as current, and Ovid’s<br />

story is so explicit that it no longer needs interpretation but more so propdeufert&plischke<br />


FUSE #4<br />

agation. For us, Arachne is a truly timeless feminist performance artist, who<br />

through her practice demonstrates that art doesn’t only require courage to<br />

transcend borders – one’s own and the symbolic – it also needs to be radically<br />

opened to society itself. Art can only be created in the confusion and<br />

chaos of its time.<br />

But to us, Arachne isn’t merely an inspiring figure for resistance and<br />

border transgression, she also offers a way of working that we would like to<br />

present to as many people as possible. At first glance, these practices may<br />

seem to be archaically social and »feminine«, but this is probably just a superficial<br />

patriarchal interpretation made to preserve a hierarchy of artistic forms,<br />

something that has long needed overhauling. Spinning, knitting, weaving,<br />

embroidery, writing, speaking, narrating, listening; all these things are incorporated<br />

into our choreographic practice. This enables our work to maintain<br />

contact with reality and not veil it in hyperaestheticism. Reality is action and<br />

fabric, reality is a structure made up of stitches, loops, threads and holes, just<br />

like underwear, cloth, curtains, lace – but also velvet and plush.<br />

Arachne’s tapestry is a historical and technological precursor to the<br />

European tapestry. For us, her spinning and weaving practice is a model<br />

for creative workshops to which we invite people to participate in collective<br />

actions. These can be organised in an installation-based, participative and/or<br />

choreographic manner, and can span many different time frames. A common<br />

thread is that they always bring people together, people who might not have<br />

met before, to address important issues and make joint decisions on possible<br />

forms of coexistence and the shaping of the (near) future – with yarn and<br />

needle, with instinct and intrepidity.<br />


ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

Opening<br />

Artist Lecture-<br />

Presentation:<br />

deufert&plischke<br />

The topic of today’s lecture is social choreography, which was also the topic<br />

of our stay and all the work that we did here was was connected to that.<br />

So we want to talk about why we understand dance and theatre more as a<br />

social rather than purely artistic situation, and why we think the theatre is a<br />

space that invites the audience to take part in all of the actions that are done<br />

on stage. So we’re investigating dance in its ethical, and aesthetic and social<br />

dimension.<br />

All over the world, there is a certain theatre architecture where the stage<br />

is in front and the audience is somewhere [facing the stage], and the light is<br />

switched off when an action is taking place [on stage]. And this comes from<br />

an occidental theatre practice… and theatres of this form are quite dominant,<br />

even though in many cultures this situation does not play a role, and only a<br />

few people know that this form is only 100-150 years old - in the 19th century<br />

it came about as an educational tool to bring people’s focus to the stage.<br />

But before that the theatre was quite messy - people ate, drank, fucked - so<br />

this separation of audience and action is a modern phenomenon, and our<br />

works work severely against this structure.<br />

So we decided to speak about two works. And something Kattrin alluded<br />

to earlier which I will say more on is this idea of heritage, which the<br />

project we brought here is also speaks about. We switch the lights off in the<br />

theatre and the audience comes together with the idea of the nation at the<br />

same time; we want to concentrate the attention of the people to one thing.<br />

And we see today so many artists trying to get away from [the stage] and<br />

discover the museum, which may also have a problematic development, but<br />

the people’s attention is not controlled. So there is something like a control<br />

obsession which is part of the heritage of theatre, and is also inherited in<br />

methods of choreography.<br />

The Myth of Arachne - Emergence Room, Spinnen<br />

In Europe, the idea of theatre, beauty, self-presentation, is closely tied to the<br />

Greek myth of Orpheus who sang beautifully to get his Eurydice out of the underworld.<br />

So the origins of art was kind of sticking to this figure in European<br />

mythology, and we wanted to move away from him and raise another figure,<br />

and that is Arachne, a woman.<br />

The story is that Arachne comes from a single parent family - her mother<br />

died - and the father was a dyer. So she was always around handicrafts, and<br />

in the workshop. She was also a fantastic weaver, and the news spread to the<br />

goddess Athena, who was the goddess of craft. And when she asked where<br />

did Arachne learn her skills from, and word was that she was an autodidact,<br />


FUSE #4<br />

which angered Athena since she was the goddess, the source, of craft. So<br />

Athena disguises herself as an old lady, meets Arachne, and tells her that<br />

she needs to acknowledge the goddess Athena as her teacher. Arachne then<br />

challenges Athena to a competition, after which latter reveals herself and<br />

agrees. So Athena weaves a carpet where the gods are in the centre and<br />

creation are at the sides, while Arachne weaves a carpet which depicted the<br />

god Zeus and all his violations against women; she weaves a rape scene. And<br />

the competition was public, so people could vote for the best carpet and they<br />

voted for Arachne, as it looked so realistic, which infuriates Athena and she<br />

destroys the carpet.<br />

So we have here in the story images of public viewership, weaving, a<br />

workshop situation, a competition, the autodidact, and realism. Arachne unveils<br />

power structures that are present in her artwork, and it gets destroyed.<br />

And Arachne is so involved with her artwork that she decides that she cannot<br />

live and tries to hang herself with her rope - so her material is rope, and she<br />

is ending her life by cutting the rope that connects the head to the body. But<br />

just before she dies, Athena sprinkles a poison on her and transforms her into<br />

a spider. And culturally, this transformation is a big thing because the head of<br />

the woman shrinks, and the abdomen swells.<br />

This figure, for us, is the beginning of art. It captures the messy places<br />

that we want, realistic places, not presentational nor controlled spaces that<br />

have single purposes, and we really wanted to push the idea of knitting,<br />

weaving together, and the space of workshops that addresses the idea of<br />

texts, texture, textiles.<br />

So why is myth still relevant today? When it comes to myth there is<br />

something problematic because they are, no matter which culture, from mostly<br />

patriarchal cultures. But nevertheless we like to work with myth because<br />

it is tied to oral culture. Myths were always told, and it could happen everywhere.<br />

And what interests us about myths is not so much that they contain<br />

truth or non-truth, but more that they have recognisable attributes, like I can<br />

recognise myself in this myth. Mythology is also intercultural; there are lots<br />

of studies that show repeating motifs in myths across cultures like the spider,<br />

gender roles, power gaps. And if you remember we have two big European<br />

myths here - Orpheus being the one of beauty, of gentleness, and Arachne<br />

being the one of harsh reality, and not just of her life but that she depicted<br />

rape scenes. And for us it was important that when we started Emergence<br />

Room, we set up public spaces for people to knit and stitch things and not<br />

be censored. So some of these - a lot of these - were really tough. But remembering<br />

that Arachne’s carpets are like carpets of reality, that was always<br />

our task.<br />

So why is Arachne important to artists today? Arachne is the young<br />

woman, and the young woman is a figure in society that is very fragile, in<br />

terms of who gets the education, who gets aborted. And there is also the<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

young woman as the object of desire, the object of hope. Another thing<br />

about Arachne is that she was an autodidact, that she believed she could<br />

learn things for herself and be very good in it. She is also the contemporary<br />

artist, the body artist - she does her work in public, as opposed to the traditional<br />

image of the artist hiding behind their canvas, in their workshops.<br />

Just in Time<br />

We’re now going to talk about our Just in Time project which we have been<br />

invited here with. The only topic in this project is dance, dance in all its various<br />

forms and variations, and it is also our first work where dance on the stage<br />

becomes pure social choreography; there is no difference between a performer<br />

and audience, the audience is as much as performer, which makes the theatre<br />

become very much a social situation, everyone sits in the same boat. So the<br />

pictures of Just in Time in different cities are all similar in the outcome, you<br />

always see happy people dancing together. But each city also has a special<br />

characteristic which makes for very rich encounters.<br />

There are two things that make the project, one is the letter to dance,<br />

and the other is the movement that we collect. The letter is an important form<br />

because you address it to somebody. We only collect handwritten letters, and<br />

the act of giving it away, out of one’s hands, that is a very artistic gesture, because<br />

you do something and give it, like a dance, to make your body a subject<br />

on stage, you are also giving something out of your hands; you lose control.<br />

And the way Emergence Room and Just in Time fit together is also<br />

through the notion of heritage. Just in Time started when we were asked to<br />

hand in an application for a dance heritage performance. We came to realise<br />

that this dance heritage thing, and focus on technique and the past - it all fits<br />

this idea of control, that there are guards dictating right technique and history.<br />

So with Arachne/Emergence Room, we were thinking about messing up<br />

of the space, messing up of images, and here in Just in Time, we’re thinking<br />

about giving up control, of handing over, the idea that you can do your own<br />

movement, and you can dance the favourite movements of others, and it can<br />

be a fun space, and pleasure can come in.<br />

This project also looks with suspicion at the western fundamentals of<br />

dance, and why are they so important. The ballroom is all about dance and<br />

tradition, dance and sexual orientation, dance and language at political levels.<br />

And if you joined the ball you would realise that dance always deals with all<br />

of this - nationalities, tradition, body, language.<br />

How did the different communities get invited to the project?<br />

It differs from each city. In LA, one person from the theatre coordinated<br />

everything, and each workshop had a mix of people from different com-<br />

21 22

FUSE #4<br />

munities. Another way was that we visited old people’s homes, schools,<br />

libraries. The inviting parties also have a say as we do in how to organise<br />

the workshops and balls<br />

In the Emergence Room project, how do you extend the invitation to<br />

get involved in the public workshops? What kind of preparations do<br />

you do?<br />

We would sometimes host the space everyday, or we would have the table<br />

with different things, chairs, that set up a space of conversation. We<br />

would also be in the space doing things, which then animates people to<br />

do things. We also sometimes leave instructions on the walls in the space<br />

that also allow people to enjoy the quietness of the space. The project<br />

has evolved such that the materials in the space are more self-explanatory,<br />

so there is nothing but the artistic, poetic universe.<br />

What happens to the materials created in Just in Time?<br />

The best case is that we have one form of documentation from each city,<br />

so here we are doing a video and e-publication with the scanned letters.<br />

But we also take the originals, and are working on a huge online archive.<br />

We are in talks with two dance archives because coming back to the idea<br />

of heritage, it is quite charming to think that these letters will be part of<br />

an archive, because it is the dance history of everybody, and that it’s just<br />

in time, it is just of this moment.<br />

It’s interesting that not only is there a heritage of people but<br />

heritage of space and place. That can really stimulate anarchy to a<br />

certain extent, because with an interior space it can create a liberty to<br />

go against.<br />

And spaces are never innocent, they carry stories like people. The<br />

Just in Time project is also different in that you don’t go for a theatre<br />

performance, you go for a ball. Our work is also bad for producers because<br />

we insist that the doors need to be open; it has to be for free.<br />

We’ve had huge debates with theatres to make the workshops for free,<br />

as they have concerns about whether people will take it seriously if it is<br />

free, but for us accessibility is very important. And all these questions<br />

point to what we said before, the idea of controlled spaces, where attention<br />

is not only controlled but who can get in and who can’t.<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

an identity of a twin, to absolutely change famiy relations, to have a<br />

playful approach to past and now family.<br />

When working with you, it was very clear that there were two individuals,<br />

but each decision involved both of you, and there was a lot of<br />

sensitivity in how you responded to each other in the room. So how<br />

was this chemistry developed?<br />

We really try to be like two but speak as one, and it can be confusing<br />

to be consistent. But we learn from real twins, biological twins. We have<br />

to be very good at explaining things to each other, talking one another<br />

through things when one of us wasn’t there.<br />

How have working with your children been?<br />

The family is also a social situation that is not granted, not always nice,<br />

not necessarily peaceful, the children are not obliged to love their parents,<br />

and these things constantly have to be negotiated day by day. We<br />

give this invitation to them to become part of our work and so far they<br />

like and do it, but I think this can stop at any moment because we don’t<br />

force them to participate. And we spend so much time together, like at<br />

any moment a new idea can come and when we discuss it, our children<br />

hear us talking so they are kind of a part of it anyway, so twin-time,<br />

children-time, work-time, we mixed them all up.<br />

What is your background that propelled you into this direction?<br />

Our background was us coming together and erasing our past, or tried<br />

to. And the concept of theatre as a social situation was something that<br />

keeps us together - we couldn’t agree on anything else. And reading<br />

Arachne’s story, her depiction of the rape scenes, it was the stone that<br />

started to roll with us, and we started to write our own biographies with<br />

23 24

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

A Personal Review<br />

of Practice from<br />

2004 – 2019<br />

Here, I attempt to describe the practices that intersect with my occupation in<br />

making for children. My original working definition of “practice” was “the repeated<br />

application of an idea or method in order to be able to do it better.” I<br />

am now using this working definition – “the sustained repetition of a task, idea<br />

or method in order to maintain or increase abilities.” This updated definition<br />

takes into account my experience of:<br />

• Time (“sustained”): The practice develops over a long period of time<br />

I am long-drawn and stretched out<br />

• Making (“task”): The physical act of making and doing is a practice too<br />

The muscle memory from brushing someone else’s teeth - a child’s -<br />

twice a day<br />

• Maintenance (“maintain”): Maintaining one’s abilities also requires practice<br />

Maintenance work is often undervalued, like the work in keeping a child<br />

alive and well<br />

Occasionally, tangential ideas, references and emotions come to me as I write.<br />

