ELEMENT#5 Social Choreography
Strategies – spinnen by deufert&plischke
Artist Lecture-Presentation: deufert&plischke
A Personal Review of Practice from 2004 – 2019
by Faye Lim
On da:ns LAB by Chloe Chotrani and Chan Sze Wei
A Reflection on Mulled Wine by Jocelyn Chng,
Nidya Shanthini Manokara and Melissa Quek
Sekelumit Cerita Tentang Proses Kerja Kreatif
by Retno Sulistyorini
Practice in the Making: Agency and Care in
Faye Lim's Work as Dancer, Mother and Teacher
by Jill J. Tan
About Dance Nucleus
Christmas carols are playing as I write this foreword in a cafe. “It’s a most wonderful
time of the year!”, one of the songs exclaimed. Wonderful?
Anyone who has been following the goings-on in the world would know
that 2019 has been a very challenging year. It’s no longer just a question of
Trump and Brexit, as if these are events taking place in a faraway context; disturbing
yes, but life still goes on. By now, the effects of rightwingism and inaction
on the climate crisis are emphatic and palpable. The heat is literally felt
around the world this year, with forest and plantation fires in the Amazon, Africa,
North India, Borneo and New South Wales. Severe funding cuts for the arts in
Belgium, India and Australia are being made, exacerbating the already austere
conditions for artists everywhere. And of course, there’s Hong Kong… But besides
painting a depressing picture and evincing a pessimistic outlook, what else
can I do? What are some necessary and ameliorative actions that my colleagues
and I can take?
I hadn’t expected myself to be seeing Singapore as a haven from the
storm. Notwithstanding our own brand of political illiberalism, my recent experiences
working locally and internationally has led me to see that the relative stability
on this small island nation can be a useful resource to help enable artists
and projects within a network of shared ideas and cooperation.
At the time of writing, we are in the middle of wrapping up an eventful
2019, and preparing for what looks like a big leap forward for Dance Nucleus
in 2020. Moving out of our pilot phase, the National Arts Council in Singapore
is extending its funding contract with Dance Nucleus for another two and a
half years. This helps us to make plans for the longer term, deepening and
expanding on the programmes that we have established over the past 2 years.
It is certainly my wish, as I take stock of things presently, that Dance Nucleus
can be steered even more towards assisting and enabling independent artists in
tangible ways in Asia as well as in Singapore.
As of now, it looks like a fairly large number of different creation projects
that have been ‘incubating’ in Dance Nucleus over the past 2 years are shaping
up as clearly formulated proposals, ready to be full realised in their respective
ways. In the coming year, I look forward to collaborating with some of our regional
partners to consummate meaningful artistic exchanges within Asia, and facilitating
cultural conversations that are critically germane to our corner of the globe.
In 2020, we will also be launching a new initiative to present a series
of solo performances that have grown from their time spent in Dance Nucleus.
VECTOR#1 will be a modest presentation platform for small-scale experimental
performances, with the potential to develop into a salient platform for performance
practices that do not easily fit into existing festival frameworks.
I have been sceptical of the word ‘new’ since my undergraduate days.
Since the late 90s, ‘new’ has also been critically understood as a myth proffered
by neoliberal capitalism. Yet, as we arrive at a new decade, ‘new’ is ostensibly
still a useful word when we review on our various modus operandi with a sense
of urgency, and imagine alternatives based on principles of sustainability, simplicity,
mutual support and care. In 2020, let us insist on art as a force for reconciliation,
rehabilitation and rejuvenation, so that we can feel ‘anew’ from art.
Artistic Director, Dance Nucleus
Photo credit to Bernie Ng
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
ELEMENT#5: Social Choreography looked at the social dimension of choreography
and reorganises discursive and collaborative processes, as well as dance
projects that deal with social engagement as a critical practice. In thinking
about choreography as a social praxis that synthesises ethics and aesthetics,
we began to look beyond participation and collaboration as ontological questions,
and consider them as epistemological processes: social engagement is
more than a question of if and what, or even how bodies, persons and identities
perform as they encounter each other, but a question of how much do we
get out of the encounter. How far can we take each other in the socio-political
space of a dance? We invited Berlin artist duo deufert&plischke to be guest
mentors, and to present their project Just In Time as an example of a social
choreographic project that can simultaneously host the different questions
and approaches of our artists-in-residence, and engage various Singapore
communities. This project was also part of Got to Move ISLANDWIDE 2019.
Our Artists-in-Residence (AIRs) were Chan Sze-Wei, Hasyimah Harith,
Hwa Wei-An, Faye Lim, Lee Ren Xin and Shanice Nicole Stanislaus, all of whom
have been working on socially-engaged projects. Aside from participating in
group mentoring sessions, these AIRs also assisted deufert&plischke with the
execution of Just in Time, bringing the various communities they worked with
into our studio for the project. Here, Faye Lim shares her reflections on her
project in relation to the programme. deufert&plischke have also contributed
a piece based on their practice centred on the myth of Arachne, following
their sharing of their artistic practice in a Lecture-Presentation. We have also
included an edited transcription of it. ELEMENT#5 was kindly supported by
the National Arts Council and Goethe Institut Singapur.
deufert&plischke’s works focus on time,
memory, myth, and how we should live together.
As an artistic duo for more than 17
years, they have adhered to the radical notion
that choreography can build society,
not merely illustrate it. Thus, collaboration
and participation are central themes in deufert&plischke's
methodology, process and
performance: in their multi-faceted work, be
it a choreographic concert, lecture, or exhibition,
theatre takes place only insofar as it
can be knit together by everyone – artists and
spectators – in the moment of performance.
Choreography thus becomes a social activity,
not determined by aesthetic principles, but by
existential and philosophical concepts such as
war and peace, freedom and truth. Theater as
a social situation – from the common rehearsal
to the performance – is the driving force
of deufert&plischke's choreographic form and
artistic expression. They author their works
collectively. The theatre of the Berlin based
deufert&plischke interweaves the sensuous
with the intellectual through the immediacy
of body, voice and community. It unfolds as
a landscape of choice and commitment for
all, where the political is inherent to the act
of theatre, and where art is defended as necessary
excess. In their unrelenting search for
expanded notions of (social) choreography,
deufert&plischke have also recently turned
their attention to letter-writing – a nostalgic
medium for digital times, a once-private activity
made public. In August 2019 they premier
their new dance piece Liebestod in the frame
of the Berlin dance festival Tanz im August.
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
In German, the word »spinnen« has many meanings. It can denote the art of
creating and drawing out a yarn, the following of a particular train of thought,
pondering over something or exaggerating something to the extent that it
becomes unbelievable or fantastical. It also denotes the animals that many
people fear: spiders. Spiders can produce thread from their own bodies and
construct webs. But the most terrifying aspect of these delicate creatures isn’t
their vast webs, rather the sudden, unpredictable movements with which they
attack their prey or beat a retreat. These perceptual transgressions seem to
create an insurmountable fear of spiders within humans: arachnophobia.
At the end of the story of Arachne the weaver, Athena speaks these
words: »Live on then, and yet hang, condemned one!« (Ovid, Metamorphoses,
Book 6, Arachne the Weaver) The story is about Arachne (Greek for spider),
a highly talented young artist who has taught herself to weave in her own
workshop. By regularly opening the doors to her workshop and sharing the
socially interactive method of producing her art, she soon gains a name for
her unique tapestries well beyond the local area. Rumours spread that she
is the best weaver of her day. The goddess Athena (Greek goddess of warfare,
wisdom and crafts) hears of this and visits Arachne in her workshop,
with the intention of confronting and humbling her. Arachne is unfazed, and
even challenges Athena to a weaving contest, which takes place there and
then in front of an audience in Arachne’s workshop. Athena weaves a tapestry
on which she glorifies herself and other gods; Arachne weaves a rug
depicting numerous scenes of the mighty gods enacting violence and rape
on defenceless people. »[Arachne] gave all these their own aspects, and the
aspects of the place.« (ibid.) The realistic nature of Arachne’s depiction is so
magnificent that she emerges as the clear winner of the contest. This angers
Athena to such an extent that she strikes Arachne with a spindle and begins
tearing up her tapestry. Just as in the depiction on her tapestry, Arachne feels
mistreated by Athena and attempts to hang herself with a thread of yarn.
Athena hesitates, and out of pity decides to let Arachne live, forever hanging
from a thread, and with poison turns her into a spider in front of all present.
»Departing after saying this, she sprinkled her with the juice of Hecate’s herb,
and immediately at the touch of this dark poison, Arachne’s hair fell out. With
it went her nose and ears, her head shrank to the smallest size, and her whole
body became tiny. Her slender fingers stuck to her sides as legs, the rest is
belly, from which she still spins a thread, and, as a spider, weaves her ancient
web.« (ibid.) Gradually, the talented artist is transformed into the much-feared
creature with the oversized abdomen that is only capable of weaving fragile,
non-pictorial webs of a purely functional nature.
We’ve been telling this story for many years and have used it in many
different works, yet we never tire of it. In the context of the ‘Me Too’ debate,
the cruel, unjust fate of Arachne has never seemed as current, and Ovid’s
story is so explicit that it no longer needs interpretation but more so propdeufert&plischke
agation. For us, Arachne is a truly timeless feminist performance artist, who
through her practice demonstrates that art doesn’t only require courage to
transcend borders – one’s own and the symbolic – it also needs to be radically
opened to society itself. Art can only be created in the confusion and
chaos of its time.
But to us, Arachne isn’t merely an inspiring figure for resistance and
border transgression, she also offers a way of working that we would like to
present to as many people as possible. At first glance, these practices may
seem to be archaically social and »feminine«, but this is probably just a superficial
patriarchal interpretation made to preserve a hierarchy of artistic forms,
something that has long needed overhauling. Spinning, knitting, weaving,
embroidery, writing, speaking, narrating, listening; all these things are incorporated
into our choreographic practice. This enables our work to maintain
contact with reality and not veil it in hyperaestheticism. Reality is action and
fabric, reality is a structure made up of stitches, loops, threads and holes, just
like underwear, cloth, curtains, lace – but also velvet and plush.
Arachne’s tapestry is a historical and technological precursor to the
European tapestry. For us, her spinning and weaving practice is a model
for creative workshops to which we invite people to participate in collective
actions. These can be organised in an installation-based, participative and/or
choreographic manner, and can span many different time frames. A common
thread is that they always bring people together, people who might not have
met before, to address important issues and make joint decisions on possible
forms of coexistence and the shaping of the (near) future – with yarn and
needle, with instinct and intrepidity.
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
The topic of today’s lecture is social choreography, which was also the topic
of our stay and all the work that we did here was was connected to that.
So we want to talk about why we understand dance and theatre more as a
social rather than purely artistic situation, and why we think the theatre is a
space that invites the audience to take part in all of the actions that are done
on stage. So we’re investigating dance in its ethical, and aesthetic and social
All over the world, there is a certain theatre architecture where the stage
is in front and the audience is somewhere [facing the stage], and the light is
switched off when an action is taking place [on stage]. And this comes from
an occidental theatre practice… and theatres of this form are quite dominant,
even though in many cultures this situation does not play a role, and only a
few people know that this form is only 100-150 years old - in the 19th century
it came about as an educational tool to bring people’s focus to the stage.
But before that the theatre was quite messy - people ate, drank, fucked - so
this separation of audience and action is a modern phenomenon, and our
works work severely against this structure.
So we decided to speak about two works. And something Kattrin alluded
to earlier which I will say more on is this idea of heritage, which the
project we brought here is also speaks about. We switch the lights off in the
theatre and the audience comes together with the idea of the nation at the
same time; we want to concentrate the attention of the people to one thing.
And we see today so many artists trying to get away from [the stage] and
discover the museum, which may also have a problematic development, but
the people’s attention is not controlled. So there is something like a control
obsession which is part of the heritage of theatre, and is also inherited in
methods of choreography.
The Myth of Arachne - Emergence Room, Spinnen
In Europe, the idea of theatre, beauty, self-presentation, is closely tied to the
Greek myth of Orpheus who sang beautifully to get his Eurydice out of the underworld.
So the origins of art was kind of sticking to this figure in European
mythology, and we wanted to move away from him and raise another figure,
and that is Arachne, a woman.
The story is that Arachne comes from a single parent family - her mother
died - and the father was a dyer. So she was always around handicrafts, and
in the workshop. She was also a fantastic weaver, and the news spread to the
goddess Athena, who was the goddess of craft. And when she asked where
did Arachne learn her skills from, and word was that she was an autodidact,
which angered Athena since she was the goddess, the source, of craft. So
Athena disguises herself as an old lady, meets Arachne, and tells her that
she needs to acknowledge the goddess Athena as her teacher. Arachne then
challenges Athena to a competition, after which latter reveals herself and
agrees. So Athena weaves a carpet where the gods are in the centre and
creation are at the sides, while Arachne weaves a carpet which depicted the
god Zeus and all his violations against women; she weaves a rape scene. And
the competition was public, so people could vote for the best carpet and they
voted for Arachne, as it looked so realistic, which infuriates Athena and she
destroys the carpet.
So we have here in the story images of public viewership, weaving, a
workshop situation, a competition, the autodidact, and realism. Arachne unveils
power structures that are present in her artwork, and it gets destroyed.
And Arachne is so involved with her artwork that she decides that she cannot
live and tries to hang herself with her rope - so her material is rope, and she
is ending her life by cutting the rope that connects the head to the body. But
just before she dies, Athena sprinkles a poison on her and transforms her into
a spider. And culturally, this transformation is a big thing because the head of
the woman shrinks, and the abdomen swells.
This figure, for us, is the beginning of art. It captures the messy places
that we want, realistic places, not presentational nor controlled spaces that
have single purposes, and we really wanted to push the idea of knitting,
weaving together, and the space of workshops that addresses the idea of
texts, texture, textiles.
So why is myth still relevant today? When it comes to myth there is
something problematic because they are, no matter which culture, from mostly
patriarchal cultures. But nevertheless we like to work with myth because
it is tied to oral culture. Myths were always told, and it could happen everywhere.
And what interests us about myths is not so much that they contain
truth or non-truth, but more that they have recognisable attributes, like I can
recognise myself in this myth. Mythology is also intercultural; there are lots
of studies that show repeating motifs in myths across cultures like the spider,
gender roles, power gaps. And if you remember we have two big European
myths here - Orpheus being the one of beauty, of gentleness, and Arachne
being the one of harsh reality, and not just of her life but that she depicted
rape scenes. And for us it was important that when we started Emergence
Room, we set up public spaces for people to knit and stitch things and not
be censored. So some of these - a lot of these - were really tough. But remembering
that Arachne’s carpets are like carpets of reality, that was always
So why is Arachne important to artists today? Arachne is the young
woman, and the young woman is a figure in society that is very fragile, in
terms of who gets the education, who gets aborted. And there is also the
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
young woman as the object of desire, the object of hope. Another thing
about Arachne is that she was an autodidact, that she believed she could
learn things for herself and be very good in it. She is also the contemporary
artist, the body artist - she does her work in public, as opposed to the traditional
image of the artist hiding behind their canvas, in their workshops.
Just in Time
We’re now going to talk about our Just in Time project which we have been
invited here with. The only topic in this project is dance, dance in all its various
forms and variations, and it is also our first work where dance on the stage
becomes pure social choreography; there is no difference between a performer
and audience, the audience is as much as performer, which makes the theatre
become very much a social situation, everyone sits in the same boat. So the
pictures of Just in Time in different cities are all similar in the outcome, you
always see happy people dancing together. But each city also has a special
characteristic which makes for very rich encounters.
There are two things that make the project, one is the letter to dance,
and the other is the movement that we collect. The letter is an important form
because you address it to somebody. We only collect handwritten letters, and
the act of giving it away, out of one’s hands, that is a very artistic gesture, because
you do something and give it, like a dance, to make your body a subject
on stage, you are also giving something out of your hands; you lose control.
And the way Emergence Room and Just in Time fit together is also
through the notion of heritage. Just in Time started when we were asked to
hand in an application for a dance heritage performance. We came to realise
that this dance heritage thing, and focus on technique and the past - it all fits
this idea of control, that there are guards dictating right technique and history.
So with Arachne/Emergence Room, we were thinking about messing up
of the space, messing up of images, and here in Just in Time, we’re thinking
about giving up control, of handing over, the idea that you can do your own
movement, and you can dance the favourite movements of others, and it can
be a fun space, and pleasure can come in.
This project also looks with suspicion at the western fundamentals of
dance, and why are they so important. The ballroom is all about dance and
tradition, dance and sexual orientation, dance and language at political levels.
And if you joined the ball you would realise that dance always deals with all
of this - nationalities, tradition, body, language.
How did the different communities get invited to the project?
It differs from each city. In LA, one person from the theatre coordinated
everything, and each workshop had a mix of people from different com-
munities. Another way was that we visited old people’s homes, schools,
libraries. The inviting parties also have a say as we do in how to organise
the workshops and balls
In the Emergence Room project, how do you extend the invitation to
get involved in the public workshops? What kind of preparations do
We would sometimes host the space everyday, or we would have the table
with different things, chairs, that set up a space of conversation. We
would also be in the space doing things, which then animates people to
do things. We also sometimes leave instructions on the walls in the space
that also allow people to enjoy the quietness of the space. The project
has evolved such that the materials in the space are more self-explanatory,
so there is nothing but the artistic, poetic universe.
What happens to the materials created in Just in Time?
The best case is that we have one form of documentation from each city,
so here we are doing a video and e-publication with the scanned letters.
But we also take the originals, and are working on a huge online archive.
We are in talks with two dance archives because coming back to the idea
of heritage, it is quite charming to think that these letters will be part of
an archive, because it is the dance history of everybody, and that it’s just
in time, it is just of this moment.
It’s interesting that not only is there a heritage of people but
heritage of space and place. That can really stimulate anarchy to a
certain extent, because with an interior space it can create a liberty to
And spaces are never innocent, they carry stories like people. The
Just in Time project is also different in that you don’t go for a theatre
performance, you go for a ball. Our work is also bad for producers because
we insist that the doors need to be open; it has to be for free.
We’ve had huge debates with theatres to make the workshops for free,
as they have concerns about whether people will take it seriously if it is
free, but for us accessibility is very important. And all these questions
point to what we said before, the idea of controlled spaces, where attention
is not only controlled but who can get in and who can’t.
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
an identity of a twin, to absolutely change famiy relations, to have a
playful approach to past and now family.
When working with you, it was very clear that there were two individuals,
but each decision involved both of you, and there was a lot of
sensitivity in how you responded to each other in the room. So how
was this chemistry developed?
We really try to be like two but speak as one, and it can be confusing
to be consistent. But we learn from real twins, biological twins. We have
to be very good at explaining things to each other, talking one another
through things when one of us wasn’t there.
How have working with your children been?
The family is also a social situation that is not granted, not always nice,
not necessarily peaceful, the children are not obliged to love their parents,
and these things constantly have to be negotiated day by day. We
give this invitation to them to become part of our work and so far they
like and do it, but I think this can stop at any moment because we don’t
force them to participate. And we spend so much time together, like at
any moment a new idea can come and when we discuss it, our children
hear us talking so they are kind of a part of it anyway, so twin-time,
children-time, work-time, we mixed them all up.
What is your background that propelled you into this direction?
Our background was us coming together and erasing our past, or tried
to. And the concept of theatre as a social situation was something that
keeps us together - we couldn’t agree on anything else. And reading
Arachne’s story, her depiction of the rape scenes, it was the stone that
started to roll with us, and we started to write our own biographies with
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
A Personal Review
of Practice from
2004 – 2019
Here, I attempt to describe the practices that intersect with my occupation in
making for children. My original working definition of “practice” was “the repeated
application of an idea or method in order to be able to do it better.” I
am now using this working definition – “the sustained repetition of a task, idea
or method in order to maintain or increase abilities.” This updated definition
takes into account my experience of:
• Time (“sustained”): The practice develops over a long period of time
I am long-drawn and stretched out
• Making (“task”): The physical act of making and doing is a practice too
The muscle memory from brushing someone else’s teeth - a child’s -
twice a day
• Maintenance (“maintain”): Maintaining one’s abilities also requires practice
Maintenance work is often undervalued, like the work in keeping a child
alive and well
Occasionally, tangential ideas, references and emotions come to me as I write.
Instead of excluding them from this article, I have included them in blue.
Please feel free to read them, skip over them, or do both when you wish.
Adults sometimes want to be given permission too, not just kids
This could be like a “choose your own adventure”
Contact Improvisation as practice
When I came across contact improvisation (CI) 1 , I experienced it as a way of
dancing that was utterly enjoyable, while being able to hold contradictions
for my body. I felt so many things – challenged, ambitious, safe, connected,
disconnected and disoriented. This was in Los Angeles in 2004, where I was
studying at the World Arts and Cultures (WAC) school within University of
California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The legacy of American postmodern dance was still strongly felt at WAC
and I found affinity (and still do) in the “relaxed aesthetic” of postmodern
dance 2 . That “relaxed aesthetic” felt efficient and virtuosic at the same time,
and CI, a form coming out of the postmodern dance era, was much more
agreeable for my body (compared to ballet or certain modern dance techniques
I had studied). There is an egalitarian spirit to the underlying idea that
“CI is enjoyed by movers of all kinds 3 ,” which suggests to me that anyone and
any body is able to dance CI and potentially enjoy it.