Instead of excluding them from this article, I have included them in blue.<br />

Please feel free to read them, skip over them, or do both when you wish.<br />

Adults sometimes want to be given permission too, not just kids<br />

This could be like a “choose your own adventure”<br />

Contact Improvisation as practice<br />

Faye Lim<br />

When I came across contact improvisation (CI) 1 , I experienced it as a way of<br />

dancing that was utterly enjoyable, while being able to hold contradictions<br />

for my body. I felt so many things – challenged, ambitious, safe, connected,<br />

disconnected and disoriented. This was in Los Angeles in 2004, where I was<br />

studying at the World Arts and Cultures (WAC) school within University of<br />

California, Los Angeles (UCLA).<br />

The legacy of American postmodern dance was still strongly felt at WAC<br />

and I found affinity (and still do) in the “relaxed aesthetic” of postmodern<br />

dance 2 . That “relaxed aesthetic” felt efficient and virtuosic at the same time,<br />

and CI, a form coming out of the postmodern dance era, was much more<br />

agreeable for my body (compared to ballet or certain modern dance techniques<br />

I had studied). There is an egalitarian spirit to the underlying idea that<br />

“CI is enjoyed by movers of all kinds 3 ,” which suggests to me that anyone and<br />

any body is able to dance CI and potentially enjoy it.<br />


FUSE #4<br />

Pondering colonisation and de-colonisation in relation to post-modern dance.<br />

Processing the Critical Path chat where we discussed “Does Abstraction Belong<br />

to White People?” 4<br />

Linking these back to a discussion at Theatreworks, where we discussed,<br />

among other topics, “making dances that are not about anything.” 5<br />

From 2004 until 2010, I danced CI in the US, where I was still living, Then,<br />

the focus seemed much more on the dancing - honing the intelligence of the<br />

body and dancing from a deeply somatic approach. Safety was talked about<br />

to the extent of the “first (or only) rule 6 ,” which I understood then as take<br />

care of your own body, ie try not to get injured. Danielle Goldman, American<br />

dancer and writer, describes CI as “a practice of making oneself ready for a<br />

range of ever-shifting surprises and constraints.” I paid attention only to the<br />

physical, relishing the mid-air moments, the falls, and the thrills of not knowing<br />

what will happen next in the dance. The “listening 7 ” I practised was insofar<br />

as the reading of physical cues I received from my partner/s and whether my<br />

partner/s wanted to continue the dance. Where there were transgressions or<br />

limitations to freedom on the dance floor, I was unaware at that time.<br />

Added a footnote for “listening.”<br />

Glad I caught that. I still feel the guilt of my ignorance<br />

When I returned to Singapore in October 2010, there was a nascent gathering<br />

of people interested in CI. Eventually, seeing that the community was small<br />

and organisers 8 were needed to keep the practice going, I started to organise,<br />

facilitate and teach CI. My practice of CI thus expanded beyond the dances I<br />

was having, to include questions such as:<br />

• Is “pay as you wish” sustainable? What does “sustainable” mean here?<br />

• How do we practice safely?<br />

• How does the practice recognise the person, not just the dance?<br />

• Who comes out to CI sessions and who doesn’t?<br />

Intersections of practice:<br />

CI and motherhood<br />

With the birth of my son in 2014, I became a mother. It was disorienting and<br />

destabilising, even as I held tender feelings for him. There was so much about<br />

him I had to learn and discover, as well as about me. I felt confronted especially<br />

by the amount of time we had to spend together (by necessity and by choice),<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

and by the stark gender disparity in the parenting roles that my husband and<br />

I assumed.<br />

It’s ok that I’m writing about my son? It’s ok. In order to be the mother I want<br />

to be for him, I need to bring our worlds together now. We are co-dependent.<br />

I will tell him this. What will our journey be?<br />

Motherhood became a practice – trying, doing, failing, doing again, not knowing,<br />

knowing again, failing again, doing better the next time, then just doing.<br />

With my pedagogical training, hours of literature review, and access to online<br />

parenting resources, I began to form a framework to this practice. At the core<br />

of this framework are these beliefs:<br />

• We, children and adults, are persons-in-progress or “becomings. 9 ” I<br />

will be compassionate and respectful of myself and him, through my<br />

actions and language.<br />

• Every child’s developmental milestones (physical, social, cognitive, etc)<br />

are to be acknowledged and taken into consideration.<br />

• Every child has the right 10 to health (all aspects), safety and<br />

their own views and preferences. I will provide adequate care and<br />

leadership so he is able to thrive and practice self-determination.<br />

• This is a practice. I will fall short a lot and that is okay. I can apologise,<br />

go on, and do better next time.<br />

Baby-land was all consuming and I was away from CI for more than a year.<br />

The gynae said “no contact-based sports or activities” but perhaps I could<br />

have also balanced that with my own body sense. Sze danced through her<br />

pregnancy and QQ. Ok I am not Sze.<br />

Returning to CI was a turning point for me. David Lim from Contact Festival<br />

Kuala Lumpur 11 (CFKL) invited me back to participate and teach at the festival<br />

in 2015, which prompted me to re-acquaint my healing body with CI. In the<br />

next year, I got to know about Heike Kuhlmann’s 12 (Berlin) and Itay Yatuv’s (Israel)<br />

CI work with young children and families 13 . With Heike’s encouragement,<br />

I began exploring CI with my son and other families at Dance Nucleus. The fit<br />

was a natural one – CI was a way for me to get to know this ever-growing and<br />

ever-changing young child and invite him to move the way he did. He moved<br />

close to me, on me, and took time to explore spaces away from me.<br />

In 2017, with the re-emergence of the #metoo movement and more<br />

visibility around issues relating to sexual assault and harassment, people who<br />

practised CI also began to talk more, and more openly. Among my friends and<br />

29 30

FUSE #4<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

networks, there were increasingly candid discussions about inappropriate and<br />

unwanted touching, predatory behaviour and other forms of or sexual assault<br />

happening during and after CI jams. Facilitators were seeking ways to not<br />

only ensure the safety of the CI dance space, but also to restore feelings of<br />

safety for practitioners who stopped dancing CI due to such encounters. Jam<br />

guidelines, which were previously unpopular among some CI communities 14 ,<br />

became a significant way for facilitators internationally to instil a framework<br />

of care and nurture a consent culture. Ramsay Burt expanded on Goldman’s<br />

description of CI, asking if besides “being ready,” there is the need in CI for<br />

“responding or taking responsibility. 15 ”<br />

What does this have to do with motherhood? EVERYTHING, eg. I want to raise<br />

my son to be respectful and NOT an asshole, so help me god.<br />

Chan Sze-Wei, Felicia Lim and I (as Qontact Qimprovisation research group<br />

hosted by Dance Nucleus in 2018) also delved into some of these considerations.<br />

We discussed how we could be more inclusive in the ways we organised<br />

and facilitated jams, eg. being trauma-informed, offering alternatives, having<br />

jams that actively welcomed people of all ages 16 . Sze and I also developed<br />

a set of safety guidelines to care for the CI jams we were co-organising and<br />

taught CI classes with lessons in body boundaries and consent.<br />

While I continued exploring CI with my son and other families (I called<br />

those Rolypoly Family 17 sessions), I paid more attention to the participants’<br />

experiences of agency and care within the jams I was facilitating. That led me<br />

to the “first, do no harm 18 ” ethic which would go on to inform everything I<br />

would make for children. I also began to view the jams as space and time for<br />

children and their families to practise respectful affection, physical play and<br />

active “listening” for consent.<br />

“Practice in the making”<br />

research project<br />

The idea that CI-inspired jams were potentially a new format for children and<br />

their families (in Singapore at least) got me interested in exploring and making<br />

more formats of practice for both children and artists (together and separately).<br />

Sustained over time, these formats, I hoped, would support their artistic<br />

participation and development and have transformative qualities, whether in a<br />

linear or non-linear trajectory.<br />

Ultimately, I cannot guarantee a practice for anyone besides myself. My son<br />

is already in his practice, in his own time. That is as much as I can dream of.<br />

rk, cooking, they’re all done before we set off to our dance venue…”<br />

31 32

FUSE #4<br />

In 2019, I successfully applied for an associate membership with Dance Nucleus<br />

to embark on this “making spree.” 19 Jill Tan came onboard as an ethnographic<br />

writer and we agreed that I would make for children and she would<br />

write about it. I was not in the practice of writing about my own work so I was<br />

eager to have Jill as a critical, empathetic and embedded researcher-writer.<br />

By then, my frequent collaborator, Bernice Lee 20 , had joined me in running<br />

Rolypoly Family dance sessions and we were beginning to apply our dance<br />

aesthetics and processes to our work with children.<br />

Eventually, these formats and works were made in Dance Nucleus 21 :<br />

Dance improvisation<br />

• Format: Sound and movement structured improvisation sessions; childled<br />

exploration<br />

• Family Dance and Music Jamboree 22 , five sessions for young children<br />

and their families (directed and facilitated by me, with musical<br />

contributions from Natalie Tse and Andy Chia 23 )<br />

Performance making<br />

Format: Artists making together, in the presence of and with some input from<br />

a child (my son), guided by “first, do no harm” ethic and a consideration for<br />

the young audience’s experience of agency and care<br />

• Letters Come Alive 24 , a new dance theatre work for young children<br />

(directed by and in collaboration with Bernice Lee)<br />

• Say That Again 25 , an adaptation of an existing dance work for older<br />

children (directed by me and in collaboration with Bernice Lee)<br />

• A participatory performance and exhibition based on Cheng Herng<br />

Yi’s Paper Playground 26 , an existing origami-dance work for anyone<br />

(produced by me, co-curated with Herng Yi)<br />

Reflection, discourse and documentation<br />

Formats: Three formats for group dance improvisation and meditation sessions<br />

with and without children, adapted from Barbara Dilley’s Contemplative<br />

Dance Practice 27 (for Rolypoly Family’s collective improvisation practice)<br />

All these, my son and I do too, as we spend time together, while I am mother,<br />

artist and teacher with him. How long will this last?<br />

When will he turn away from all these? Will he?<br />

All the making he does now – the dances (Scooter Dance!), books, the music<br />

and songs, the stories, the inner worlds.<br />

I grieve the loss I imagine will come<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

Amidst the “making” were these activities in Dance Nucleus:<br />

• Observations by and discussions with Jill<br />

• Simultaneous caregiving of my young son<br />

• Contact improvisation jams and classes on a fortnightly basis (also at<br />

RUMAH P7:1SMA)<br />

• Conversations with other artists in-passing<br />

• Studio maintenance work and meals<br />

The “making spree” felt tedious and left me little time to contemplate what<br />

I had made. Conversations with Jill also surfaced more questions to ponder<br />

– what do “agency” and “care” look like, move like, dance like? Is there an underlying<br />

aesthetic to the formats I’d made? What about my practices make me<br />

make the way I make? What about the parents/grown-ups? Do they feel they<br />

have agency and do they feel cared for? (For Jill’s writing about this project,<br />

go to page 95)<br />

Element #5:<br />

Social Choreography<br />

Dance Nucleus’ ELEMENT #5 came around in October 2019, with a focus<br />

on Social Choreography 28 , and became the retreat I needed to step out of<br />

making. Led by artists deufert&plischke from Berlin, we wrote, moved a little,<br />

wrote more, did grown-up versions of show-and-tell, and created, in my view,<br />

rich and intimate multi-modal narratives interweaving the past and present,<br />

memories and desires.<br />

I got to sing “Part of Your World” during ELEMENT (yay), learnt weaving (didn’t<br />

know I needed it), told, listened and read stories (about trees, death, sex)<br />

Watched Daniel take care of the children. Watched the space shift.<br />

During that time, I observed the space shift in Dance Nucleus. deufert&plischke<br />

brought their two children to Dance Nucleus for the residency, so then there<br />

were three (children) at times. We saw them, we heard them and we felt their<br />

presence. They saw us, heard us, and felt our presence too. It was a jam of<br />

sorts – artists, children and families being together in structured and improvised<br />

ways. Sometimes, the space felt relaxed “ah, we know how to be together<br />

and we like being together.” Sometimes, the space felt more tense and<br />

boundaries needed to be acknowledged and mended.<br />

I was like child too, getting carried away in role-playing and singing.<br />

Daniel Kok, artistic director of Dance Nucleus, was caregiver too, tending to<br />

the curiosities and big energy of the children. The children were makers too,<br />

making forts, weapons, photographs and merry.<br />

33 34

Remember the grown-ups, they are there somewhere<br />

It is a trinity - between the children, their grown-ups and us, the artists<br />

The children do not place themselves in our midst<br />

All is relational<br />

Look at the grown-ups in the eyes, sing for them, care for them too<br />

If you can, remember their/our names<br />

Remember the artists, they are among you<br />

They try to do it all, they are late, they are early<br />

They are short, they are tall, they are richer, they are poorer<br />

They have mortgages, they have illness, they have plants, kids or cats<br />

They are kind, they are assholes, they need their naps<br />

Some of them, anyway<br />

Remember dance, dance is here<br />

Dance to Dance?<br />

Don’t write to Dance or about dance<br />

Just because someone tells you to<br />

Who writes to dance,<br />

anyway?<br />

FUSE #4<br />

Remember to relax<br />

Not always and not everywhere<br />

But it is a possible thing to do – to relax<br />

This is my offering – relaxation, as a companion to your struggles,<br />

which are real<br />

You won’t die if you relax<br />

But you might if you don’t<br />

Remember Jill<br />

Remember to write to her<br />

Remember to ask her how she is doing<br />

Remember to not send her too much to read<br />

Coming out of ELEMENT #5, I revisited the idea or sentiment of the “relaxed<br />

aesthetic.” Why am I drawn to it and why does it matter? What is relaxed<br />

– the body, the people, the boundaries, the expectations and/or the environment?<br />

The next iteration of the Practice in the Making Research Project with<br />

Jill will be a continuation of the conversations between her and I, looking<br />

specifically into the “relaxed aesthetic” and how it plays out in a choreographic<br />

format I’m co-making for young dancemakers.<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