Pondering colonisation and de-colonisation in relation to post-modern dance.
Processing the Critical Path chat where we discussed “Does Abstraction Belong
to White People?” 4
Linking these back to a discussion at Theatreworks, where we discussed,
among other topics, “making dances that are not about anything.” 5
From 2004 until 2010, I danced CI in the US, where I was still living, Then,
the focus seemed much more on the dancing - honing the intelligence of the
body and dancing from a deeply somatic approach. Safety was talked about
to the extent of the “first (or only) rule 6 ,” which I understood then as take
care of your own body, ie try not to get injured. Danielle Goldman, American
dancer and writer, describes CI as “a practice of making oneself ready for a
range of ever-shifting surprises and constraints.” I paid attention only to the
physical, relishing the mid-air moments, the falls, and the thrills of not knowing
what will happen next in the dance. The “listening 7 ” I practised was insofar
as the reading of physical cues I received from my partner/s and whether my
partner/s wanted to continue the dance. Where there were transgressions or
limitations to freedom on the dance floor, I was unaware at that time.
Added a footnote for “listening.”
Glad I caught that. I still feel the guilt of my ignorance
When I returned to Singapore in October 2010, there was a nascent gathering
of people interested in CI. Eventually, seeing that the community was small
and organisers 8 were needed to keep the practice going, I started to organise,
facilitate and teach CI. My practice of CI thus expanded beyond the dances I
was having, to include questions such as:
• Is “pay as you wish” sustainable? What does “sustainable” mean here?
• How do we practice safely?
• How does the practice recognise the person, not just the dance?
• Who comes out to CI sessions and who doesn’t?
Intersections of practice:
CI and motherhood
With the birth of my son in 2014, I became a mother. It was disorienting and
destabilising, even as I held tender feelings for him. There was so much about
him I had to learn and discover, as well as about me. I felt confronted especially
by the amount of time we had to spend together (by necessity and by choice),
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
and by the stark gender disparity in the parenting roles that my husband and
It’s ok that I’m writing about my son? It’s ok. In order to be the mother I want
to be for him, I need to bring our worlds together now. We are co-dependent.
I will tell him this. What will our journey be?
Motherhood became a practice – trying, doing, failing, doing again, not knowing,
knowing again, failing again, doing better the next time, then just doing.
With my pedagogical training, hours of literature review, and access to online
parenting resources, I began to form a framework to this practice. At the core
of this framework are these beliefs:
• We, children and adults, are persons-in-progress or “becomings. 9 ” I
will be compassionate and respectful of myself and him, through my
actions and language.
• Every child’s developmental milestones (physical, social, cognitive, etc)
are to be acknowledged and taken into consideration.
• Every child has the right 10 to health (all aspects), safety and
their own views and preferences. I will provide adequate care and
leadership so he is able to thrive and practice self-determination.
• This is a practice. I will fall short a lot and that is okay. I can apologise,
go on, and do better next time.
Baby-land was all consuming and I was away from CI for more than a year.
The gynae said “no contact-based sports or activities” but perhaps I could
have also balanced that with my own body sense. Sze danced through her
pregnancy and QQ. Ok I am not Sze.
Returning to CI was a turning point for me. David Lim from Contact Festival
Kuala Lumpur 11 (CFKL) invited me back to participate and teach at the festival
in 2015, which prompted me to re-acquaint my healing body with CI. In the
next year, I got to know about Heike Kuhlmann’s 12 (Berlin) and Itay Yatuv’s (Israel)
CI work with young children and families 13 . With Heike’s encouragement,
I began exploring CI with my son and other families at Dance Nucleus. The fit
was a natural one – CI was a way for me to get to know this ever-growing and
ever-changing young child and invite him to move the way he did. He moved
close to me, on me, and took time to explore spaces away from me.
In 2017, with the re-emergence of the #metoo movement and more
visibility around issues relating to sexual assault and harassment, people who
practised CI also began to talk more, and more openly. Among my friends and
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
networks, there were increasingly candid discussions about inappropriate and
unwanted touching, predatory behaviour and other forms of or sexual assault
happening during and after CI jams. Facilitators were seeking ways to not
only ensure the safety of the CI dance space, but also to restore feelings of
safety for practitioners who stopped dancing CI due to such encounters. Jam
guidelines, which were previously unpopular among some CI communities 14 ,
became a significant way for facilitators internationally to instil a framework
of care and nurture a consent culture. Ramsay Burt expanded on Goldman’s
description of CI, asking if besides “being ready,” there is the need in CI for
“responding or taking responsibility. 15 ”
What does this have to do with motherhood? EVERYTHING, eg. I want to raise
my son to be respectful and NOT an asshole, so help me god.
Chan Sze-Wei, Felicia Lim and I (as Qontact Qimprovisation research group
hosted by Dance Nucleus in 2018) also delved into some of these considerations.
We discussed how we could be more inclusive in the ways we organised
and facilitated jams, eg. being trauma-informed, offering alternatives, having
jams that actively welcomed people of all ages 16 . Sze and I also developed
a set of safety guidelines to care for the CI jams we were co-organising and
taught CI classes with lessons in body boundaries and consent.
While I continued exploring CI with my son and other families (I called
those Rolypoly Family 17 sessions), I paid more attention to the participants’
experiences of agency and care within the jams I was facilitating. That led me
to the “first, do no harm 18 ” ethic which would go on to inform everything I
would make for children. I also began to view the jams as space and time for
children and their families to practise respectful affection, physical play and
active “listening” for consent.
“Practice in the making”
The idea that CI-inspired jams were potentially a new format for children and
their families (in Singapore at least) got me interested in exploring and making
more formats of practice for both children and artists (together and separately).
Sustained over time, these formats, I hoped, would support their artistic
participation and development and have transformative qualities, whether in a
linear or non-linear trajectory.
Ultimately, I cannot guarantee a practice for anyone besides myself. My son
is already in his practice, in his own time. That is as much as I can dream of.
rk, cooking, they’re all done before we set off to our dance venue…”
In 2019, I successfully applied for an associate membership with Dance Nucleus
to embark on this “making spree.” 19 Jill Tan came onboard as an ethnographic
writer and we agreed that I would make for children and she would
write about it. I was not in the practice of writing about my own work so I was
eager to have Jill as a critical, empathetic and embedded researcher-writer.
By then, my frequent collaborator, Bernice Lee 20 , had joined me in running
Rolypoly Family dance sessions and we were beginning to apply our dance
aesthetics and processes to our work with children.
Eventually, these formats and works were made in Dance Nucleus 21 :
• Format: Sound and movement structured improvisation sessions; childled
• Family Dance and Music Jamboree 22 , five sessions for young children
and their families (directed and facilitated by me, with musical
contributions from Natalie Tse and Andy Chia 23 )
Format: Artists making together, in the presence of and with some input from
a child (my son), guided by “first, do no harm” ethic and a consideration for
the young audience’s experience of agency and care
• Letters Come Alive 24 , a new dance theatre work for young children
(directed by and in collaboration with Bernice Lee)
• Say That Again 25 , an adaptation of an existing dance work for older
children (directed by me and in collaboration with Bernice Lee)
• A participatory performance and exhibition based on Cheng Herng
Yi’s Paper Playground 26 , an existing origami-dance work for anyone
(produced by me, co-curated with Herng Yi)
Reflection, discourse and documentation
Formats: Three formats for group dance improvisation and meditation sessions
with and without children, adapted from Barbara Dilley’s Contemplative
Dance Practice 27 (for Rolypoly Family’s collective improvisation practice)
All these, my son and I do too, as we spend time together, while I am mother,
artist and teacher with him. How long will this last?
When will he turn away from all these? Will he?
All the making he does now – the dances (Scooter Dance!), books, the music
and songs, the stories, the inner worlds.
I grieve the loss I imagine will come
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
Amidst the “making” were these activities in Dance Nucleus:
• Observations by and discussions with Jill
• Simultaneous caregiving of my young son
• Contact improvisation jams and classes on a fortnightly basis (also at
• Conversations with other artists in-passing
• Studio maintenance work and meals
The “making spree” felt tedious and left me little time to contemplate what
I had made. Conversations with Jill also surfaced more questions to ponder
– what do “agency” and “care” look like, move like, dance like? Is there an underlying
aesthetic to the formats I’d made? What about my practices make me
make the way I make? What about the parents/grown-ups? Do they feel they
have agency and do they feel cared for? (For Jill’s writing about this project,
go to page 95)
Dance Nucleus’ ELEMENT #5 came around in October 2019, with a focus
on Social Choreography 28 , and became the retreat I needed to step out of
making. Led by artists deufert&plischke from Berlin, we wrote, moved a little,
wrote more, did grown-up versions of show-and-tell, and created, in my view,
rich and intimate multi-modal narratives interweaving the past and present,
memories and desires.
I got to sing “Part of Your World” during ELEMENT (yay), learnt weaving (didn’t
know I needed it), told, listened and read stories (about trees, death, sex)
Watched Daniel take care of the children. Watched the space shift.
During that time, I observed the space shift in Dance Nucleus. deufert&plischke
brought their two children to Dance Nucleus for the residency, so then there
were three (children) at times. We saw them, we heard them and we felt their
presence. They saw us, heard us, and felt our presence too. It was a jam of
sorts – artists, children and families being together in structured and improvised
ways. Sometimes, the space felt relaxed “ah, we know how to be together
and we like being together.” Sometimes, the space felt more tense and
boundaries needed to be acknowledged and mended.
I was like child too, getting carried away in role-playing and singing.
Daniel Kok, artistic director of Dance Nucleus, was caregiver too, tending to
the curiosities and big energy of the children. The children were makers too,
making forts, weapons, photographs and merry.
Remember the grown-ups, they are there somewhere
It is a trinity - between the children, their grown-ups and us, the artists
The children do not place themselves in our midst
All is relational
Look at the grown-ups in the eyes, sing for them, care for them too
If you can, remember their/our names
Remember the artists, they are among you
They try to do it all, they are late, they are early
They are short, they are tall, they are richer, they are poorer
They have mortgages, they have illness, they have plants, kids or cats
They are kind, they are assholes, they need their naps
Some of them, anyway
Remember dance, dance is here
Dance to Dance?
Don’t write to Dance or about dance
Just because someone tells you to
Who writes to dance,
Remember to relax
Not always and not everywhere
But it is a possible thing to do – to relax
This is my offering – relaxation, as a companion to your struggles,
which are real
You won’t die if you relax
But you might if you don’t
Remember to write to her
Remember to ask her how she is doing
Remember to not send her too much to read
Coming out of ELEMENT #5, I revisited the idea or sentiment of the “relaxed
aesthetic.” Why am I drawn to it and why does it matter? What is relaxed
– the body, the people, the boundaries, the expectations and/or the environment?
The next iteration of the Practice in the Making Research Project with
Jill will be a continuation of the conversations between her and I, looking
specifically into the “relaxed aesthetic” and how it plays out in a choreographic
format I’m co-making for young dancemakers.
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
1. “The improvised dance form is based on the communication between two moving bodies
that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that
govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia”- early definition by Steve Paxton and
others, from Contact Quarterly Vol. 5:1, Fall 1979
2. This relaxed aesthetic has been attributed to “recycled Africanist principles” (Brenda Dixon-Gottschild)
and Asian philosophy, such as chance encounters inspired by the I-Ching.
4. A skype discussion convened by Critical Path in Sydney and initiated by dance artist Charemaine
Seet, to share responses to Miguel Gutierrez’s article for BOMB magazine. https://
5. This talk and panel discussion was moderated by Lee Mun Wai, in conjunction with “The
Roundest Circle,” directed by Eng Kai-Er, Felicia Lim and I, produced by Theatreworks as
part of Eng’s associateship (2018)
7. “Listening” is a term used (somewhat affectionately) by dancers to convey a heightened
sense of awareness and sensing of another dancer, of the space, of themselves, etc, usually
with somatic implications.
8. Some past and current regular organisers, to my knowledge, include Matthew Heys, Li
Yongwei, Eng Kai-Er, Chan Sze-Wei, Felicia Lim, Xie Shangbin, Siang Ding, and myself
9. Lee, N. (2001). Childhood and Society. Growing Up in an Age of Uncertainty. Buckingham,
UK: Open University Press
11. Contact Festival Kuala Lumpur has been an annual contact improvisation festival since
12. Heike Kuhlmann is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and body-worker https://www.
13. Itay Yatuv is a dancer, choreographer, teachers and founder of Contakids. I encountered his
videos online and was introduced to his work by local theatre practitioner Trev Neo http://
14. Interview with Kathleen Rea, who organises the Toronto Wednesday Contact Jam
15. Burt, R. (2016). Ungoverning Dance: Contemporary European Theatre Dance and the Commons.
Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press
16. Megan Emerson’s Culture of Consent for partner dance communities https://contactimprovconsentculture.com/2018/04/10/stages-of-consent-culture-for-dance-communities/
17. The name “Rolypoly Family” was chosen to reflect the ever-changing nature of movement,
the fun of being topsy-turvy, the evolving and diverse configurations of “family” and the
cross-generational sharing of dance.
18. “First, do not harm” is a Hippocratic oath used in some medical settings. An adaptation of
this is used in the Singapore Medical Council Physician’s Pledge, though its practicality is
debated. I encountered during my stint in social impact consulting.
19. Jill and I were re-acquainted in December 2018, through our work with Superhero Me, an
inclusive arts organisation. I then got to know her as an anthropologist and writer, and
invited her to collaborate on “Practice in the Making”. https://jilljtan.com/
21. Other works made outside of Dance Nucleus include Scooter Dance initiated by my son
(made during walks in our neighbourhood) and participatory programmes – Dance Playground,
Dance Jambo and Dance Party (with support from The Artground)
22. This series was partially funded by LearnSG seed grant.
23. The musicians performed as part of Little Creatures by SA and had their baby with them
at every jam session. https://hellolittlecreatures.com/
ELEMENT #5 Social Choreography
24. Letters Come Alive went into production with the support of The Artground. It was later
performed there, at The Esplanade’s Octoburst Festival 2019, and in the Jalan Kukoh
neighbourhood with support from NAC’s Got To Move initiative.
25. Say That Again was commissioned by Singapore Management University in 2012, as part
of Code Switch Visual Arts Festival curated by Regina De Rozario and Tang Ling-Nah.
There were several adaptations of the score and the latest adaptation in 2019 was performed
at Kong Hwa School under NAC-AEP.
26. Cheng Herng Yi is a mathematician and performance artist. http://www.herngyi.com/performance.html
28. “ELEMENT#5: Social Choreography looks at the social dimension of choreography and
reorganises discursive and collaborative processes, as well as dance projects that deal
with social engagement as a critical practice.” Dance Nucleus http://www.dancenucleus.
Faye Lim improvises, facilitates, performs,
dances, makes, and mothers. In her recent
performative works, she explores questions
about the “personal persona” – how does she
show up as herself in the work? How does
she perform her desires, fears, unknowing,
and personal history in improvised performances?
She makes works alone and collaboratively.
Faye can be reached at fminlim@
da:ns LAB is an annual artist meeting, organised as a collaboration between
Dance Nucleus and the da:ns Festival of the Esplanade Theatres by the Bay in
Singapore. It is a programme to interrogate choreographic practice that began
in 2015. da:ns LAB 2019 is the programme’s 5th edition.
The theme of da:ns LAB 2019 was “Listen to Country”. Responding
to the shifting ground and changing climate - environmental, political, and
economic - many artists in the performing arts have begun to augment their
practices with a sense of urgency. This involves a critical reexamination of
the arts ecology, the role of the arts and artists, and a greater emphasis on a
model of relevance over that of excellence. The verb of the day thus seems
to be ‘to listen’. As well as to speak, issue statements and to take a stand, the
artist who cares also needs to build in listening as a salient ingredient in their
artistic practices. Besides speaking more forcefully and more persuasively,
how can we be better at listening to our communities?
4 international artists were invited to facilitate discussions on a critical
re- examination of the arts ecology, to critically respond to the challenges
faced in their cultural contexts by building platforms, initiatives, and organisations
with their respective milieus alongside their individual artistic projects.
These 4 artists were Jacob Boehme (Melbourne), Paz Ponce (Berlin), Martin
Schick (Fribourg), and Xiao Ke and Zi Han (Shanghai). Our participants were
invited from the region such as Taiwan, Philippines, India, Indonesia and Thailand.
Associate Members Chan Sze Wei and Chloe Chotrani were documentarians
of the entire programme. FUSE#4 contains excerpts of the full report,
which can be found at Esplanade Theatres by the Bay’s Offstage website.
5 th da:ns
We (Sze and Chloe) respond, engage, critique, and archive da:ns LAB 2019:
Listen to Country. Being both dance practitioners, we are participants as well
as witnesses to how the invited artists engage with the participants, an inside
and outside gaze. What kind of collective discussions are activated? How may
they have a ripple effect in our respective practices as cultural workers?
Some notes on the formatting of this archive:
• We have decided to speak/write/archive in first person, to give a more
direct felt sense of the discussions in the room as they happened.
Coming to terms with the impossibility of being purely objective, we
take in our subjectivity as a place of power as artists and archivers in
• Chloe has responded to Day 1 and Day 3, while Sze has responded to
Day 2 and Day 4.
• You will find sections of verbatim transcription within the archive, to
bring in the actual voices of people and to avoid any overriding of
our own perspectives, which can lead to the risk of tainting over the
original language and tone spoken on the day itself.
Chloe Chotrani and Chan Sze Wei
As I write this, the Singapore skyline is hazy from the neighboring forest fires.
A reminder of the call of the climate crisis. The haze returns every year and
treated is treated society in Singapore as a normal part of the weather. All
conversations at this point are interwoven to our ecology. This year’s da:ns
LAB theme Listen to Country brings questions about our relationship to land.
What is our place in relationship to the land we live on? What does it mean to
listen to the land? What can we do to respond to the call of the land? Are we
willing to listen?
On the indio genius,
I quote Kidlat Tahimik, National Artist and Father of Philippine Independent
Cinema, whose works critique the division of globalization, capitalism, and
tradition. Kidlat coined the term indio genius of people who identify with indigenous
values, but are not from a direct indigenous ancestral lineage. Indio
genius—I find to be a good framework of indigenous intervention within a
contemporary content to read the engagement with the work of Jacob on our
first day at da:ns LAB.
Jacob Boehme is a Melbourne-born and based artist of Aborignal heritage,
from the Narangga (Yorke Peninsula) and Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) nations
of South Australia. Jacob is the founding Creative Director of YIRRAM-
BOI First Nations Arts Festival 2017.
Jacob introduced himself by sharing his ancestral lineages. His work
in Australia fills the gap created through colonial indigenous erasure – of
language, of people, of memory. As a young actor and trouble- maker at the
age of 13, a social worker put him into a theatre class instead of juvenile detention,
which led him to study dance at the Aboriginal Island Dance College
in Sydney, where he learned from Aboriginal elders and where Jacob adapted
pre-colonial performance models of interdisciplinary song and story-telling.
Of which, one of these models was shared and practiced with us in his workshop.
He also generously gave the participants the opportunity to take this
model and share it with others in our own contexts.
In the South of Australia, the erasure by colonization was heavier and
absence of culture more felt, as compared to the North where there is a
stronger presence of Aboriginal historical narratives and songs due to slower
colonization. In the South, banning and censorship of song and dance led to
Aboriginal communities continuing their ceremonial practices in secret. Jacob
initiated the YIRRAMBOI festival for the revival and reclaiming of cultural
practice, pride, ceremonies, and connection to country.
Jacob’s presentation leads me to question: Jacob comes from an indigenous
lineage, which gives him the authority to reclaim indigenous narratives,
but how about everyone else? There is risk in cultural appropriation,
especially when it comes to the indigenous. How does one build a holistic
elationship with a community where art can be an expressive medium to
mutually benefit both the artist and the community?
On country as oral histories and memories of ancestors,
As the conversation shifts into remembering stories told by our grandparents,
it raised provocations, frictions, tensions, and further questions within a Singaporean
context. Interestingly, this sharply changes the direction and perspective
of Jacob’s original intentions, which was to have a second movement
exercise based on stories of our ancestors. We ended up instead in a heated
conversation about voluntary amnesia and trauma within familial ties.
Cui Yin, Loo Zihan, Sze and Nabilah speak about how in Singapore,
family storytelling is not a usual mode of connection. The older generations
were determined to forget trauma so as to move on. Questions were raised
on how to expand the notion of kinship beyond genetic ancestry? Here is
how the discussion went:
Jacob: If we go with the notion of country as a commitment to family,
those that have walked before us, without them we wouldn’t be here. It
is through those ancestors that have given us the opportunities today.
This is where I’d like to shift the focus into a movement exercise. I was
wondering, if we could do two more memory exercises and apply it to
the choreographic technique. Think of a story that you have been told by
a grandparent of ancestors you don’t know.
Cui: That doesn’t exist.
Jacob: Your grandmother has never spoken about her mothers and elders?
Cui: My grandmother speaks a different language.