1. “The improvised dance form is based on the communication between two moving bodies<br />

that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that<br />

govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia”- early definition by Steve Paxton and<br />

others, from Contact Quarterly Vol. 5:1, Fall 1979<br />

2. This relaxed aesthetic has been attributed to “recycled Africanist principles” (Brenda Dixon-Gottschild)<br />

and Asian philosophy, such as chance encounters inspired by the I-Ching.<br />

3. https://contactquarterly.com/contact-improvisation/about/index.php<br />

4. A skype discussion convened by Critical Path in Sydney and initiated by dance artist Charemaine<br />

Seet, to share responses to Miguel Gutierrez’s article for BOMB magazine. https://<br />

criticalpath.org.au/program/interchange-festival-2019-charemaine-seet/<br />

5. This talk and panel discussion was moderated by Lee Mun Wai, in conjunction with “The<br />

Roundest Circle,” directed by Eng Kai-Er, Felicia Lim and I, produced by Theatreworks as<br />

part of Eng’s associateship (2018)<br />

6. https://contactquarterly.com/cq/article-gallery/view/how-the-first-rule-brought-metoo-tocontact-improvisation.pdf<br />

7. “Listening” is a term used (somewhat affectionately) by dancers to convey a heightened<br />

sense of awareness and sensing of another dancer, of the space, of themselves, etc, usually<br />

with somatic implications.<br />

8. Some past and current regular organisers, to my knowledge, include Matthew Heys, Li<br />

Yongwei, Eng Kai-Er, Chan Sze-Wei, Felicia Lim, Xie Shangbin, Siang Ding, and myself<br />

9. Lee, N. (2001). Childhood and Society. Growing Up in an Age of Uncertainty. Buckingham,<br />

UK: Open University Press<br />

10. https://www.unicef.org.uk/what-we-do/un-convention-child-rights/<br />

11. Contact Festival Kuala Lumpur has been an annual contact improvisation festival since<br />

2011 https://festival.contactimprovkl.com/2011/index.html<br />

12. Heike Kuhlmann is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and body-worker https://www.<br />

heikekuhlmann.net/<br />

13. Itay Yatuv is a dancer, choreographer, teachers and founder of Contakids. I encountered his<br />

videos online and was introduced to his work by local theatre practitioner Trev Neo http://<br />

www.contakids.com/founder.html<br />

14. Interview with Kathleen Rea, who organises the Toronto Wednesday Contact Jam<br />

15. Burt, R. (2016). Ungoverning Dance: Contemporary European Theatre Dance and the Commons.<br />

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press<br />

16. Megan Emerson’s Culture of Consent for partner dance communities https://contactimprovconsentculture.com/2018/04/10/stages-of-consent-culture-for-dance-communities/<br />

17. The name “Rolypoly Family” was chosen to reflect the ever-changing nature of movement,<br />

the fun of being topsy-turvy, the evolving and diverse configurations of “family” and the<br />

cross-generational sharing of dance.<br />

18. “First, do not harm” is a Hippocratic oath used in some medical settings. An adaptation of<br />

this is used in the Singapore Medical Council Physician’s Pledge, though its practicality is<br />

debated. I encountered during my stint in social impact consulting.<br />

19. Jill and I were re-acquainted in December 2018, through our work with Superhero Me, an<br />

inclusive arts organisation. I then got to know her as an anthropologist and writer, and<br />

invited her to collaborate on “Practice in the Making”. https://jilljtan.com/<br />

20. https://www.youcannotunsee.com/<br />

21. Other works made outside of Dance Nucleus include Scooter Dance initiated by my son<br />

(made during walks in our neighbourhood) and participatory programmes – Dance Playground,<br />

Dance Jambo and Dance Party (with support from The Artground)<br />

22. This series was partially funded by LearnSG seed grant.<br />

23. The musicians performed as part of Little Creatures by SA and had their baby with them<br />

at every jam session. https://hellolittlecreatures.com/<br />

35 36

FUSE #4<br />

ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography<br />

24. Letters Come Alive went into production with the support of The Artground. It was later<br />

performed there, at The Esplanade’s Octoburst Festival 2019, and in the Jalan Kukoh<br />

neighbourhood with support from NAC’s Got To Move initiative.<br />

25. Say That Again was commissioned by Singapore Management University in 2012, as part<br />

of Code Switch Visual Arts Festival curated by Regina De Rozario and Tang Ling-Nah.<br />

There were several adaptations of the score and the latest adaptation in 2019 was performed<br />

at Kong Hwa School under NAC-AEP.<br />

26. Cheng Herng Yi is a mathematician and performance artist. http://www.herngyi.com/performance.html<br />

27. http://www.barbaradilley.com/<br />

28. “ELEMENT#5: Social Choreography looks at the social dimension of choreography and<br />

reorganises discursive and collaborative processes, as well as dance projects that deal<br />

with social engagement as a critical practice.” Dance Nucleus http://www.dancenucleus.<br />

com/element.html<br />

Faye Lim improvises, facilitates, performs,<br />

dances, makes, and mothers. In her recent<br />

performative works, she explores questions<br />

about the “personal persona” – how does she<br />

show up as herself in the work? How does<br />

she perform her desires, fears, unknowing,<br />

and personal history in improvised performances?<br />

She makes works alone and collaboratively.<br />

Faye can be reached at fminlim@<br />

gmail.com<br />

37 38

da:ns LAB<br />

About<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

2019<br />

da:ns LAB is an annual artist meeting, organised as a collaboration between<br />

Dance Nucleus and the da:ns Festival of the Esplanade Theatres by the Bay in<br />

Singapore. It is a programme to interrogate choreographic practice that began<br />

in 2015. da:ns LAB 2019 is the programme’s 5th edition.<br />

The theme of da:ns LAB 2019 was “Listen to Country”. Responding<br />

to the shifting ground and changing climate - environmental, political, and<br />

economic - many artists in the performing arts have begun to augment their<br />

practices with a sense of urgency. This involves a critical reexamination of<br />

the arts ecology, the role of the arts and artists, and a greater emphasis on a<br />

model of relevance over that of excellence. The verb of the day thus seems<br />

to be ‘to listen’. As well as to speak, issue statements and to take a stand, the<br />

artist who cares also needs to build in listening as a salient ingredient in their<br />

artistic practices. Besides speaking more forcefully and more persuasively,<br />

how can we be better at listening to our communities?<br />

4 international artists were invited to facilitate discussions on a critical<br />

re- examination of the arts ecology, to critically respond to the challenges<br />

faced in their cultural contexts by building platforms, initiatives, and organisations<br />

with their respective milieus alongside their individual artistic projects.<br />

These 4 artists were Jacob Boehme (Melbourne), Paz Ponce (Berlin), Martin<br />

Schick (Fribourg), and Xiao Ke and Zi Han (Shanghai). Our participants were<br />

invited from the region such as Taiwan, Philippines, India, Indonesia and Thailand.<br />

Associate Members Chan Sze Wei and Chloe Chotrani were documentarians<br />

of the entire programme. <strong>FUSE#4</strong> contains excerpts of the full report,<br />

which can be found at Esplanade Theatres by the Bay’s Offstage website.<br />


da:ns LAB<br />

Documentarians’ notes<br />

5 th da:ns<br />

LAB: Listen<br />

to Country<br />

We (Sze and Chloe) respond, engage, critique, and archive da:ns LAB 2019:<br />

Listen to Country. Being both dance practitioners, we are participants as well<br />

as witnesses to how the invited artists engage with the participants, an inside<br />

and outside gaze. What kind of collective discussions are activated? How may<br />

they have a ripple effect in our respective practices as cultural workers?<br />

Some notes on the formatting of this archive:<br />

• We have decided to speak/write/archive in first person, to give a more<br />

direct felt sense of the discussions in the room as they happened.<br />

Coming to terms with the impossibility of being purely objective, we<br />

take in our subjectivity as a place of power as artists and archivers in<br />

this role.<br />

• Chloe has responded to Day 1 and Day 3, while Sze has responded to<br />

Day 2 and Day 4.<br />

• You will find sections of verbatim transcription within the archive, to<br />

bring in the actual voices of people and to avoid any overriding of<br />

our own perspectives, which can lead to the risk of tainting over the<br />

original language and tone spoken on the day itself.<br />

Chloe Chotrani and Chan Sze Wei<br />


da:ns LAB<br />

Day One<br />

As I write this, the Singapore skyline is hazy from the neighboring forest fires.<br />

A reminder of the call of the climate crisis. The haze returns every year and<br />

treated is treated society in Singapore as a normal part of the weather. All<br />

conversations at this point are interwoven to our ecology. This year’s da:ns<br />

LAB theme Listen to Country brings questions about our relationship to land.<br />

What is our place in relationship to the land we live on? What does it mean to<br />

listen to the land? What can we do to respond to the call of the land? Are we<br />

willing to listen?<br />

On the indio genius,<br />

I quote Kidlat Tahimik, National Artist and Father of Philippine Independent<br />

Cinema, whose works critique the division of globalization, capitalism, and<br />

tradition. Kidlat coined the term indio genius of people who identify with indigenous<br />

values, but are not from a direct indigenous ancestral lineage. Indio<br />

genius—I find to be a good framework of indigenous intervention within a<br />

contemporary content to read the engagement with the work of Jacob on our<br />

first day at da:ns LAB.<br />

Jacob Boehme is a Melbourne-born and based artist of Aborignal heritage,<br />

from the Narangga (Yorke Peninsula) and Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) nations<br />

of South Australia. Jacob is the founding Creative Director of YIRRAM-<br />

BOI First Nations Arts Festival 2017.<br />

Jacob introduced himself by sharing his ancestral lineages. His work<br />

in Australia fills the gap created through colonial indigenous erasure – of<br />

language, of people, of memory. As a young actor and trouble- maker at the<br />

age of 13, a social worker put him into a theatre class instead of juvenile detention,<br />

which led him to study dance at the Aboriginal Island Dance College<br />

in Sydney, where he learned from Aboriginal elders and where Jacob adapted<br />

pre-colonial performance models of interdisciplinary song and story-telling.<br />

Of which, one of these models was shared and practiced with us in his workshop.<br />

He also generously gave the participants the opportunity to take this<br />

model and share it with others in our own contexts.<br />

In the South of Australia, the erasure by colonization was heavier and<br />

absence of culture more felt, as compared to the North where there is a<br />

stronger presence of Aboriginal historical narratives and songs due to slower<br />

colonization. In the South, banning and censorship of song and dance led to<br />

Aboriginal communities continuing their ceremonial practices in secret. Jacob<br />

initiated the YIRRAMBOI festival for the revival and reclaiming of cultural<br />

practice, pride, ceremonies, and connection to country.<br />

Jacob’s presentation leads me to question: Jacob comes from an indigenous<br />

lineage, which gives him the authority to reclaim indigenous narratives,<br />

but how about everyone else? There is risk in cultural appropriation,<br />

especially when it comes to the indigenous. How does one build a holistic<br />


elationship with a community where art can be an expressive medium to<br />

mutually benefit both the artist and the community?<br />

On country as oral histories and memories of ancestors,<br />

As the conversation shifts into remembering stories told by our grandparents,<br />

it raised provocations, frictions, tensions, and further questions within a Singaporean<br />

context. Interestingly, this sharply changes the direction and perspective<br />

of Jacob’s original intentions, which was to have a second movement<br />

exercise based on stories of our ancestors. We ended up instead in a heated<br />

conversation about voluntary amnesia and trauma within familial ties.<br />

Cui Yin, Loo Zihan, Sze and Nabilah speak about how in Singapore,<br />

family storytelling is not a usual mode of connection. The older generations<br />

were determined to forget trauma so as to move on. Questions were raised<br />

on how to expand the notion of kinship beyond genetic ancestry? Here is<br />

how the discussion went:<br />

Jacob: If we go with the notion of country as a commitment to family,<br />

those that have walked before us, without them we wouldn’t be here. It<br />

is through those ancestors that have given us the opportunities today.<br />

This is where I’d like to shift the focus into a movement exercise. I was<br />

wondering, if we could do two more memory exercises and apply it to<br />

the choreographic technique. Think of a story that you have been told by<br />

a grandparent of ancestors you don’t know.<br />

Cui: That doesn’t exist.<br />

FUSE #4<br />

Jacob: Your grandmother has never spoken about her mothers and elders?<br />

Cui: My grandmother speaks a different language.<br />

Loo Zihan: Their dialect is different from our dialect.<br />

Jacob: Is there any story you have heard from the older generations?<br />

Whom you have never met?<br />

Zihan shared that for the older generations, there was a deliberate willing<br />

of self to forget due to the trauma of the past, poverty, migration, violence,<br />

and war. Shawn questions the room on how we can expand to think beyond<br />

genetic ancestry?<br />

Aparna: I was thinking how much of culture is passed through stories,<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

which is one way. It is only in the mid-nineteenth century where there is<br />

the homogenization of how the world is transformed. If we are talking<br />

about migration that has happened over half a millennium, there is cultural<br />

continuity, though not necessarily through the passing of stories…<br />

I feel there is something about different ways of passing on values. Some<br />

of which are verbal, some are different forms of encouraging different<br />

forms of behavior. Here as a dance space, there is a lot of embodiment<br />

and transfer of histories.<br />

Chloe: I feel for many of us here that blood kinship is a source of estrangement<br />

and rejection, and so you don’t go there as a source of<br />

healing, because it is the source of trauma. Your sense of family, story,<br />

history, then comes from other sources, or ideally, inside. Perhaps, you’ll<br />

find a rhythm, or dance, or song, where you find a source of home. I am<br />

curious about ways we can look beyond a racial boundary.<br />

Jacob: It is not beyond your blood, it is in your blood. Your DNA memory,<br />

every two generations, it tracks back. When you do come across songs,<br />

or rhythms, or something that feels familiar to you. DNA memory is going<br />

two generations plus two generations plus two generations back. It is<br />

already in your body, that’s why you remember. It is already in us.<br />

Nabilah continues to share on how she finds freedom in being able to<br />

re-make our own myths, finding a strength of being present, rather than<br />

digging into family trauma. While Zihan shares his resistance to a genetic<br />

determinism of who we are, a narrative that has been woven, spun, used,<br />

and inflected as a weapon to discipline Singaporeans. Shawn shares that in<br />

trauma discourse, it is not just genetics that one inherits, but also how the<br />

environment changes the genetic expression. I think the understanding of<br />

genetic inheritance of trauma needs to be contextualized. Sze also shares<br />

how remembering and identifying with a culture that is an oppressing majority<br />

brings upon cultural guilt.<br />

Paz: When a nation state works based on geography there is a consensus<br />

of forgetting. From that point zero of the collective decision of when<br />

one is a country, things happen very fast, people consciously eliminate<br />

where they come from because its more ‘efficient’ to move forward.<br />

Cui: I don’t care about reconciliation or lost things along the way. But,<br />

I know that I have been programmed to a culture that has cut me blind<br />

and deaf to many people and their experiences because of the nature<br />

of my identified existence as Chinese. I feel that, maybe it is not about<br />

listening to country, but thinking about how your country is where<br />

47 48

FUSE #4<br />

you are listening to. Maybe those who are listening should be listening<br />

to those that are subjugated. For that is how I inhabit the present<br />

situation in Singapore. There is no such thing as Chinese, that word is<br />

a fake word. The concept of Chinese-ness is of a soujourner, of being<br />

diasporic, of being multiplicities. In and of that, then for what? The label<br />

is just a demographic label. The label I have been given has caused a<br />

lot of unnecessary harm. That harm is what I should be listening to,<br />

rather than to focus on what came before me.<br />

On country as land/ecology,<br />

Jacob shifts the conversation away from country being something to with<br />

your blood or culture to country being environment and ecology. What is your<br />

relationship to that? What is the position of responsibility to ecology and<br />

environment? What are people's feelings on how that plays in your practice?<br />

Preethi: In India to find unbuilt land is almost impossible because the<br />

population is increasing. In the last few years, a group of us have been<br />

occupying open spaces. How do you be in these open spaces? How do<br />

you inhabit those places? These are spaces where our thinking is starting<br />

to develop. Taking action upon open spaces. There was such an urgency<br />

that some of us bought land, so that nothing could be built on it.<br />

Sze: I have a strong sense that the local environmental context of Singapore<br />

and its situation as a confluence of things is a context of transformation<br />

over time. And, I try to think about transformations at the time<br />

of the ocean, not in the time of human life. In the time of the horseshoe<br />

crab which has retained its inherent genetic makeup, and how it has not<br />

needed to change in a million years. With that project, I work with things<br />

that come to these shores, to look at that transformation and how those<br />

things have been reclaimed by the sea. It is also a connecting to the<br />

sense that migration, say of my grandparents, is only a small scheme of<br />

the larger changing or non-changing patterns.<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

Amin: Before this talk about indigeneity, the idea of land was important,<br />

that allowed me to reflect upon traditional ideas with nature pre-Islam.<br />

Understanding of the wind in itself as a way to describe modes of being<br />

and understanding. And, nature was a way of looking at the life or<br />

understanding life of Malay people before Islam. After Islam, it became<br />

quite a sanitized way of looking. A lot of training in traditional dance it<br />

was mostly from nature, how soil works, and returning back to the land.<br />

Jacob: In order for us to go forward ecologically and environmentally,<br />

I do think it is important that we consult with as many indigenous<br />

communities around the world as possible, who have spent long periods<br />

of time and managed them pristinely; until the coming of the<br />

industrial revolution and after the industrial revolution. We need to<br />

start listening to those that have been listening to country for a long<br />

time in order to go back to the land renewal. Because unfortunately,<br />

we have fucked it.<br />

We close the day by having a conversation on the current fellowship that Jacob<br />

is under for the next two years. Where Jacob has the opportunity to seek<br />

alternative business models based on indigenous cultures around the world.<br />

To re-seek for ideas of the art market that is more focused on cultivating craft<br />

rather than selling performance as product. Which leaves us with room for<br />

actual on the grounds, possibilities.<br />

We did not end up doing the initial movement exercises that Jacob had<br />

planned. There is no conclusion. There are no answers. There cannot be answers<br />

in four days. This conversation is too complex to unpack in a workshop<br />

or two. However, we did arrive somewhere. Ideas surrounding the urban-indio,<br />

the notion of country beyond nation-state borders, country as ecology<br />

and environment, listening to people that listen to country, listening to those<br />

that are subjugated, as a way to listen to country, and a myriad of layers that<br />

each can unpack in one’s own way.<br />

Chloe: I work with soil and I think my hands in contact with the earth is a<br />

way to listen to country. The way information is being passed can also be<br />

ephemeral in this way, the insects that come by, the dragon flies, monitor<br />

lizards, frogs, and all of that translates into my work as an artist. That is<br />

one way to listen to country, to listen to nature. I feel one way to break<br />

the illusion of separation of man and nature is through plant medicines.<br />

I feel it is so deeply profound, it can be a re-wiring of our cells and neuropaths,<br />

that is also another way to listen.<br />

49 50

FUSE #4<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

51 52

da:ns LAB<br />

“I find that it’s hard for my body to dance. Dance is a luxury for me. Now<br />

I’m trying to find new ways to understand what is dance.”<br />

– Xiao Ke (in her day 1 introduction)<br />

Day Two<br />

On dancing in public space,<br />

Republic of Dance was based on the daily public square dances common in<br />

cities across China, danced by older folks. XK x ZH mention that they initiated<br />

this project after being asked frequently about “China’s contemporary dance”,<br />

leading them to seek out dances danced by everyday Chinese people. XK x ZH<br />

approached this with the following questions: Is public square dance different<br />

in various cities? How do public square dances change Chinese society? What<br />

is the body memory of mainland Chinese? It was also a way for Xiao Ke to connect<br />

with her parents’ generation, whom she previously did not identify much<br />

with as they had different lifestyles and what she perceived as bad manners<br />

(e.g. speaking excessively loudly).<br />

XK x ZH identified distinctive elements in the public square dances which<br />

they related to Chinese body memory: poses with the Little Red Book and<br />

positions influenced by Maoist Moral Operas, pauses for photography, and a<br />

unique concept of the use of music which was not count-based. They also<br />

observed that the public square dance groups generated their own forms of<br />

community and communication, with their own groups using online forums.<br />

They noted that body memory lingers, even though China changes very<br />

fast. These memories influenced a whole generation, but wondered how a<br />

younger generation understands this?<br />

Public square dancing also says something about how Chinese use<br />

public space. Despite overseas impressions of control in communist country,<br />

Chinese people use public space a lot and don’t care what others think. The<br />

dancing was an important expression of happiness for a generation with<br />

painful memories.<br />

On censorship,<br />

XK x ZH’s instant theatre initiative in Shanghai Too late/NIAO NIAO Festival/<br />

Instant Theatre was created to circumvent the Chinese censorship process.<br />

They created their own inflatable theatre and festival to support independent<br />

young artists and show their own work. Through an open call they assembled<br />

30 performing artists and amateurs and together created a work called Too<br />

Late. They later brought the Instant Theatre to Penang but regretted it because<br />

it was so hot!<br />

The context for Too Late was that XK x ZH had several shows for the<br />


FUSE #4<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

Top: Republic of Dance. Image courtesy of Xiao Ke x Zi Han<br />

Bottom: Republic of Dance. Text in Chinese: “If I dance fast enough, loneliness cannot catch<br />

me”. Image courtesy of Xiao Ke x Zi Han<br />

theatre censored prior to this. They sensed that the censors’ objections were<br />

arbitrary, and were frustrated with the negotiations to modify their shows. It<br />

was also difficult to get approval for a theatre in a public space. They circumvented<br />

this by collaborating with the West Bund festival in Shanghai, who<br />

didn’t bring XK x ZH to the censors’ meeting. They had an agreement that<br />

they would not say that XK x ZH’s events were a performance. Instead, they<br />

hosted “free workshops”.<br />

Xiao Ke feels that it isn’t so hard to figure out how to navigate censorship<br />

in China. She refuses to stop working because of self-censorship<br />

– which is more powerful than government censorship. So they choose<br />

to circumvent the censorship process and work with little resources, even<br />

though if one is happy to negotiate, one can get huge funding and space.<br />

Xuemei shares about Drama Box’s inflatable theatre the Goli (marble),<br />

created to address the aesthetics of community theatre in a different space.<br />

It is a challenge to maintain and repair the structure, while the ambiguity<br />

of ownership of public space makes licensing tricky. The porosity of public<br />

spaces also creates the requirement that all content performed in the Goli<br />

needs to achieve a “G” rating because you can’t control who will accidentally<br />

encounter your work and feel offended. The company realised that the redefinition<br />

of space was becoming something interesting in itself.<br />

Xuemei describes a sense that the censors are constantly trying to catch<br />

up with artists. Cui Yin notes that even talks and buskers in Singapore require<br />

licenses. Xiao Ke responds that Singapore seems to be a game where<br />

it is hard to imagine anyone breaking the law – unlike China where artists in<br />

big cities still have this possibility. Zihan and Kai respond that there are still<br />

situations where Singapore artists can avoid regulation, such as sharing in<br />

private events, and informal practices such as those in the Esplanade underpass<br />

where participants are presumably ignorant of licensing requirements<br />

and do not feel a need to self censor. Zihan feels relief that the censors seem<br />

to be catching up rather than running ahead, in contrast to the 90s when<br />

performance artists were seen as a security threat. The censors had tried to<br />

run ahead of artists and measures become disproportionate.<br />

Xiao Ke and Henry mention the censorship of artists in Taiwan and Macau<br />

because of their participation in the Sunflower Revolution. Yikai shares<br />

about the performance Provisional Alliance in the Taipei Arts Festival. A variety<br />

of activists, artists and politicians had been invited as performers for<br />

a work about decision making in government. The involvement of political<br />

candidates was perceived as biased and there was pressure from the press,<br />

mayor and venue to cancel the show or remove some participants. The artists<br />

were able to proceed with a modified script, because they had the support<br />

of their venue, and in Taiwan artists won’t be stopped if they really want to<br />

do something.<br />

Zi Han recalls that Republic of Dance was censored when it was sched-<br />

55 56

FUSE #4<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

Miniascape. Image courtesy of Xiao Ke x Zi Han<br />

57 58

FUSE #4<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

uled at the Shanghai Power Station, a government contemporary arts museum.<br />

However the institution also played the important role of protecting the<br />

artist. The performance proceeded informally un-ticketed and by invitation,<br />

and the censored text “cultural revolution” was instead covered with<br />

beeps and blacked out subtitles. In his opinion, this made that part of the<br />

performance even stronger.<br />

On Monopoly!<br />

The afternoon session is dedicated to a game of monopoly designed by XK x<br />

ZH, which they couch as a way to “complain constructively” and have exchanges<br />

about different independent artists’ and curators’ contexts and dilemmas.<br />

On being independent,<br />

XK x ZH admit that they “cancelled” the cash element in the game because<br />

it became problematic to talk about buying opportunities or festivals. Their<br />

board design reflects a basic map of the art environment that they work in and<br />

is only one system in which to think about art and independent practice. Cui<br />

Yin points out that the origin of Monopoly was not to celebrate capitalism<br />

but to encourage players to think about the benefits of a non-capitalist system<br />

and players had an option to veto the rules of a monopolistic system.<br />

Preethi talks about how we can develop spaces for dialogue where a<br />

work is not only judged by number of tickets sold. Building dialogue with the<br />

public, media and people across many fields is crucial in a place of ruptured<br />

history, without ready-made discourse. It is also important to engage peers to<br />

look at each others’ work and push in directions that you wouldn't normally<br />

go yourself. Many artists in Chennai are disappointed that being articulate<br />

in English and the language of contemporary arts has become so crucial to<br />

any sense of value, but there was a recent move to develop discussion of<br />

concepts and abstract ideas in regional languages.<br />

Daniel suggests that the paradigms that keep dancers trapped are: seeing<br />

dance as a visual and technical practice, emphasis on festivals and making<br />

shows. What if dance practice doesn’t mean being alongside other disciplines,<br />

but the ability to think about an expanded ecology? In a global<br />

context of falling audience numbers and funding cuts, co-production is only<br />

a stopgap measure. The onus is on the independent artist to think creatively<br />

about other ways of engaging public rather than creating more shows to<br />

jam into an already failing market system. The latest Arts Sector plan is an<br />

opportunity for Singapore independents to reimagine ourselves and reframe<br />

ourselves to the National Arts Council.<br />

59 60

FUSE #4<br />

On Interdependence,<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

Cui Yin states that she is averse to the word “independent”, which assumes<br />

a dichotomy and separation from institutions and authority. That perspective<br />

dehumanises people who work in institutions and those who accept support<br />

from them. Her own interest is more about how to create the conditions for<br />

creating and experiencing art, working collectively and interdependently.<br />

She is interested in what other languages of value we are creating; giving<br />

each other a language of meaningfulness that can’t be translated into cash.<br />