Loo Zihan: Their dialect is different from our dialect.
Jacob: Is there any story you have heard from the older generations?
Whom you have never met?
Zihan shared that for the older generations, there was a deliberate willing
of self to forget due to the trauma of the past, poverty, migration, violence,
and war. Shawn questions the room on how we can expand to think beyond
Aparna: I was thinking how much of culture is passed through stories,
which is one way. It is only in the mid-nineteenth century where there is
the homogenization of how the world is transformed. If we are talking
about migration that has happened over half a millennium, there is cultural
continuity, though not necessarily through the passing of stories…
I feel there is something about different ways of passing on values. Some
of which are verbal, some are different forms of encouraging different
forms of behavior. Here as a dance space, there is a lot of embodiment
and transfer of histories.
Chloe: I feel for many of us here that blood kinship is a source of estrangement
and rejection, and so you don’t go there as a source of
healing, because it is the source of trauma. Your sense of family, story,
history, then comes from other sources, or ideally, inside. Perhaps, you’ll
find a rhythm, or dance, or song, where you find a source of home. I am
curious about ways we can look beyond a racial boundary.
Jacob: It is not beyond your blood, it is in your blood. Your DNA memory,
every two generations, it tracks back. When you do come across songs,
or rhythms, or something that feels familiar to you. DNA memory is going
two generations plus two generations plus two generations back. It is
already in your body, that’s why you remember. It is already in us.
Nabilah continues to share on how she finds freedom in being able to
re-make our own myths, finding a strength of being present, rather than
digging into family trauma. While Zihan shares his resistance to a genetic
determinism of who we are, a narrative that has been woven, spun, used,
and inflected as a weapon to discipline Singaporeans. Shawn shares that in
trauma discourse, it is not just genetics that one inherits, but also how the
environment changes the genetic expression. I think the understanding of
genetic inheritance of trauma needs to be contextualized. Sze also shares
how remembering and identifying with a culture that is an oppressing majority
brings upon cultural guilt.
Paz: When a nation state works based on geography there is a consensus
of forgetting. From that point zero of the collective decision of when
one is a country, things happen very fast, people consciously eliminate
where they come from because its more ‘efficient’ to move forward.
Cui: I don’t care about reconciliation or lost things along the way. But,
I know that I have been programmed to a culture that has cut me blind
and deaf to many people and their experiences because of the nature
of my identified existence as Chinese. I feel that, maybe it is not about
listening to country, but thinking about how your country is where
you are listening to. Maybe those who are listening should be listening
to those that are subjugated. For that is how I inhabit the present
situation in Singapore. There is no such thing as Chinese, that word is
a fake word. The concept of Chinese-ness is of a soujourner, of being
diasporic, of being multiplicities. In and of that, then for what? The label
is just a demographic label. The label I have been given has caused a
lot of unnecessary harm. That harm is what I should be listening to,
rather than to focus on what came before me.
On country as land/ecology,
Jacob shifts the conversation away from country being something to with
your blood or culture to country being environment and ecology. What is your
relationship to that? What is the position of responsibility to ecology and
environment? What are people's feelings on how that plays in your practice?
Preethi: In India to find unbuilt land is almost impossible because the
population is increasing. In the last few years, a group of us have been
occupying open spaces. How do you be in these open spaces? How do
you inhabit those places? These are spaces where our thinking is starting
to develop. Taking action upon open spaces. There was such an urgency
that some of us bought land, so that nothing could be built on it.
Sze: I have a strong sense that the local environmental context of Singapore
and its situation as a confluence of things is a context of transformation
over time. And, I try to think about transformations at the time
of the ocean, not in the time of human life. In the time of the horseshoe
crab which has retained its inherent genetic makeup, and how it has not
needed to change in a million years. With that project, I work with things
that come to these shores, to look at that transformation and how those
things have been reclaimed by the sea. It is also a connecting to the
sense that migration, say of my grandparents, is only a small scheme of
the larger changing or non-changing patterns.
Amin: Before this talk about indigeneity, the idea of land was important,
that allowed me to reflect upon traditional ideas with nature pre-Islam.
Understanding of the wind in itself as a way to describe modes of being
and understanding. And, nature was a way of looking at the life or
understanding life of Malay people before Islam. After Islam, it became
quite a sanitized way of looking. A lot of training in traditional dance it
was mostly from nature, how soil works, and returning back to the land.
Jacob: In order for us to go forward ecologically and environmentally,
I do think it is important that we consult with as many indigenous
communities around the world as possible, who have spent long periods
of time and managed them pristinely; until the coming of the
industrial revolution and after the industrial revolution. We need to
start listening to those that have been listening to country for a long
time in order to go back to the land renewal. Because unfortunately,
we have fucked it.
We close the day by having a conversation on the current fellowship that Jacob
is under for the next two years. Where Jacob has the opportunity to seek
alternative business models based on indigenous cultures around the world.
To re-seek for ideas of the art market that is more focused on cultivating craft
rather than selling performance as product. Which leaves us with room for
actual on the grounds, possibilities.
We did not end up doing the initial movement exercises that Jacob had
planned. There is no conclusion. There are no answers. There cannot be answers
in four days. This conversation is too complex to unpack in a workshop
or two. However, we did arrive somewhere. Ideas surrounding the urban-indio,
the notion of country beyond nation-state borders, country as ecology
and environment, listening to people that listen to country, listening to those
that are subjugated, as a way to listen to country, and a myriad of layers that
each can unpack in one’s own way.
Chloe: I work with soil and I think my hands in contact with the earth is a
way to listen to country. The way information is being passed can also be
ephemeral in this way, the insects that come by, the dragon flies, monitor
lizards, frogs, and all of that translates into my work as an artist. That is
one way to listen to country, to listen to nature. I feel one way to break
the illusion of separation of man and nature is through plant medicines.
I feel it is so deeply profound, it can be a re-wiring of our cells and neuropaths,
that is also another way to listen.
“I find that it’s hard for my body to dance. Dance is a luxury for me. Now
I’m trying to find new ways to understand what is dance.”
– Xiao Ke (in her day 1 introduction)
On dancing in public space,
Republic of Dance was based on the daily public square dances common in
cities across China, danced by older folks. XK x ZH mention that they initiated
this project after being asked frequently about “China’s contemporary dance”,
leading them to seek out dances danced by everyday Chinese people. XK x ZH
approached this with the following questions: Is public square dance different
in various cities? How do public square dances change Chinese society? What
is the body memory of mainland Chinese? It was also a way for Xiao Ke to connect
with her parents’ generation, whom she previously did not identify much
with as they had different lifestyles and what she perceived as bad manners
(e.g. speaking excessively loudly).
XK x ZH identified distinctive elements in the public square dances which
they related to Chinese body memory: poses with the Little Red Book and
positions influenced by Maoist Moral Operas, pauses for photography, and a
unique concept of the use of music which was not count-based. They also
observed that the public square dance groups generated their own forms of
community and communication, with their own groups using online forums.
They noted that body memory lingers, even though China changes very
fast. These memories influenced a whole generation, but wondered how a
younger generation understands this?
Public square dancing also says something about how Chinese use
public space. Despite overseas impressions of control in communist country,
Chinese people use public space a lot and don’t care what others think. The
dancing was an important expression of happiness for a generation with
XK x ZH’s instant theatre initiative in Shanghai Too late/NIAO NIAO Festival/
Instant Theatre was created to circumvent the Chinese censorship process.
They created their own inflatable theatre and festival to support independent
young artists and show their own work. Through an open call they assembled
30 performing artists and amateurs and together created a work called Too
Late. They later brought the Instant Theatre to Penang but regretted it because
it was so hot!
The context for Too Late was that XK x ZH had several shows for the
Top: Republic of Dance. Image courtesy of Xiao Ke x Zi Han
Bottom: Republic of Dance. Text in Chinese: “If I dance fast enough, loneliness cannot catch
me”. Image courtesy of Xiao Ke x Zi Han
theatre censored prior to this. They sensed that the censors’ objections were
arbitrary, and were frustrated with the negotiations to modify their shows. It
was also difficult to get approval for a theatre in a public space. They circumvented
this by collaborating with the West Bund festival in Shanghai, who
didn’t bring XK x ZH to the censors’ meeting. They had an agreement that
they would not say that XK x ZH’s events were a performance. Instead, they
hosted “free workshops”.
Xiao Ke feels that it isn’t so hard to figure out how to navigate censorship
in China. She refuses to stop working because of self-censorship
– which is more powerful than government censorship. So they choose
to circumvent the censorship process and work with little resources, even
though if one is happy to negotiate, one can get huge funding and space.
Xuemei shares about Drama Box’s inflatable theatre the Goli (marble),
created to address the aesthetics of community theatre in a different space.
It is a challenge to maintain and repair the structure, while the ambiguity
of ownership of public space makes licensing tricky. The porosity of public
spaces also creates the requirement that all content performed in the Goli
needs to achieve a “G” rating because you can’t control who will accidentally
encounter your work and feel offended. The company realised that the redefinition
of space was becoming something interesting in itself.
Xuemei describes a sense that the censors are constantly trying to catch
up with artists. Cui Yin notes that even talks and buskers in Singapore require
licenses. Xiao Ke responds that Singapore seems to be a game where
it is hard to imagine anyone breaking the law – unlike China where artists in
big cities still have this possibility. Zihan and Kai respond that there are still
situations where Singapore artists can avoid regulation, such as sharing in
private events, and informal practices such as those in the Esplanade underpass
where participants are presumably ignorant of licensing requirements
and do not feel a need to self censor. Zihan feels relief that the censors seem
to be catching up rather than running ahead, in contrast to the 90s when
performance artists were seen as a security threat. The censors had tried to
run ahead of artists and measures become disproportionate.
Xiao Ke and Henry mention the censorship of artists in Taiwan and Macau
because of their participation in the Sunflower Revolution. Yikai shares
about the performance Provisional Alliance in the Taipei Arts Festival. A variety
of activists, artists and politicians had been invited as performers for
a work about decision making in government. The involvement of political
candidates was perceived as biased and there was pressure from the press,
mayor and venue to cancel the show or remove some participants. The artists
were able to proceed with a modified script, because they had the support
of their venue, and in Taiwan artists won’t be stopped if they really want to
Zi Han recalls that Republic of Dance was censored when it was sched-
Miniascape. Image courtesy of Xiao Ke x Zi Han
uled at the Shanghai Power Station, a government contemporary arts museum.
However the institution also played the important role of protecting the
artist. The performance proceeded informally un-ticketed and by invitation,
and the censored text “cultural revolution” was instead covered with
beeps and blacked out subtitles. In his opinion, this made that part of the
performance even stronger.
The afternoon session is dedicated to a game of monopoly designed by XK x
ZH, which they couch as a way to “complain constructively” and have exchanges
about different independent artists’ and curators’ contexts and dilemmas.
On being independent,
XK x ZH admit that they “cancelled” the cash element in the game because
it became problematic to talk about buying opportunities or festivals. Their
board design reflects a basic map of the art environment that they work in and
is only one system in which to think about art and independent practice. Cui
Yin points out that the origin of Monopoly was not to celebrate capitalism
but to encourage players to think about the benefits of a non-capitalist system
and players had an option to veto the rules of a monopolistic system.
Preethi talks about how we can develop spaces for dialogue where a
work is not only judged by number of tickets sold. Building dialogue with the
public, media and people across many fields is crucial in a place of ruptured
history, without ready-made discourse. It is also important to engage peers to
look at each others’ work and push in directions that you wouldn't normally
go yourself. Many artists in Chennai are disappointed that being articulate
in English and the language of contemporary arts has become so crucial to
any sense of value, but there was a recent move to develop discussion of
concepts and abstract ideas in regional languages.
Daniel suggests that the paradigms that keep dancers trapped are: seeing
dance as a visual and technical practice, emphasis on festivals and making
shows. What if dance practice doesn’t mean being alongside other disciplines,
but the ability to think about an expanded ecology? In a global
context of falling audience numbers and funding cuts, co-production is only
a stopgap measure. The onus is on the independent artist to think creatively
about other ways of engaging public rather than creating more shows to
jam into an already failing market system. The latest Arts Sector plan is an
opportunity for Singapore independents to reimagine ourselves and reframe
ourselves to the National Arts Council.
Cui Yin states that she is averse to the word “independent”, which assumes
a dichotomy and separation from institutions and authority. That perspective
dehumanises people who work in institutions and those who accept support
from them. Her own interest is more about how to create the conditions for
creating and experiencing art, working collectively and interdependently.
She is interested in what other languages of value we are creating; giving
each other a language of meaningfulness that can’t be translated into cash.
To assume markets are neoliberal is to also ignore the value of stallholders in
markets and public squares that are also a form of community.
Xiao Ke responds that at a basic level for her and Zi Han, the basic
premise is to try and be financially independent. There is “big funding” available
in China, but 100% of the granting foundations are organisations they
do not trust. As independents they have the power to decide to do or not
do, and try to separate money from their work. Being independent in China
is also about collaboration, and a perspective of building an ecology and an
environment for art. Initiatives such as the NIAO NIAO festival and the iPAN-
DA forum are XK x ZH’s attempts to build possibilities for a new arts ecology
without funding. Their work Darling Hurt (Rainbow) where Xiao Ke walked
across Shanghai with a clothes rack - engaged audience in a different way
from conventional performance.
To Loo Zihan, “independent” means that you are flexible to get resources
from everywhere but you have very strong principles, determining what
you do and don’t want to get. You have to take care of yourself.
Yikai speaks about Thinker’s Theatre, his independent venue, and Tua
Tiu Tiann International Festival of the Arts, an independent festival. He agrees
that being independent is about having more flexibility in time and creativities.
Young producers today in Taiwan are starting to think that it isn’t necessary
to go into an institution to get resources. The strength of being independent
is in knowing what resources one has. Not everything is about money.
Sekar says that in Solo, she is focused on activating a next generation of
choreographers after Eko Supriyanto. There is a need for a mutually supporting
ecosystem of independent art workers to encourage and support young
artists and their practice, and help develop their ability to talk about their
work. For example, there is Melati Suryodamo’s programme Onstage, which
invites young artists to create new work and be articulate about their work.
Paz says that in Germany, visual arts independents are those not represented
by a gallery - trading support for some loss of independence. In performing
arts, independents are those not from state sponsored companies.
KC notes that independent visual artists have the supporting infrastructure of
the arts market system, that provides opportunities to showcase your work
more frequently than perhaps an independent dance maker would. Jacob describes
the Australian context where independents were facing a difficult situation
with massive arts funding cuts removing the 40% funding allocated to
small and medium organisations who had collaborated with the independent
sector. The demands for not-for-profit arts organisations to follow a profit
imperative are set up to fail.
Yi-Kai appreciates that we addressed how independent artists navigate
the landscape. It resonates with his own experience as an independent practitioner
as Director of The Thinkers’ Theatre Taipei, a small venue founded by
arts managers and producers in 2013 when there were few spaces for independents.
The theatre selects 4-5 artists to support and promote annually.
The Tua Tiu Tiann International Festival of the Arts is a street performance
festival started to bring together local independents and to benefit businesses
in their area, building on a history of social movements and arts in the
district. The festival opts to take only 30% government funding and raise the
rest from private companies, rather than 80% government funding with the
condition that they have to follow government policies. That situation made
Yikai realise the importance of being independent.
Daniel asks how dance address the social dimension of itself in an
aesthetic sense? Must dance always be needing to engage outward groups?
Must the artist always be burdened with extraneous concerns?
Kai responds to XK x ZH’s day by singing the Soviet anthem.
This day was quite different from the rest of the other three days of the da:ns
LAB programme. It was also led by an artist facilitator, Martin Schick, but the
format of the workshop itself was an experiment because he chose to try out
a practice of facilitation without being in Singapore. The first half of the day
is conducted via an embodied representative - Norhaizad Adam, who stands
in front of the room as a presenter and relays Martin’s speech as received on
a bluetooth earphone. The second half of the day is conducted by Martin via
direct video link.
On distant teaching,
“Martin’s reason to not be here is deliberate. He is looking at how to work differently
after travelling extensively and running an arts centre in Switzerland. He
has decided to change radically how he works and collaborates. He proposed
not to be here but experiment with how to conduct activities with us, to try to
see how to be close to us without having to be physically here. How to take
care of ourselves - travel - impact on environment and own body, and losing
contact with community around you. If you look at time and physical abilities as
a resource or opportunity cost, then you can’t be flying around all the time. But
to build international relationships is crucial to many artists’ way of working
today. How then can we find a way to be in close communication, without
constant travel?” – Daniel Kok, Curator
On privilege and not-travelling,
Susan notes that it has become fashionable to talk about the difficulty of deciding
to create a way of life of not travelling and the dilemma of wanting to
be a global artist. For example, Jerome Bel. She asks Martin to elaborate on
the obstacles, and quality of work arising from this practice and the notion of
the hybrid. Loo Zihan asks whose bodies can afford not to travel and who can
make the choice and agency to do so.
Martin-Norhaizad: We don’t know yet. This is something new for us.
We are reacting without knowing where we are going. That makes it very
performative and experimental, without saying how it has to be. There
are many failures. There are no small answers for small questions. [Not
travelling as an artist] is a practice that for many years practiced by mostly
western artists. Something that we cannot say everyone should do, not
everyone was doing it before. The more we talk about it the more we get
into a trap. It is interesting to get into a trap so we can learn something
Martin-Norhaizad: Hopefully what we’re doing today turns out as a big
Kai in a whisper to the microphone: Hi martin, I’m impressed that you
didn’t show up. It’s the most unprofessional thing I have ever seen. I’m
interested in ways of becoming less professional because it is a way
of fulfilling needs that are not met in professional theatre settings.
One unprofessional thing I’m interested in currently is having sex at rehearsals.
I wonder if you ever consider having sex by proxy? Do you
think it’s one microsystem that’s interesting to create?
To questions from Susan about the process of unlearning and the intentions
behind the architecture of the space, Martin elaborates that unlearning is
about slowing down and being less in the productive mode (therefore sleeping
boxes), and deep learning that takes place when one had experiences over a
longer time. Architecture-wise, sleeping was allocated the same importance
and space as the toilet and benches - a Corbusier-like approach to a minimal
or perfect size.
Daniel comments that the Unlearning Centre offers a space to question
and ameliorate social practices at the micro level and the self. He wonders
if the unlearning practices at the individual level could also question the
foundations of society and mobilise people in bigger ways, as an act of
resistance. Martin responds that one point of unlearning is to reduce the
efficacity of the production mode and raise consciousness of what we are
doing right now and what those practices lead to.
Chloe asks how unlearning can apply within local context, and Aparna
noted that the unlearning exercises might be more useful in systems and for
individuals not used to constantly unlearning and rehabituating as artists do.
Martin responded that he had presented his approach to unlearning, but did
not intend to explain to us what unlearning was. Preethi comments that unlearning
was a concept present in many histories and parts of the world. We
were very aware that we were listening to the unpacking of a whole system.
Martin invites participants to propose habits they had observed that they
would like to unlearn. Examples range from conventions of how we dress and
Bottom: Image courtesy of BlueFactory
groom ourselves, how we organise our meals and schedules around meals,
apologising for our bodily presence, apologising for an unpronounceable
name, politeness, trying to save situations, thinking in silos, how to love.
After the unlearning activity, Martin shows a video of a Body Weather
performance with farm animals that was respectful of their presence and
input. He leads the group to practice this approach by selecting an object or
machine in the room and scanning it visually then responding in movement, to
test our relationship with objects and devices, so as to be outside ourselves.
On scanning and seeing,
Bernice notes that during the “scanning” exercise, she was trying to not see
other people and trying out not wanting to be seen, so that the movement
would not be about what it looks like from the outside. Susan is interested
in how the scanning could go beyond surface and engage different levels
of seeing. Chloe reflects on the attention to materiality in the scanning exercise,
as material objects were already very privileged and that we needed
to deprioritise materiality and its vicious cycle so that we could look deeper.
Martin responds that he will revisit whether “scanning” is the most appropriate
Daniel asks if role-playing instead of speaking as ourselves can allow
us to suspend judgement. Kai responds that she understands that speaking
in public is already performing, and that she tested what she was saying by
saying it. Aparna appreciates Martin’s call to not be so judgmental about
what’s being offered. Referring to the “scanning” exercise, she related it to
her traditional practice where one regularly observes and borrows from the
natural and animal world - a deep, complex and valuable practice.
Jacob highlights traditional societies’ methodologies in coexisting with
the environment that might address the climate crisis and social-political crises
led to by neoliberalism and industrialist history. KC is interested in how
to follow up on da:ns LAB so as to make a material change in how we work,
and strategies that will allow the change to have a multiplier effect.
Kai asks how we know when we have listened, and whether hearing
something uncomfortable makes one listen deeper, and potentially change
Top: Image courtesy of Martin Schick Bottom: Image courtesy of BlueFactory
Shawn invites us to dwell on the word “failure” and to be careful about
how we use the word. How do we situate failure as a practice? Failure
of what, in what context, unlearning in what context? Judith Halberstam’s
Queer Art of Failure describes a strategy that queers the normative logics
of society, where failure is an important way of life for queerness. Failure is
also tied to promise. If there is no promise, there is no failure. What then
is the risk? He also notes how words have become very important for us, our
particular way of life, our history, asks how we can listen and respond to that.