To assume markets are neoliberal is to also ignore the value of stallholders in<br />

markets and public squares that are also a form of community.<br />

Xiao Ke responds that at a basic level for her and Zi Han, the basic<br />

premise is to try and be financially independent. There is “big funding” available<br />

in China, but 100% of the granting foundations are organisations they<br />

do not trust. As independents they have the power to decide to do or not<br />

do, and try to separate money from their work. Being independent in China<br />

is also about collaboration, and a perspective of building an ecology and an<br />

environment for art. Initiatives such as the NIAO NIAO festival and the iPAN-<br />

DA forum are XK x ZH’s attempts to build possibilities for a new arts ecology<br />

without funding. Their work Darling Hurt (Rainbow) where Xiao Ke walked<br />

across Shanghai with a clothes rack - engaged audience in a different way<br />

from conventional performance.<br />

To Loo Zihan, “independent” means that you are flexible to get resources<br />

from everywhere but you have very strong principles, determining what<br />

you do and don’t want to get. You have to take care of yourself.<br />

Yikai speaks about Thinker’s Theatre, his independent venue, and Tua<br />

Tiu Tiann International Festival of the Arts, an independent festival. He agrees<br />

that being independent is about having more flexibility in time and creativities.<br />

Young producers today in Taiwan are starting to think that it isn’t necessary<br />

to go into an institution to get resources. The strength of being independent<br />

is in knowing what resources one has. Not everything is about money.<br />

Sekar says that in Solo, she is focused on activating a next generation of<br />

choreographers after Eko Supriyanto. There is a need for a mutually supporting<br />

ecosystem of independent art workers to encourage and support young<br />

artists and their practice, and help develop their ability to talk about their<br />

work. For example, there is Melati Suryodamo’s programme Onstage, which<br />

invites young artists to create new work and be articulate about their work.<br />

Paz says that in Germany, visual arts independents are those not represented<br />

by a gallery - trading support for some loss of independence. In performing<br />

arts, independents are those not from state sponsored companies.<br />

KC notes that independent visual artists have the supporting infrastructure of<br />

the arts market system, that provides opportunities to showcase your work<br />

more frequently than perhaps an independent dance maker would. Jacob describes<br />

the Australian context where independents were facing a difficult situation<br />

with massive arts funding cuts removing the 40% funding allocated to<br />

small and medium organisations who had collaborated with the independent<br />

sector. The demands for not-for-profit arts organisations to follow a profit<br />

imperative are set up to fail.<br />

Yi-Kai appreciates that we addressed how independent artists navigate<br />

the landscape. It resonates with his own experience as an independent practitioner<br />

as Director of The Thinkers’ Theatre Taipei, a small venue founded by<br />

arts managers and producers in 2013 when there were few spaces for independents.<br />

The theatre selects 4-5 artists to support and promote annually.<br />

The Tua Tiu Tiann International Festival of the Arts is a street performance<br />

festival started to bring together local independents and to benefit businesses<br />

in their area, building on a history of social movements and arts in the<br />

district. The festival opts to take only 30% government funding and raise the<br />

rest from private companies, rather than 80% government funding with the<br />

condition that they have to follow government policies. That situation made<br />

Yikai realise the importance of being independent.<br />

Daniel asks how dance address the social dimension of itself in an<br />

aesthetic sense? Must dance always be needing to engage outward groups?<br />

Must the artist always be burdened with extraneous concerns?<br />

Kai responds to XK x ZH’s day by singing the Soviet anthem.<br />

61 62

da:ns LAB<br />

Day Three<br />

This day was quite different from the rest of the other three days of the da:ns<br />

LAB programme. It was also led by an artist facilitator, Martin Schick, but the<br />

format of the workshop itself was an experiment because he chose to try out<br />

a practice of facilitation without being in Singapore. The first half of the day<br />

is conducted via an embodied representative - Norhaizad Adam, who stands<br />

in front of the room as a presenter and relays Martin’s speech as received on<br />

a bluetooth earphone. The second half of the day is conducted by Martin via<br />

direct video link.<br />

On distant teaching,<br />

“Martin’s reason to not be here is deliberate. He is looking at how to work differently<br />

after travelling extensively and running an arts centre in Switzerland. He<br />

has decided to change radically how he works and collaborates. He proposed<br />

not to be here but experiment with how to conduct activities with us, to try to<br />

see how to be close to us without having to be physically here. How to take<br />

care of ourselves - travel - impact on environment and own body, and losing<br />

contact with community around you. If you look at time and physical abilities as<br />

a resource or opportunity cost, then you can’t be flying around all the time. But<br />

to build international relationships is crucial to many artists’ way of working<br />

today. How then can we find a way to be in close communication, without<br />

constant travel?” – Daniel Kok, Curator<br />

On privilege and not-travelling,<br />

Susan notes that it has become fashionable to talk about the difficulty of deciding<br />

to create a way of life of not travelling and the dilemma of wanting to<br />

be a global artist. For example, Jerome Bel. She asks Martin to elaborate on<br />

the obstacles, and quality of work arising from this practice and the notion of<br />

the hybrid. Loo Zihan asks whose bodies can afford not to travel and who can<br />

make the choice and agency to do so.<br />

Martin-Norhaizad: We don’t know yet. This is something new for us.<br />

We are reacting without knowing where we are going. That makes it very<br />

performative and experimental, without saying how it has to be. There<br />

are many failures. There are no small answers for small questions. [Not<br />

travelling as an artist] is a practice that for many years practiced by mostly<br />

western artists. Something that we cannot say everyone should do, not<br />

everyone was doing it before. The more we talk about it the more we get<br />

into a trap. It is interesting to get into a trap so we can learn something<br />

about it.<br />


FUSE #4<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

On failure,<br />

Martin-Norhaizad: Hopefully what we’re doing today turns out as a big<br />

failure.<br />

Kai in a whisper to the microphone: Hi martin, I’m impressed that you<br />

didn’t show up. It’s the most unprofessional thing I have ever seen. I’m<br />

interested in ways of becoming less professional because it is a way<br />

of fulfilling needs that are not met in professional theatre settings.<br />

One unprofessional thing I’m interested in currently is having sex at rehearsals.<br />

I wonder if you ever consider having sex by proxy? Do you<br />

think it’s one microsystem that’s interesting to create?<br />

On unlearning,<br />

To questions from Susan about the process of unlearning and the intentions<br />

behind the architecture of the space, Martin elaborates that unlearning is<br />

about slowing down and being less in the productive mode (therefore sleeping<br />

boxes), and deep learning that takes place when one had experiences over a<br />

longer time. Architecture-wise, sleeping was allocated the same importance<br />

and space as the toilet and benches - a Corbusier-like approach to a minimal<br />

or perfect size.<br />

Daniel comments that the Unlearning Centre offers a space to question<br />

and ameliorate social practices at the micro level and the self. He wonders<br />

if the unlearning practices at the individual level could also question the<br />

foundations of society and mobilise people in bigger ways, as an act of<br />

resistance. Martin responds that one point of unlearning is to reduce the<br />

efficacity of the production mode and raise consciousness of what we are<br />

doing right now and what those practices lead to.<br />

Chloe asks how unlearning can apply within local context, and Aparna<br />

noted that the unlearning exercises might be more useful in systems and for<br />

individuals not used to constantly unlearning and rehabituating as artists do.<br />

Martin responded that he had presented his approach to unlearning, but did<br />

not intend to explain to us what unlearning was. Preethi comments that unlearning<br />

was a concept present in many histories and parts of the world. We<br />

were very aware that we were listening to the unpacking of a whole system.<br />

Exercising unlearning,<br />

Martin invites participants to propose habits they had observed that they<br />

would like to unlearn. Examples range from conventions of how we dress and<br />

Bottom: Image courtesy of BlueFactory<br />

67 68

FUSE #4<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

groom ourselves, how we organise our meals and schedules around meals,<br />

apologising for our bodily presence, apologising for an unpronounceable<br />

name, politeness, trying to save situations, thinking in silos, how to love.<br />

After the unlearning activity, Martin shows a video of a Body Weather<br />

performance with farm animals that was respectful of their presence and<br />

input. He leads the group to practice this approach by selecting an object or<br />

machine in the room and scanning it visually then responding in movement, to<br />

test our relationship with objects and devices, so as to be outside ourselves.<br />

On scanning and seeing,<br />

Bernice notes that during the “scanning” exercise, she was trying to not see<br />

other people and trying out not wanting to be seen, so that the movement<br />

would not be about what it looks like from the outside. Susan is interested<br />

in how the scanning could go beyond surface and engage different levels<br />

of seeing. Chloe reflects on the attention to materiality in the scanning exercise,<br />

as material objects were already very privileged and that we needed<br />

to deprioritise materiality and its vicious cycle so that we could look deeper.<br />

Martin responds that he will revisit whether “scanning” is the most appropriate<br />

word.<br />

Daniel asks if role-playing instead of speaking as ourselves can allow<br />

us to suspend judgement. Kai responds that she understands that speaking<br />

in public is already performing, and that she tested what she was saying by<br />

saying it. Aparna appreciates Martin’s call to not be so judgmental about<br />

what’s being offered. Referring to the “scanning” exercise, she related it to<br />

her traditional practice where one regularly observes and borrows from the<br />

natural and animal world - a deep, complex and valuable practice.<br />

Jacob highlights traditional societies’ methodologies in coexisting with<br />

the environment that might address the climate crisis and social-political crises<br />

led to by neoliberalism and industrialist history. KC is interested in how<br />

to follow up on da:ns LAB so as to make a material change in how we work,<br />

and strategies that will allow the change to have a multiplier effect.<br />

Kai asks how we know when we have listened, and whether hearing<br />

something uncomfortable makes one listen deeper, and potentially change<br />

one’s views.<br />

Top: Image courtesy of Martin Schick Bottom: Image courtesy of BlueFactory<br />

Respondents:<br />

Shawn invites us to dwell on the word “failure” and to be careful about<br />

how we use the word. How do we situate failure as a practice? Failure<br />

of what, in what context, unlearning in what context? Judith Halberstam’s<br />

Queer Art of Failure describes a strategy that queers the normative logics<br />

69 70

FUSE #4<br />

of society, where failure is an important way of life for queerness. Failure is<br />

also tied to promise. If there is no promise, there is no failure. What then<br />

is the risk? He also notes how words have become very important for us, our<br />

particular way of life, our history, asks how we can listen and respond to that.<br />

If nothing is undone or unlearned, maybe you’re not listening but projecting<br />

beliefs. Maybe you’re not listening carefully enough. The first two days were<br />

collectively intense, with a subtle language forming through listening, recognition,<br />

and resonance. How could we extend those relations, even if one was<br />

participating remotely?<br />

Henry notes that the extent of unlearning depends on careful listening,<br />

and that listening, especially to the body, takes a longer time. Returning to<br />

issues of rights and access and privilege are linked to the term “independent”<br />

discussed on Day 2, Henry recognises the privilege of our experience, our<br />

CVs, language capacities, and our network that allows us to be here. He asks<br />

how one could participate remotely and “channel” ourselves to learn? He<br />

sees that Martin is searching for a new perspective on practice, and feedback<br />

on conventions of an arts industry that he cannot escape. He questions what<br />

is missing in the remote interface, and asks Martin if he considers this day a<br />

failure or success.<br />

In response, Martin says that “risk is never a failure.” Although the<br />

situation was uncomfortable, the group was getting closer in what we are<br />

reflecting about. Sharing similar backgrounds and wishes creates a common<br />

mental space. “Maybe the complicated situation is the teacher, especially<br />

when we have to find ways to get out of the situation.” He notes that he is<br />

listening much more carefully to what the participants are saying, because of<br />

the situation. “What I get from you is very fragile; I get less but I treat it with<br />

more care to get something out of it.”<br />

Intimacy in distance will be necessary in the near future when we have<br />

to change our practices. “If I can feel disgust and boredom from a distance,<br />

I should also be able to feel intimacy. Intimacy or sex appears as a topic in<br />

the distance.”<br />

He also admits that he has attempted to unlearn a desire to please and<br />

fulfil participants’ expectations. He recognises that “this also costs something.”<br />

On inclusivity,<br />

Cui Yin recognises the frustrations of the day, but shares that she began<br />

to see this as a rehearsal for inclusivity. “We prioritise being able to be<br />

somewhere so much that it centralises resources. We focus on gathering to<br />

be a way of including, or to get something done. What if to decentralise is<br />

to allow us to include more people, more languages, and to “unconference”<br />

ourselves? What might this change in my practice as a producer?” Daniel<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

adds that Martin’s not flying to Singapore has allowed Dance Nucleus to<br />

stretch the budget to invite more regional artists to attend da:ns LAB.<br />

Sze’s thoughts on day three<br />

In retrospect I found this day quite energising, and observed this in the group<br />

as well. The unfamiliarity of the situation prompted some immediate scepticism,<br />

but that in turn surfaced questions about expectations and the conventions<br />

of engagement between artists, the conventions of being engaged<br />

to present one’s practice, the politics of pedagogy vs participation,<br />

questions about the economics of privilege regarding the choice of not<br />

travelling, and the inherited subtext of colonisation that cannot help but present<br />

itself when a white body speaks to an audience of primarily yellow and<br />

brown people. My sense was that the engagement that arose created new<br />

connections among the participants, and a heightened state of reflexivity<br />

and awareness of micropolitics. This day also made me revisit my own<br />

assumptions about rehearsal process and experimentation. I was surprised<br />

by the resistance I felt to Martin’s presentation; my personal objection was<br />

that it seemed ill-prepared in technical terms and superficial in content - perhaps<br />

trying to cover too much ground in too short a time. I recall nodding<br />

when Martin responds “Hopefully what we’re doing today turns out as a big<br />

failure.” My self-image is that I am an advocate for and practitioner of live<br />

improvisation. Negotiation of the unexpected, sometimes with difficulty, is an<br />

artistic practice in itself and I think one of the ultimate forms of being in the<br />

moment. I resonated at the theoretical level with Martin’s comments on how<br />

improvisation and liveness in performance is one way of resisting the economics<br />

of performance making and resources required for rehearsals.<br />

Yet I found this difficult to reconcile with the heightened performativity<br />

of the clearly prepared text of the lecture-performance of Norhaizad-as-Martin.<br />