If nothing is undone or unlearned, maybe you’re not listening but projecting
beliefs. Maybe you’re not listening carefully enough. The first two days were
collectively intense, with a subtle language forming through listening, recognition,
and resonance. How could we extend those relations, even if one was
Henry notes that the extent of unlearning depends on careful listening,
and that listening, especially to the body, takes a longer time. Returning to
issues of rights and access and privilege are linked to the term “independent”
discussed on Day 2, Henry recognises the privilege of our experience, our
CVs, language capacities, and our network that allows us to be here. He asks
how one could participate remotely and “channel” ourselves to learn? He
sees that Martin is searching for a new perspective on practice, and feedback
on conventions of an arts industry that he cannot escape. He questions what
is missing in the remote interface, and asks Martin if he considers this day a
failure or success.
In response, Martin says that “risk is never a failure.” Although the
situation was uncomfortable, the group was getting closer in what we are
reflecting about. Sharing similar backgrounds and wishes creates a common
mental space. “Maybe the complicated situation is the teacher, especially
when we have to find ways to get out of the situation.” He notes that he is
listening much more carefully to what the participants are saying, because of
the situation. “What I get from you is very fragile; I get less but I treat it with
more care to get something out of it.”
Intimacy in distance will be necessary in the near future when we have
to change our practices. “If I can feel disgust and boredom from a distance,
I should also be able to feel intimacy. Intimacy or sex appears as a topic in
He also admits that he has attempted to unlearn a desire to please and
fulfil participants’ expectations. He recognises that “this also costs something.”
Cui Yin recognises the frustrations of the day, but shares that she began
to see this as a rehearsal for inclusivity. “We prioritise being able to be
somewhere so much that it centralises resources. We focus on gathering to
be a way of including, or to get something done. What if to decentralise is
to allow us to include more people, more languages, and to “unconference”
ourselves? What might this change in my practice as a producer?” Daniel
adds that Martin’s not flying to Singapore has allowed Dance Nucleus to
stretch the budget to invite more regional artists to attend da:ns LAB.
Sze’s thoughts on day three
In retrospect I found this day quite energising, and observed this in the group
as well. The unfamiliarity of the situation prompted some immediate scepticism,
but that in turn surfaced questions about expectations and the conventions
of engagement between artists, the conventions of being engaged
to present one’s practice, the politics of pedagogy vs participation,
questions about the economics of privilege regarding the choice of not
travelling, and the inherited subtext of colonisation that cannot help but present
itself when a white body speaks to an audience of primarily yellow and
brown people. My sense was that the engagement that arose created new
connections among the participants, and a heightened state of reflexivity
and awareness of micropolitics. This day also made me revisit my own
assumptions about rehearsal process and experimentation. I was surprised
by the resistance I felt to Martin’s presentation; my personal objection was
that it seemed ill-prepared in technical terms and superficial in content - perhaps
trying to cover too much ground in too short a time. I recall nodding
when Martin responds “Hopefully what we’re doing today turns out as a big
failure.” My self-image is that I am an advocate for and practitioner of live
improvisation. Negotiation of the unexpected, sometimes with difficulty, is an
artistic practice in itself and I think one of the ultimate forms of being in the
moment. I resonated at the theoretical level with Martin’s comments on how
improvisation and liveness in performance is one way of resisting the economics
of performance making and resources required for rehearsals.
Yet I found this difficult to reconcile with the heightened performativity
of the clearly prepared text of the lecture-performance of Norhaizad-as-Martin.
I realise I am quite bound to the conventions of performances (including
improvised ones) needing to be prepared, and expecting them to be good.
Was the lack of technical rehearsal for the mic set ups a demonstration of
resistance to economic structures, or was it just lack of planning? Was the
unmanifested desire to allow Norhaized to be an equal speaking voice in the
hybrid due to a dedication to immediacy, or a lack of effort to pre-engage
with Norhaizad the artist and his practice and solicit his contributions to the
lecture content? I also realise that the “judgey” attitudes among participants
was compounded by our lack of familiarity with Martin. Things may have been
quite different if he had in some way participated in the preceding two days,
and if we had already had a sense of his personality and vulnerability as a
The fourth and last day was facilitated by Paz Ponce, a Berlin-based independent
curator & arts educator. She shared the fragilities and journey of Agora
Collective, a Berlin-based Center for Collaborative Practice, speaking
with eloquence, poetry, and speed. Similarly, her tasks for us consisted of
groupings to brainstorm and discuss the place of independent practitioners,
collective efforts within artistic communities, and international collaborations.
Leading into a series of tasks that felt somewhat irrational yet meaningful.
Such as, taking a nap for 20 minutes, then having a conversation either on the
phone or in person, then, somehow, it ended in a collective massage chain.
We also gladly disrupted a public space. We went to the underpass area
of Esplanade to have a series of walking conversations of specific memories
that we have, in relationship to the skills we value in ourselves. We had to
repeat back our partners’ stories, which was a good listening practice. This
exercise felt performative. We then had to write these stories, and compiled
all of them in an ocean of collected memories. From these pieces of paper,
we re-read our memories, written by others that we had a conversation with,
and we selected snippets to create a carpet on the floor of the Esplanade
Annexe. At this point, we were exhausted. It turned out that this was one of
Paz’s intentions: to take us to a space of new ideas. Paz offered a multitude
of little ideas throughout the day, one thing leaking into the next. No grand
ideas of how to work, how to converse, or how to create. Only a series of
suggestions, for us to take, or leave.
On artistic solidarity,
Agora means now, in Portuguese, the language of its Brazilian founders and
also coincidentally, in Greek, Agora is the place for encounters and exchange,
the market-place. Agora´s focus has ranged from food and hosting practices,
co-working spaces, event series, workshops, and programming, as well as with
a strong take on visual and performing arts. The four pillars of Agora, considered
to be essential values that come together in hybrid programming to
express Agora’s core value of artistic solidarity. The pillars also determined the
function of the respective floors of the Mittelweg building.
1. Nourishment (food)
2. Experimentation (art)
3. Production (work)
4. Education (learn)
Questions that the Agora founders worked with: How can we make a community
in Berlin? How do you develop an architecture of encounters? Possibilities
of people to interact?
She then shares about the significance of the physicality of a space. How one
response to the way the building is structured, to the “skin” of the rooms,
the definition of the floors, and how that cultivates an organic growth.
Agora has inhabited different spaces. From 2011-2016/17 they were based
in a five-story historic former factory building in Mittelweg, and then from
2017-2019 in the upper and then lower floors of a large industrial warehouse
in Rollberg. Both locations were in Central/South Berlin in Neukölln, a rapidly
gentrifying neighbourhood. She acknowledged that artists too have contributed
to that gentrification. The initial move to the expanded space in Rollberg
prompted the addition of a fifth and missing pillar Play/Move which became
the first dance house for Neukölln. They also planned for an extensive complex
of 26 artist studios. The growth of Agora came in forms of highlighting
sustainability structures which dealt with the binary of a business model and
a non-for-profit structure. With the insistence of trans-disciplinary practices
through their four pillars, the collective produced: a co-working space, an
event series, workshops and programming, community dinners, production
and experimentation, education, a garden. The discursive emphasis was on:
processuality, experimentation, collaboration, interdisciplinary, participation,
community-driven, critical engagement, and artistic solidarity.
On exhaustion and exuberance,
Throughout the years, Agora would review ways of collectively approaching
work through vast curriculums of artists working collaboratively and using art
as a relational tool.
Collaborative arts encourages cultural democracy by contesting notions
of authorship and the idea of the artist-genius working in isolation. Work
that is made collaboratively with different groups often exists outside of the
gallery and traditional theatre spaces. Instead it may take place in a prison or
a hospital. It can also be interdisciplinary.
How can we host smaller economics circulating from space for the artists
How can we test modes of assembly?
How can we play with architecture and space?
Where does art intersect with the social?
Top, Bottom: The Curriculum — Challenging the conventions around self-development, productivity,
and high-performance. Workshop by Paz Ponce.
Agora shifted their sustainability model from 2016/17-2019 from a dual
structure of co-working business and non for profit cultural association model.
The organization operated as a cultural association, only, entailing shared rent,
space division, external funding, rentals, and Municipal support. The way of
working has always been based on freelancing, now it was heavily based on
pro-bono work. There was a fixed core team of co-curators/artistic directors/
self-managed artist communities and collaborative practices (led by Caique
Tizzi, Sheena McGrandles, Elena Polzer, Paz Ponce). Agora Collective was interested
in creating smaller economies. New collectives were hosted at Agora:
Babes Bar, an Artist Run Bar, Ceramic Kingdom Collective, Burnt Sienna (a
Drawing Cooperative), and more. Their collaborative programs focused on the
space as: residency, academy, and public lab.
On re-defining Agora,
Agora means “now”, “assembly”, “market place”.
Agora is different because they are structured on relationships and their art
forms are generated from the discourse. The discourse is build by devising an
architecture of encounters which fluctuates between different ways to:
1. Hospitality: spend time together
2. Artistic Research & Education: exchange knowledge
3. Ecology of Attention, Community & Sustainability: building networks
After an insightful lecture on the sublime failures of eight years as an artist-run
project spaces / initiative, which is still, which is still an on-going negotiation
party. “Process Bar: The Curriculum - Challenging the conventions around
self-development, productivity and high-performance", where we break into
three groups through a question of self-identification: Do you consider your
development path as single entity or more intertwined with/ juxtaposed to /
blended with a larger working entity/structure?
Some notes from the break out groups:
Cui: “In Singapore so many institutions and state funded venues trying to increase
their audience numbers do it through free programs. What that results
in, is it turns the arts performance space into a gig space. One bad thing about
that is that you spend most of your time preparing for gigs for a general tourist
audience. You have less time to invest in developing new work.”
Andrei is impressed with how things are articulated in Singapore. In the Philippines,
it does not happen a lot. He feels artists would deeply benefit to have
these conversations both locally and internationally. While Shawn shares about
how strategies always need to be flexible. He finds it interesting that people in
the current da:ns LAB are also running spaces, whether nomadic or physical,
with different degrees of institutionality.
Many people from the International Collaborative Efforts group share concerns
over the international circulation of festivals – How can there be conversations
beyond navigating festivals, and more conversations on strategies
Some questions Paz prompts in relationship to space:
How can you monetize your space?
How can you start a new educational structure based on your practice?
How can your artistic practice be a context of learning and experimenting,
in which you advance your research but you also have ways of surviving?
“It’s more important to have questions than to find answers.”