I realise I am quite bound to the conventions of performances (including<br />

improvised ones) needing to be prepared, and expecting them to be good.<br />

Was the lack of technical rehearsal for the mic set ups a demonstration of<br />

resistance to economic structures, or was it just lack of planning? Was the<br />

unmanifested desire to allow Norhaized to be an equal speaking voice in the<br />

hybrid due to a dedication to immediacy, or a lack of effort to pre-engage<br />

with Norhaizad the artist and his practice and solicit his contributions to the<br />

lecture content? I also realise that the “judgey” attitudes among participants<br />

was compounded by our lack of familiarity with Martin. Things may have been<br />

quite different if he had in some way participated in the preceding two days,<br />

and if we had already had a sense of his personality and vulnerability as a<br />

fellow participant.<br />

71 72

da:ns LAB<br />

Day Four<br />

The fourth and last day was facilitated by Paz Ponce, a Berlin-based independent<br />

curator & arts educator. She shared the fragilities and journey of Agora<br />

Collective, a Berlin-based Center for Collaborative Practice, speaking<br />

with eloquence, poetry, and speed. Similarly, her tasks for us consisted of<br />

groupings to brainstorm and discuss the place of independent practitioners,<br />

collective efforts within artistic communities, and international collaborations.<br />

Leading into a series of tasks that felt somewhat irrational yet meaningful.<br />

Such as, taking a nap for 20 minutes, then having a conversation either on the<br />

phone or in person, then, somehow, it ended in a collective massage chain.<br />

We also gladly disrupted a public space. We went to the underpass area<br />

of Esplanade to have a series of walking conversations of specific memories<br />

that we have, in relationship to the skills we value in ourselves. We had to<br />

repeat back our partners’ stories, which was a good listening practice. This<br />

exercise felt performative. We then had to write these stories, and compiled<br />

all of them in an ocean of collected memories. From these pieces of paper,<br />

we re-read our memories, written by others that we had a conversation with,<br />

and we selected snippets to create a carpet on the floor of the Esplanade<br />

Annexe. At this point, we were exhausted. It turned out that this was one of<br />

Paz’s intentions: to take us to a space of new ideas. Paz offered a multitude<br />

of little ideas throughout the day, one thing leaking into the next. No grand<br />

ideas of how to work, how to converse, or how to create. Only a series of<br />

suggestions, for us to take, or leave.<br />

On artistic solidarity,<br />

Agora means now, in Portuguese, the language of its Brazilian founders and<br />

also coincidentally, in Greek, Agora is the place for encounters and exchange,<br />

the market-place. Agora´s focus has ranged from food and hosting practices,<br />

co-working spaces, event series, workshops, and programming, as well as with<br />

a strong take on visual and performing arts. The four pillars of Agora, considered<br />

to be essential values that come together in hybrid programming to<br />

express Agora’s core value of artistic solidarity. The pillars also determined the<br />

function of the respective floors of the Mittelweg building.<br />

1. Nourishment (food)<br />

2. Experimentation (art)<br />

3. Production (work)<br />

4. Education (learn)<br />

Questions that the Agora founders worked with: How can we make a community<br />

in Berlin? How do you develop an architecture of encounters? Possibilities<br />

of people to interact?<br />


FUSE #4<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

She then shares about the significance of the physicality of a space. How one<br />

response to the way the building is structured, to the “skin” of the rooms,<br />

the definition of the floors, and how that cultivates an organic growth.<br />

Agora has inhabited different spaces. From 2011-2016/17 they were based<br />

in a five-story historic former factory building in Mittelweg, and then from<br />

2017-2019 in the upper and then lower floors of a large industrial warehouse<br />

in Rollberg. Both locations were in Central/South Berlin in Neukölln, a rapidly<br />

gentrifying neighbourhood. She acknowledged that artists too have contributed<br />

to that gentrification. The initial move to the expanded space in Rollberg<br />

prompted the addition of a fifth and missing pillar Play/Move which became<br />

the first dance house for Neukölln. They also planned for an extensive complex<br />

of 26 artist studios. The growth of Agora came in forms of highlighting<br />

sustainability structures which dealt with the binary of a business model and<br />

a non-for-profit structure. With the insistence of trans-disciplinary practices<br />

through their four pillars, the collective produced: a co-working space, an<br />

event series, workshops and programming, community dinners, production<br />

and experimentation, education, a garden. The discursive emphasis was on:<br />

processuality, experimentation, collaboration, interdisciplinary, participation,<br />

community-driven, critical engagement, and artistic solidarity.<br />

On exhaustion and exuberance,<br />

Throughout the years, Agora would review ways of collectively approaching<br />

work through vast curriculums of artists working collaboratively and using art<br />

as a relational tool.<br />

Collaborative arts encourages cultural democracy by contesting notions<br />

of authorship and the idea of the artist-genius working in isolation. Work<br />

that is made collaboratively with different groups often exists outside of the<br />

gallery and traditional theatre spaces. Instead it may take place in a prison or<br />

a hospital. It can also be interdisciplinary.<br />

How can we host smaller economics circulating from space for the artists<br />

themselves?<br />

How can we test modes of assembly?<br />

How can we play with architecture and space?<br />

Where does art intersect with the social?<br />

Top, Bottom: The Curriculum — Challenging the conventions around self-development, productivity,<br />

and high-performance. Workshop by Paz Ponce.<br />

Agora shifted their sustainability model from 2016/17-2019 from a dual<br />

structure of co-working business and non for profit cultural association model.<br />

The organization operated as a cultural association, only, entailing shared rent,<br />

space division, external funding, rentals, and Municipal support. The way of<br />

working has always been based on freelancing, now it was heavily based on<br />

77 78

FUSE #4<br />

pro-bono work. There was a fixed core team of co-curators/artistic directors/<br />

self-managed artist communities and collaborative practices (led by Caique<br />

Tizzi, Sheena McGrandles, Elena Polzer, Paz Ponce). Agora Collective was interested<br />

in creating smaller economies. New collectives were hosted at Agora:<br />

Babes Bar, an Artist Run Bar, Ceramic Kingdom Collective, Burnt Sienna (a<br />

Drawing Cooperative), and more. Their collaborative programs focused on the<br />

space as: residency, academy, and public lab.<br />

On re-defining Agora,<br />

Agora means “now”, “assembly”, “market place”.<br />

Agora is different because they are structured on relationships and their art<br />

forms are generated from the discourse. The discourse is build by devising an<br />

architecture of encounters which fluctuates between different ways to:<br />

1. Hospitality: spend time together<br />

2. Artistic Research & Education: exchange knowledge<br />

3. Ecology of Attention, Community & Sustainability: building networks<br />

of care<br />

After an insightful lecture on the sublime failures of eight years as an artist-run<br />

project spaces / initiative, which is still, which is still an on-going negotiation<br />

party. “Process Bar: The Curriculum - Challenging the conventions around<br />

self-development, productivity and high-performance", where we break into<br />

three groups through a question of self-identification: Do you consider your<br />

development path as single entity or more intertwined with/ juxtaposed to /<br />

blended with a larger working entity/structure?<br />

Some notes from the break out groups:<br />

Cui: “In Singapore so many institutions and state funded venues trying to increase<br />

their audience numbers do it through free programs. What that results<br />

in, is it turns the arts performance space into a gig space. One bad thing about<br />

that is that you spend most of your time preparing for gigs for a general tourist<br />

audience. You have less time to invest in developing new work.”<br />

Andrei is impressed with how things are articulated in Singapore. In the Philippines,<br />

it does not happen a lot. He feels artists would deeply benefit to have<br />

these conversations both locally and internationally. While Shawn shares about<br />

how strategies always need to be flexible. He finds it interesting that people in<br />

da:ns LAB<br />

the current da:ns LAB are also running spaces, whether nomadic or physical,<br />

with different degrees of institutionality.<br />

Many people from the International Collaborative Efforts group share concerns<br />

over the international circulation of festivals – How can there be conversations<br />

beyond navigating festivals, and more conversations on strategies<br />

and support?<br />

Some questions Paz prompts in relationship to space:<br />

How can you monetize your space?<br />

How can you start a new educational structure based on your practice?<br />

How can your artistic practice be a context of learning and experimenting,<br />

in which you advance your research but you also have ways of surviving?<br />

“It’s more important to have questions than to find answers.”<br />

Chloe’s thoughts on day four<br />

Paz’s lecture focused on the details of what is means to run an artist organisation,<br />

humbly revealing its fragilities and insecurities. Remembering all the<br />

people that were in the room, cultural workers, festival directors, artists within<br />

different communities around the region. This was a large learning curve that<br />

was condensed into a morning lecture where we could follow the trajectory<br />

of the obstacles, joys, empathy, and meaning that came out of the process of<br />

Agora Collective, and still on-going. However, I do wonder how applicable their<br />

journey is in Berlin, compared to such the unique and alternative landscapes<br />

in Singapore, Taipei, Chennai, Manila, Shanghai, and Bangkok.<br />

Because of archipelagic geography and less developed transport infrastructure<br />

in Southeast Asia, cultural mobility functions at higher stakes as<br />

compared to Europe. We have to fly often, which is affordable on a monetary<br />

level, but it comes at the high cost of CO 2<br />

emissions. Returning to the conversation<br />

during Jacob’s lecture on listening to land and to Martin’s choice<br />

to be absent or rather, present through technology. Conversations during the<br />

group discussion touch on how we can focus more on long-term collaborations<br />

rather than producing for the art market are questions on systemic and<br />

strategic measures. How do we have more of these conversations and apply<br />

them in a working model? How can we have a deeper understanding of our<br />

landscape in Southeast Asia and allow ourselves to work with this land in a<br />

way that best serve both the people and the place?<br />

79 80

SCOPE<br />

SCOPE<br />

SCOPE is a platform for artist presentations. Associate members of Dance<br />

Nucleus as well as non-members may conduct discussions, workshops, jams,<br />

readings, screenings, open studio and work-in-progress showings. The showings<br />

are self-organised and hosted by the artists themselves. SCOPE#7 saw<br />

Shawn Chua and Chong Gua Khee convene on seperate days.<br />

Featured here are articles from our regional guest artist Retno Sulistyorini<br />

(aka Enno), the collaboration between Associate Member Faye Lim and Jill<br />

Tan, and Jocelyn Chng, Nidya Shanthini Manokara, and Melissa Quek reflecting<br />

on their creation Mulled Wine.<br />


SCOPE<br />

A Reflection on<br />

Mulled Wine<br />

Waiting is an inevitable and relentless part of life. It comes in myriad forms,<br />

and gives rise to different emotions and physical sensations at different points<br />

and in different people. Mulled Wine (working title) is an exploration of these<br />

different forms and aspects of waiting in life. Through our development of<br />

Mulled Wine we have discovered that Waiting is very much about a sensation<br />

of time, but it is distinct from Time. There is an absolute and concrete time,<br />

and there is sensed and experienced time. Waiting is about a perceived sense<br />

of time. Harold Schweitzer, a professor of English from Bucknell University,<br />

writes about waiting in Homer’s Odyssey in his article “Penelope Waiting”. 1<br />

In it, he introduces us to the idea of “waiting” versus “waiting for”. The latter<br />

signifies impatience, but the former is a timeless, immortal state.<br />

While both “waiting” and “waiting for” have a physical lived aspect, the<br />

“for” embodies an expectation or desire - “waiting for” therefore has an added<br />

emotional aspect. Within our work, the roles of audience and performer<br />

are continually blurred and interchanged, as are the lines between “waiting”<br />

and “waiting for.” The physical and physicalising of our experiences if time<br />

within Mulled Wine helps us to articulate the sensations in waiting and time<br />

that contribute to the interchangeability of roles in performance.<br />

Through the process of this project, a big question was and is, still,<br />

“how do I get you to feel the same sense of waiting that I feel?” “What are<br />

ways that, together, we could explore the sense of waiting?”<br />

We have explored strategies that can be grouped broadly into three categories:<br />

1. “In the blink of an eye” - through universally understood sensations<br />

and ideas such as a blink or a breath.<br />

Take in a breath and then hold it for as long as you can.<br />

…<br />

…<br />

…<br />

What happened in the wait? Have you changed? Has Waiting changed?<br />

Gasp - Is the moment over?<br />

Jocelyn Chng, Nidya Shanthini<br />

Manokara, Melissa Quek<br />

2. Empathy - by being brought to understand an idea or sensation<br />

through description by the performer.<br />

[A journal entry]<br />

I think there are demons that I haven’t exorcised, and until I find a way to<br />

exorcise them, I will forever be insecure and troubled. I am insecure because<br />

I am not as successful as I’d like to be. I am worried about my jobs<br />


FUSE #4<br />

(or lack thereof). I am not earning enough to be independent. I couldn’t<br />

support myself if I had to pay rent. I am upset that my parents don’t<br />

seem to support me and don’t understand what I’m doing.<br />

All this rumination is making me even more depressed. I’ve tried everything<br />

- booking that silent retreat, going for movement workshops,<br />

ballet classes, sleeping more, sleeping less, drinking… none of that has<br />

really helped.<br />

People have said that the best way to prove the naysayers wrong is to do<br />

just that - to be successful. I haven’t gotten there yet. And I’m not sure if<br />

I ever will. And I don’t have a solution right now.<br />

3. Experience - by being made to experience it for yourself.<br />

SCOPE<br />

Specific ideas and sequences in the generation of the project were tested at<br />

the following platforms:<br />

• 2 Mar 2018 & 3 Aug 2018; Make It Share It Open Stage, Singapore<br />

• 23 Feb 2019; Dance Nucleus Scope #5, Singapore<br />

• 16 June 2019; Kinergie Studio, Hanoi, Vietnam<br />

• 23 Nov 2019; Dance Nucleus Scope #7, Singapore<br />

A work-in-progress version of Mulled Wine was presented at Dance Nucleus<br />

on 6-7 September 2019.<br />

1. Harold Schweizer, “PENELOPE WAITING,” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 85, no.<br />

3/4 (2002): 284.<br />

2. Kinneret Lahad, “Waiting and queueing,” in A table for one: A critical reading of singlehood,<br />

gender and time (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017), 102-3.<br />

Let’s wait together. Maybe the fact that we aren’t in this alone will alter<br />

the sensation of waiting.<br />

4 cups apple cider<br />

1 (750-ml) bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon<br />

1/4 cup honey<br />

2 cinnamon sticks<br />

1 orange, zested and juiced<br />

4 whole cloves<br />

3 star anise<br />

4 oranges, peeled, for garnish<br />

Combine ingredients in a pot and heat it over a stove.<br />

Mulled Wine will be ready in 10 minutes.<br />

Epilogue<br />

Kinneret Lahad, referencing Victor Turner writes in A Table for One that waiting<br />

is a liminal state. 2 Lahad’s “waiting” is actually a “waiting for” - the desired<br />

thing that one waits for will effect one’s transformation when it is finally obtained.<br />

Meanwhile, one remains in an impatient limbo, a transitory state. But is<br />

Waiting that straightforward?<br />

If you enjoy the wait, are you still waiting?<br />

If you shop while waiting; if you text while waiting, are you still waiting?<br />

Ultimately, is Mulled Wine “waiting” or “waiting for”?<br />

Jocelyn Chng is a freelance practitioner, writer<br />

and educator in dance and theatre. She has a<br />

keen interest in issues of culture and history,<br />

both personal and in wider societal/national<br />

contexts. She holds a double Masters in Theatre<br />

Studies/Research from the Universities of Amsterdam<br />

and Tampere, and obtained a BA(Hons)<br />

in Theatre Studies from the National University<br />

of Singapore. In 2018, she also completed<br />

a PG Dip in Education (Dance Teaching). Her<br />

works, Becoming Mother? (2017) and Mulled<br />

Wine (working title) deal with the intersections<br />

between personal histories, culture and form.<br />

She is currently working on a video project that<br />

explores the mental and emotional effects that<br />

our society’s focus on rapid development and<br />

commercialisation have on the common person.<br />

Dr Nidya Shanthini Manokara dispels the notion<br />

that everyday life and codified art are distinct<br />

entities in her performances and writings,<br />

and questions how far an urbanite can resonate<br />

with contemporary issues with ideas inspired<br />

by her practice in bharata natyam. She has obtained<br />

her PhD in Theatre Studies from National<br />

University of Singapore and received the Natya<br />

Visharad award from Singapore Indian Fine Arts<br />

Society for her finesse in bharata natyam. Her<br />

primary research interests include affective registers<br />

in performance. Her notable performance<br />

works include the ongoing Wandering Women<br />

(2018~), Bitten: Return to our Roots (2018),<br />

Becoming Mother (2017) and Soul in Search<br />

(2007).<br />

Melissa Quek is a choreographer, performer and<br />

educator whose choreographic interest lies in investigating<br />

the body-subject. Her works, including<br />

those for young audiences, attempt to touch<br />

on questions of agency, materiality and perception<br />

to create a visceral experience for the audience.<br />

Some noteworthy choreographic works<br />

are the Immersive and multi-disciplinary performance<br />

series of RE:Gina is Dead and RE:Looking<br />

at RE:Gina, co-created with Elizabeth de Roza<br />

presented around and within the Substation theatre<br />

in Singapore. The site-specific outdoor performance<br />

Tracing the City (2016). Alice’s Topsy<br />

Turvy Tea Party, a work-in-process for young<br />

audiences presented at the Esplanade Theatre’s<br />

Octoburst! Festival with The Kueh Tutus (a Collective<br />

dedicated to creating dance for young<br />

audiences that unlocks the imagination). Melissa<br />

contributed a chapter on contemporary Dance<br />

in Singapore to the book “Evolving Synergies:<br />

Celebrating Dance in Singapore”, and has been<br />

trying her hand at creating education-packs to<br />

accompany dance performances.<br />

87 88

SCOPE<br />

Sekelumit Cerita<br />

Tentang Proses<br />

Kerja Kreatif<br />

Retno Sulistyorini<br />

Pertama kali melakukan proses kerja kreatif sebagai koreografer pada tahun<br />

2000, dengan karya pertama yaitu sebuah koreografi tunggal/solo. Setelah<br />

itu saya mulai aktif untuk membuat karya tari baru. Beberapa karya tari saya<br />

banyak terinspirasi dari peristiwa sekitar lingkungan saya, terutama tentang<br />

persoalan anak dan perempuan. Perhatian saya terhadap persoalan anak<br />

dan perempuan dipengaruhi oleh banyaknya peristiwa yang sering saya lihat<br />

maupun saya dengar dan terjadi secara berulang-ulang.<br />

Proses kerja yang sering saya lakukan untuk membuat karya tari adalah<br />

dengan memilih tema terlebih dahulu, dan setelah itu saya melakukan beberapa<br />

fokus pengamatan baik secara langsung atau mengumpulkan beberapa<br />

sumber berita. Hal ini saya lakukan untuk lebih memahami tentang tema yang<br />

ingin saya presentasikan kedalam sebuah koreografi tari.<br />

Proses penyusunan struktur koreografi selalu saya mulai dengan melakukan<br />

eksplorasi gerak di studio, proses ini saya namakan proses kerja studio.<br />

Saya melakukan pencarian gerak dan bentuk sebagai langkah untuk menentukan<br />

konsep atau tema gerak yang akan saya gunakan dalam koreografi<br />

karya tari saya. Pada tahap ini saya melakukannya sendiri, hingga saya bisa<br />

menentukan koreografinya nanti akan seperti apa. Apakah koreografi solo,<br />

duet, trio, atau lebih. Pengembangan dari apa yang sudah saya temukan dalam<br />

proses eksplorasi akan saya lakukan dengan para penari yang terlibat<br />

dalam koreografi saya. Para penari akan berpijak pada konsep gerak yang sudah<br />

saya temukan atau gunakan, sehingga proses pencarian yang dilakukan<br />

penari akan lebih fokus. Langkah-langkah yang tertulis diatas adalah poin<br />

penting bagi saya untuk membuat sebuah karya tari. Proses kerja selanjutnya<br />

adalah mulai menentukan bentuk pertunjukan secara keseluruhan, yaitu yang<br />

berhubungan dengan ruang visual dan ruang musik.<br />

Beberapa karya tari yang sudah saya buat selalu berusaha untuk menawarkan<br />

sebuah bentuk karya tari yang menggunakan unsur seni visual yang<br />

sering ditemui dalam disiplin seni rupa. Referensi yang saya dapat adalah<br />

selalu melihat beberapa pameran seni rupa dan berdialog dengan beberapa<br />

senimannya, dan beberapa visual menarik yang ada disekitar saya. Referensi<br />

yang didapat menjadi sebuah memori estetik yang terekam dalam pikiran<br />

dan perasaan. ‘Bunyi’, adalah kata kunci yang selalu saya gunakan untuk<br />

menyampaikan kepada seorang pemusik. Hampir sebagian besar karya saya<br />

menggunakan bunyi sebagai konsep untuk membuat sebuah musik tari dari<br />

karya tari saya. Pemusik melakukan eksplorasi bunyi untuk menyusun sebuah<br />

struktur bunyi menjadi sebuah musik tari.<br />

Proses kerja kreatif dalam membuat sebuah karya tari yang saya lakukan<br />

juga menitik beratkan pada proses dialog dengan seluruh pendukung<br />

karya yang terlibat langsung. Proses ini untuk menumbuhkan rasa memiliki<br />

pada karya tari yang akan dipentaskan, sehingga karya tari yang sudah terbentuk<br />

memiliki kedalaman nilai yang bisa dirasakan oleh penonton.<br />


FUSE #4<br />

SCOPE<br />

Retno Sulistyorini lahir di Solo, mulai belajar<br />

menari sejak masuk Sekolah Menengah<br />

Karawitan (SMKI) mengambil studi tari yang<br />

kemudian dilanjutkan masuk Sekolah Tinggi<br />

Seni Indonesia (STSI) di Solo. Pertama belajar<br />

tari adalah tari tradisi gaya Surakarta<br />

(Solo), juga banyak belajar dengan seniman<br />

di Indonesia antara lain Mugiono, Sardono<br />

w. Kusumo, Eko Supriyanto, Melat Suryodarmo<br />

dan beberapa seniman yang lain. Juga<br />

mengikuti beberapa kegiatan workshop tari<br />

antara lain Lin Hwa MIn, Susane Linke, Xavier<br />

Laroy, Thomas Lehmon, workshop dramaturgi,<br />

DansLab Esplanade 2018, Dance in Asia<br />

2019. Beberapa karya yang pernah dibuat;<br />






93 94

SCOPE<br />

Practice in the<br />

Making: Agency and<br />

Care in Faye Lim's<br />

Work as Dancer,<br />

Mother and Teacher<br />

Jill J. Tan<br />

At Dance Playground, a program run by Rolypoly Family for children between<br />

the ages of 4-8, most sessions end with a check-in in which the children<br />

are asked to share how they felt. Many often share emotions expected<br />

of the usually buoyant sessions, but occasionally a child will say they felt<br />

“sad” or other potentially unexpected responses within a spectrum of complex<br />

emotions. Dance Playground is run by Faye Lim and her collaborators<br />

and co-facilitators, and they hold space for these emotions.<br />

Over the course of 2019, Faye and I embarked on a year-long conversation<br />

about her practice and identities as a dancer, maker, mother, teacher,<br />

and member of the Contact Improvisation (CI) dance community in Singapore.<br />

Given that I had first become acquainted with Rolypoly Family’s work<br />

as a captain on their Superhero Me Peekaboo! Festival project, some of our<br />

discussions naturally started with notions of inclusion, empowerment, and<br />

broadening the aesthetics of beauty in dance. In this vein, we sought to<br />

reconceive virtuosity in dance beyond commonplace ideas of what constitutes<br />

excellent dance and of how normative bodies are supposed to look<br />

like, instead looking at dance as taking place with the whole body no matter<br />

how a body moves. 1 I observed and participated in Rolypoly Family classes<br />

and jams, watched and made critical responses to performances, and got to<br />

know Faye and her associates through discussions and Contemplative Dance<br />

Practice (CDP) 2 sessions. Faye also often sent me her notes and thoughts on<br />

sessions pertaining to her practice for which I was not present. Throughout,<br />

we were also keeping in mind Faye’s associateship with Dance Nucleus, and<br />

some of the drafts of this piece were presented at both SCOPE #6 and<br />

Faye’s ELEMENT mentorship with Deufert & Plischke. There was much to<br />

explore during a year in which Faye and her collaborators were experimenting<br />

with various forms of making, such as format-making for kids in the<br />

introduction of Family Jam, CDP, and infusing techniques of reflection and<br />

mindfulness across programs. As for performances made, they ranged from<br />

original performances intended for children, in the case of Letters Come<br />

Alive 3 ; to the adaptation for children of Say That Again 4 that had been previously<br />

staged at the Art Science Museum and Singapore Management University<br />

Art Gallery; and an engagement of Herng Yi Cheng’s Paper Playground 5<br />

which not originally made for children but which invited them into the space<br />

at Dance Nucleus.<br />

The task of this essay is to examine the ways in which these forms of<br />

agency 6 and care are the conditions of possibility for radically transformative<br />

work with children and dance, through a framing that is ideally emic to the<br />

child’s worlding. This is part of a larger project: the ongoing task of finding<br />

language for Faye’s practice, both within this work and beyond, which speaks<br />

at once to arts institutions, families, artists, funding bodies, creative communities,<br />

and most importantly, to, rather than about, the child. Our conversation<br />

was thus intended to begin the work of merging a relational and pedagogical<br />


FUSE #4<br />

SCOPE<br />

praxis of inclusivity and empowerment with the conveyance of an aesthetic<br />

and artistic sensibility that Faye works from. While this sensibility is one constantly<br />

in the making, it is undergirded and influenced by the fundamentals<br />

of CI, and is shared not only by Faye, Bernice, and her other frequent collaborator<br />

Felicia Lim, but by the team of facilitators that Faye has chosen to<br />

work with and mentor in running Rolypoly Family. The postmodern aesthetic<br />

of Faye’s work fuses with her commitment to accessibility: there is on one<br />

hand the modeling that Faye and facilitators perform in classes and jams that<br />

is inflected with their own dance training, but on the other, the opportunity<br />

for child participants in these spaces to take the lead. Premising movement<br />

that anyone and everyone can do emerges strongly as an aesthetic principle<br />

across Faye’s various ventures. Faye and her company intentionally broaden<br />

participation to include observation and curiosity-driven alternatives to the<br />

instructed activity. Dance Nucleus associate, artist, and mother Chan Sze-Wei<br />

also notes: “It's also great that in some activities parents and children swap<br />

roles as leaders or givers. I also notice that the facilitators often take suggestions<br />

or inspiration from what the children are doing in the moment.”<br />

Looking back on my earliest outlines for this project, two of the questions<br />

I was interested in that are best answered by my extended engagement<br />

with Faye’s work are: How can working with child practitioners in turn shape<br />

what practice looks like for adult artists in their orbit? How is the nature of<br />

improvisation recast and retextured by engaging with the lifeworlds of child<br />

practitioners? It feels not incidental that a CI workshop by Chan Sze-Wei and<br />

Daniel Mang in 2016 was where Faye and I first met and danced together.<br />

Having now been exposed to much more of her work with children first<br />

through Superhero Me and now this project, I can see how much of her CI<br />

practice and work with children is mutually constitutive. For Faye, CI 7 has<br />

been the basis of her work--a study in dance and movement as well as a<br />

commitment to its aesthetic, values, political ambitions, and the somatic experience<br />

it creates. It has been therapeutic and healing for her body, allowed<br />

her to be an organiser in the community in Singapore, and served as a means<br />

of visibility for her as a dancer and artist. As Faye expressed to me, “I think of<br />

CI as an organism in terms of possibility, a collective knowledge in a body or<br />

bodies. For the nature of a dance to be a certain way, you need those people<br />

in the room, and those possibilities. The material is really who is in the room<br />

and how they are dancing.” This formulation of the energetic composition of<br />

the room is very much translated into how Rolypoly Family sessions play out-<br />

-they are bespoke to what is put out by whoever is in the room, both child<br />

and adult, and as a result hold space for a wide range of affects and modes<br />

of participation. I also asked Faye how creating a multivalent dance space<br />

translates from CI contexts to dancing with kids, and she stressed the adaptability,<br />

risk taking, self-care in each dance. Faye takes these as techniques she<br />

needs when she dances CI, and would consider herself skillful when she can<br />

97 98

FUSE #4<br />

dance with everyone in the room, seeking to meet the person, whether child<br />

or adult, where they are, and not taking for granted that everyone is moving<br />

the same way. Where in some other dance forms there are expectations that<br />

everyone is doing the same thing, Faye notes that in CI the skill is meeting the<br />

person as they are, with no necessity for a specific leader and follower, and<br />

intentionally replicates this in Rolypoly Family classes and jams where she<br />

warms kids up in those ways. Faye’s commitment to the pedagogical strategy<br />

of “I do we do you do” 8 is then a modeling of possibilities, allowing all who<br />

are present to decide for themselves, but also ceding to the collective energy<br />

of the room and what they make together.<br />

Thinking about agency and care as grounding this work with children,<br />

I considered both Faye’s practice within and outside her work with children<br />

as an ever-evolving whole, including the work of being a mother. For Faye,<br />

being a mother pertains not only to maternal labour but to the activistic involvement<br />

of her child in her work, driven by a need to be visible about this<br />

in order to fill certain gaps in spaces she inhabits. One of Faye’s challenges is<br />

being pigeonholed as a mother, and the potential overriding of this identity<br />

of that of an artistic maker, which came first for her but is now also deeply<br />

imbricated in the creative energies of motherhood. This is mirrored in the<br />

challenge of legibility faced by work for children to be seen as able to transcend<br />

its genre in terms of critical attention, visibility within an arts scene,<br />

and how it fits into the oeuvre of its makers and dedicated pedagogues. 9<br />

When Faye and I presented on our ongoing conversation at SCOPE #6, we<br />

posed the question of what it would look like if children were to become<br />

part of Dance Nucleus space, and the responses we received ranged from<br />

the political--those interested in the resistance and agency of children--to the<br />

personal, such as those who were artists and mothers and were interested in<br />

the boundaries between those aspects of their lives.<br />

The question of legibility and cultivating identifiable expertise is complex<br />

when one’s practice is as polyvalent as Faye’s, and even more so when<br />

labour and creativity is not neatly divided between public and domestic<br />

spheres. For one, motherhood in Faye’s conception is in part an attunement<br />

to vulnerability, risk, and boundary-traversing over time, a mode of being<br />

that overlaps with and informs creative life force. Faye questions why it is<br />

that women are scrutinised and disadvantaged when they are visible as a<br />

mother in certain spheres, and engages with the frustration and fear this<br />

question provokes through acts of negotiating the social contract of what<br />

it means to be a working artist in bringing her child into those spaces. She<br />

does so out of necessity, and with full knowledge that these acts of defiance<br />

may well be read as further evidence to see her as a mother and nothing but.<br />

Yet Faye continues to question and play around with the categories of artist<br />

and mother, asking “When and how does motherhood include artistic work,<br />

communities and networks? When and how does a working artist prevail and<br />

SCOPE<br />

thrive while being a caregiver? What are the social and domestic conventions<br />

that inhibit these?”<br />

One of Faye’s frequent collaborators is her son, who has made performances<br />

with her, such as Baby Bear Mama Bear. 10 This performance by Faye,<br />

Bernice Lee, and her son originated at Goodman Arts Center in Singapore,<br />

and was later performed in Vientiane with significant variation. When Faye<br />

and I shared our work at SCOPE, there was interest in the ways in which<br />

we were thinking about how the contract of the performer differs greatly<br />

when that performer is a child. This may be further highlighted by her son’s<br />

2019 staging of an original performance, Scooter Dance, in which he choreographed<br />

alongside Faye but ultimately chose not to perform, but rather<br />

to play on scooters with his friends on the day of the performance, due to<br />

several factors such as audience members whose invitation Faye had not discussed<br />

with him prior. As an artist who enjoys making with her son, Scooter<br />

Dance caused Faye to realise that the nature of this creative and maternal<br />

relation is an evolving one, in which her son’s independence and shifting interests<br />

will shift when, how, and what they make together. When I asked Faye<br />

how she would feel if her son was not as keen to collaborate on performing<br />

with her as he used to be in his current stage of life, she responded that she<br />

did not feel impatient for him to desire to do so again, and that in the meantime<br />

she was excited to grow many different sides of practice alongside him.<br />

She also noted that while her son’s growing independence contributes to his<br />

decisions to participate and perform, his prior participation in works such as<br />

Baby Bear Mama Bear did not necessarily correlate to greater agency than in<br />

non-participation of Scooter Dance. Faye also said of her son that he is “still<br />

very in his body and in his movement, but he is also doing a lot of creating<br />

outside of movement like writing books.” His creativity and expressivity in<br />

other areas also inspires Faye, and they continue to collaborate.<br />

For Faye and Bernice’s 2019 performance Letters Come Alive, Faye<br />

and her Rolypoly Family team were working on movements together with<br />

Bernice and Faye working on the structure and text. Her son came in to<br />

participate when the letters were made and scenes were in progress, and<br />

would join whenever there were new scenes to be workshopped. Faye noted<br />

that he influenced the work by way of his own playing and interaction with<br />

the work. For instance, he would make a shape that's different from what the<br />

adult performers did, and they would possibly incorporate it in place of their<br />

original idea. Faye wrote in her notes to me: “He has a sense of affinity with<br />

the work, wanting to play with the cards, have a set for himself, take the work<br />

to his school, etc. I think this is because he has had many opportunities to<br />

enjoy the work and have the freedom to interact with it the way he wants to.”<br />

She also shared that her son’s responses such as his laughter, eager physical<br />

participation and rapt attention gave them confidence as they were making<br />

the work, and gave them practice as to how to perform the work in the pres-<br />

99 100

FUSE #4<br />

ence of children and having children physically interacting with the work.<br />

This would prove hugely important as, at the performances which I attended,<br />

I noticed that there was an organic horizontalisation occuring in the room of<br />

both space and action--as Faye and Bernice were performing at the front of<br />

the room, the spirit of the performance and its humor created an energy that<br />

seemed infectious to the children, who would then proceed to join in from<br />

where they were in the audience, and at times on the performance floor when<br />

their presence was called upon. The children thus became performers for their<br />

family members who were in the space with them, who then balanced their<br />

attention between enjoying the performance, by which both adults and children<br />

seemed delighted and amused by, and watching how the children were<br />

responding with their bodies. I was struck by how rare it was to be a part of a<br />

non-immersive performance at which children were allowed to do something<br />

more than sit and watch.<br />

A further reverberation I hope my collaboration with Faye makes is to<br />

begin to address the dearth of both arts criticism and academic scholarship<br />

on creative dance-making of children beyond pedagogical studies and developmental<br />

psychology. Some questions I want to throw out there for others<br />

that I myself am still pondering are: How do we truly make, appraise, and<br />

watch work made by and with children? With this work paid credence beyond<br />

“this is dance for/by/with children”? How do we make working with child practitioners<br />

a fulcrum for a new aesthetics of dance that counters notions of<br />

rudimentary making? Some of these lines of inquiry are ones which I hope<br />

to pursue in further collaboration with Faye given the focus of her proposed<br />

2020 associateship that will focus on choreographing with children, on which<br />

she would work with Seet Dance from Sydney.<br />

Further, just as Faye faces the anxiety of motherhood’s subsumption<br />

head on by intentionally and continually harnessing it to evolve spaces which<br />

have the potential to benefit from interaction with children and vice versa,<br />

one thing I had hoped to premise in my engagement with Faye and Rolypoly<br />

Family was to recursively move back to engagement with the child when considering<br />

conceptual and critical space-making practices that default to their<br />

exclusion. This aspect of the project will require the opportunity for further<br />

engagement with children involved in the Rolypoly Family community, and I<br />

am excited to see, hear, and feel all that they respond with.<br />

Finally, another thing that I hope Faye and I can begin putting together<br />

after this research is complete is articulating a statement of intent towards<br />

developing a collective practice amongst adult artists who work with children<br />

that spurs reflection on their pedagogy. Should this be of interest towards<br />

anyone at Dance Nucleus, we would be most glad to hear your thoughts. I can<br />

be reached at jilljtan@gmail.com and would love to hear from you.<br />

1. Burridge, S. (Ed.), Nielsen, C. (Ed.). (2018). Dance, Access and Inclusion. London: Routledge,<br />

9.<br />

2. Middleton, Deborah. (2017). Dancing with Dharma: Essays on Movement and Dance in<br />

Western Buddhism edited by Harrison Blum. Buddhist Studies Review, 34.<br />

3. Letters Come Alive (2019) was produced by Rolypoly Family, directed by Bernice Lee,<br />

created by Bernice, Faye and team. Team contribution from Neo Yanzong, Sarah Oh, Felicia<br />

Lim, and Keryn Ng<br />

4. Say That Again (2012) was directed by Faye Lim, with Bernice Lee collaborator and<br />

co-performer, with adaptations in 2013, 2015, and 2019.<br />

5. Herng Yi Cheng, Paper Playground (2018), http://www.herngyi.com/performance.html<br />

6. “Agency can be strange, twisted, caught up in things, passive, or exhausted. Not the way<br />

we like to think about it. Not usually a simple projection toward a future. It’s what we<br />

mean by “having a life”...But it’s caught up in things. Circuits, bodies, moves, connections.<br />

It takes unpredictable and counterintuitive forms. It’s lived through a series of dilemmas:<br />

that action is always a reaction; that the potential to act always includes the potential to<br />

be acted on, or to submit; that the move to gather a self to act is also a move to lose the<br />

self; that one choice precludes others…” in Stewart, Kathleen, Ordinary affects. (Durham,<br />

N.C: Duke University Press, 2007), 86.<br />

7. Contact Improvisation “is based on the communication between two moving bodies that<br />

are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern<br />

their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia.” in “About Contact Improvisation,” Contact<br />

Quarterly, https://contactquarterly.com/contact-improvisation/about/index.php<br />

8. Hammond, L., & Moore, W. M. (2018). Teachers Taking up Explicit Instruction: The Impact<br />

of a Professional Development and Directive Instructional Coaching Model. Australian<br />

Journal of Teacher Education, 43(7).<br />

9. In Faye’s essay in this same volume, she also reflects on how her subjectivities and commitment<br />

are shaped by factors such as socioeconomic status and access to resources.<br />

10. Baby Bear Mama Bear (2017) was directed by Bernice Lee, first presented at Maya Dance<br />

Theatre's "In Bloom" festival, and subsequently brought to Vientiane with support from<br />

Singapore International Foundation.<br />

Jill J. Tan is a Singaporean writer, artist, and<br />

researcher. Her work has appeared in publications<br />

such as Guernica, Palimpsest, and<br />

Mynah Magazine, and is forthcoming in Resistant<br />

Hybridities: Tibetan Narratives in Exile<br />

(Lexington, 2020). Her current ethnographic<br />

project as a PhD student of anthropology at<br />

SCOPE<br />

Yale University explores the public consciousness<br />

of death in Singapore as shaped by the<br />

funeral profession. As an anthropologist and<br />

artist, she is committed to collaborative practice,<br />

co-theorisation, and multimodal exploration<br />

through games, interactive performance,<br />

and poetics, amongst other media.<br />

101 102

Dance Nucleus is a space for practice-based research,<br />

creative development and knowledge production for<br />

independent/contemporary performance.<br />

Dance Nucleus fosters a culture of critical discourse,<br />

self-education, artistic exchange and practical support.<br />

Our programmes are designed to respond to<br />

the needs of our members in a comprehensive way.<br />

We build partnerships in Singapore, Southeast Asia,<br />

Asia & Australia, and internationally.<br />

Dance Nucleus is an initiative of the National Arts<br />

Council of Singapore.<br />

The Team<br />

Artistic Director<br />

General Manager<br />

Programmes Manager<br />

Communications Manager<br />

FUSE Editor<br />

Design<br />

Daniel Kok<br />

Dapheny Chen<br />

Mok Cui Yin<br />

Chan Hsin Yee<br />

Chan Hsin Yee<br />

Currency<br />

Address<br />

90 Goodman Road, Goodman Arts Centre<br />

Block M, #02-53<br />

Singapore 439053<br />

Website<br />


Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!