Chloe’s thoughts on day four
Paz’s lecture focused on the details of what is means to run an artist organisation,
humbly revealing its fragilities and insecurities. Remembering all the
people that were in the room, cultural workers, festival directors, artists within
different communities around the region. This was a large learning curve that
was condensed into a morning lecture where we could follow the trajectory
of the obstacles, joys, empathy, and meaning that came out of the process of
Agora Collective, and still on-going. However, I do wonder how applicable their
journey is in Berlin, compared to such the unique and alternative landscapes
in Singapore, Taipei, Chennai, Manila, Shanghai, and Bangkok.
Because of archipelagic geography and less developed transport infrastructure
in Southeast Asia, cultural mobility functions at higher stakes as
compared to Europe. We have to fly often, which is affordable on a monetary
level, but it comes at the high cost of CO 2
emissions. Returning to the conversation
during Jacob’s lecture on listening to land and to Martin’s choice
to be absent or rather, present through technology. Conversations during the
group discussion touch on how we can focus more on long-term collaborations
rather than producing for the art market are questions on systemic and
strategic measures. How do we have more of these conversations and apply
them in a working model? How can we have a deeper understanding of our
landscape in Southeast Asia and allow ourselves to work with this land in a
way that best serve both the people and the place?
SCOPE is a platform for artist presentations. Associate members of Dance
Nucleus as well as non-members may conduct discussions, workshops, jams,
readings, screenings, open studio and work-in-progress showings. The showings
are self-organised and hosted by the artists themselves. SCOPE#7 saw
Shawn Chua and Chong Gua Khee convene on seperate days.
Featured here are articles from our regional guest artist Retno Sulistyorini
(aka Enno), the collaboration between Associate Member Faye Lim and Jill
Tan, and Jocelyn Chng, Nidya Shanthini Manokara, and Melissa Quek reflecting
on their creation Mulled Wine.
A Reflection on
Waiting is an inevitable and relentless part of life. It comes in myriad forms,
and gives rise to different emotions and physical sensations at different points
and in different people. Mulled Wine (working title) is an exploration of these
different forms and aspects of waiting in life. Through our development of
Mulled Wine we have discovered that Waiting is very much about a sensation
of time, but it is distinct from Time. There is an absolute and concrete time,
and there is sensed and experienced time. Waiting is about a perceived sense
of time. Harold Schweitzer, a professor of English from Bucknell University,
writes about waiting in Homer’s Odyssey in his article “Penelope Waiting”. 1
In it, he introduces us to the idea of “waiting” versus “waiting for”. The latter
signifies impatience, but the former is a timeless, immortal state.
While both “waiting” and “waiting for” have a physical lived aspect, the
“for” embodies an expectation or desire - “waiting for” therefore has an added
emotional aspect. Within our work, the roles of audience and performer
are continually blurred and interchanged, as are the lines between “waiting”
and “waiting for.” The physical and physicalising of our experiences if time
within Mulled Wine helps us to articulate the sensations in waiting and time
that contribute to the interchangeability of roles in performance.
Through the process of this project, a big question was and is, still,
“how do I get you to feel the same sense of waiting that I feel?” “What are
ways that, together, we could explore the sense of waiting?”
We have explored strategies that can be grouped broadly into three categories:
1. “In the blink of an eye” - through universally understood sensations
and ideas such as a blink or a breath.
Take in a breath and then hold it for as long as you can.
What happened in the wait? Have you changed? Has Waiting changed?
Gasp - Is the moment over?
Jocelyn Chng, Nidya Shanthini
Manokara, Melissa Quek
2. Empathy - by being brought to understand an idea or sensation
through description by the performer.
[A journal entry]
I think there are demons that I haven’t exorcised, and until I find a way to
exorcise them, I will forever be insecure and troubled. I am insecure because
I am not as successful as I’d like to be. I am worried about my jobs
(or lack thereof). I am not earning enough to be independent. I couldn’t
support myself if I had to pay rent. I am upset that my parents don’t
seem to support me and don’t understand what I’m doing.
All this rumination is making me even more depressed. I’ve tried everything
- booking that silent retreat, going for movement workshops,
ballet classes, sleeping more, sleeping less, drinking… none of that has
People have said that the best way to prove the naysayers wrong is to do
just that - to be successful. I haven’t gotten there yet. And I’m not sure if
I ever will. And I don’t have a solution right now.
3. Experience - by being made to experience it for yourself.
Specific ideas and sequences in the generation of the project were tested at
the following platforms:
• 2 Mar 2018 & 3 Aug 2018; Make It Share It Open Stage, Singapore
• 23 Feb 2019; Dance Nucleus Scope #5, Singapore
• 16 June 2019; Kinergie Studio, Hanoi, Vietnam
• 23 Nov 2019; Dance Nucleus Scope #7, Singapore
A work-in-progress version of Mulled Wine was presented at Dance Nucleus
on 6-7 September 2019.
1. Harold Schweizer, “PENELOPE WAITING,” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 85, no.
3/4 (2002): 284.
2. Kinneret Lahad, “Waiting and queueing,” in A table for one: A critical reading of singlehood,
gender and time (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017), 102-3.
Let’s wait together. Maybe the fact that we aren’t in this alone will alter
the sensation of waiting.
4 cups apple cider
1 (750-ml) bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, zested and juiced
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
4 oranges, peeled, for garnish
Combine ingredients in a pot and heat it over a stove.
Mulled Wine will be ready in 10 minutes.
Kinneret Lahad, referencing Victor Turner writes in A Table for One that waiting
is a liminal state. 2 Lahad’s “waiting” is actually a “waiting for” - the desired
thing that one waits for will effect one’s transformation when it is finally obtained.
Meanwhile, one remains in an impatient limbo, a transitory state. But is
Waiting that straightforward?
If you enjoy the wait, are you still waiting?
If you shop while waiting; if you text while waiting, are you still waiting?
Ultimately, is Mulled Wine “waiting” or “waiting for”?
Jocelyn Chng is a freelance practitioner, writer
and educator in dance and theatre. She has a
keen interest in issues of culture and history,
both personal and in wider societal/national
contexts. She holds a double Masters in Theatre
Studies/Research from the Universities of Amsterdam
and Tampere, and obtained a BA(Hons)
in Theatre Studies from the National University
of Singapore. In 2018, she also completed
a PG Dip in Education (Dance Teaching). Her
works, Becoming Mother? (2017) and Mulled
Wine (working title) deal with the intersections
between personal histories, culture and form.
She is currently working on a video project that
explores the mental and emotional effects that
our society’s focus on rapid development and
commercialisation have on the common person.
Dr Nidya Shanthini Manokara dispels the notion
that everyday life and codified art are distinct
entities in her performances and writings,
and questions how far an urbanite can resonate
with contemporary issues with ideas inspired
by her practice in bharata natyam. She has obtained
her PhD in Theatre Studies from National
University of Singapore and received the Natya
Visharad award from Singapore Indian Fine Arts
Society for her finesse in bharata natyam. Her
primary research interests include affective registers
in performance. Her notable performance
works include the ongoing Wandering Women
(2018~), Bitten: Return to our Roots (2018),
Becoming Mother (2017) and Soul in Search
Melissa Quek is a choreographer, performer and
educator whose choreographic interest lies in investigating
the body-subject. Her works, including
those for young audiences, attempt to touch
on questions of agency, materiality and perception
to create a visceral experience for the audience.
Some noteworthy choreographic works
are the Immersive and multi-disciplinary performance
series of RE:Gina is Dead and RE:Looking
at RE:Gina, co-created with Elizabeth de Roza
presented around and within the Substation theatre
in Singapore. The site-specific outdoor performance
Tracing the City (2016). Alice’s Topsy
Turvy Tea Party, a work-in-process for young
audiences presented at the Esplanade Theatre’s
Octoburst! Festival with The Kueh Tutus (a Collective
dedicated to creating dance for young
audiences that unlocks the imagination). Melissa
contributed a chapter on contemporary Dance
in Singapore to the book “Evolving Synergies:
Celebrating Dance in Singapore”, and has been
trying her hand at creating education-packs to
accompany dance performances.
Pertama kali melakukan proses kerja kreatif sebagai koreografer pada tahun
2000, dengan karya pertama yaitu sebuah koreografi tunggal/solo. Setelah
itu saya mulai aktif untuk membuat karya tari baru. Beberapa karya tari saya
banyak terinspirasi dari peristiwa sekitar lingkungan saya, terutama tentang
persoalan anak dan perempuan. Perhatian saya terhadap persoalan anak
dan perempuan dipengaruhi oleh banyaknya peristiwa yang sering saya lihat
maupun saya dengar dan terjadi secara berulang-ulang.
Proses kerja yang sering saya lakukan untuk membuat karya tari adalah
dengan memilih tema terlebih dahulu, dan setelah itu saya melakukan beberapa
fokus pengamatan baik secara langsung atau mengumpulkan beberapa
sumber berita. Hal ini saya lakukan untuk lebih memahami tentang tema yang
ingin saya presentasikan kedalam sebuah koreografi tari.
Proses penyusunan struktur koreografi selalu saya mulai dengan melakukan
eksplorasi gerak di studio, proses ini saya namakan proses kerja studio.
Saya melakukan pencarian gerak dan bentuk sebagai langkah untuk menentukan
konsep atau tema gerak yang akan saya gunakan dalam koreografi
karya tari saya. Pada tahap ini saya melakukannya sendiri, hingga saya bisa
menentukan koreografinya nanti akan seperti apa. Apakah koreografi solo,
duet, trio, atau lebih. Pengembangan dari apa yang sudah saya temukan dalam
proses eksplorasi akan saya lakukan dengan para penari yang terlibat
dalam koreografi saya. Para penari akan berpijak pada konsep gerak yang sudah
saya temukan atau gunakan, sehingga proses pencarian yang dilakukan
penari akan lebih fokus. Langkah-langkah yang tertulis diatas adalah poin
penting bagi saya untuk membuat sebuah karya tari. Proses kerja selanjutnya
adalah mulai menentukan bentuk pertunjukan secara keseluruhan, yaitu yang
berhubungan dengan ruang visual dan ruang musik.
Beberapa karya tari yang sudah saya buat selalu berusaha untuk menawarkan
sebuah bentuk karya tari yang menggunakan unsur seni visual yang
sering ditemui dalam disiplin seni rupa. Referensi yang saya dapat adalah
selalu melihat beberapa pameran seni rupa dan berdialog dengan beberapa
senimannya, dan beberapa visual menarik yang ada disekitar saya. Referensi
yang didapat menjadi sebuah memori estetik yang terekam dalam pikiran
dan perasaan. ‘Bunyi’, adalah kata kunci yang selalu saya gunakan untuk
menyampaikan kepada seorang pemusik. Hampir sebagian besar karya saya
menggunakan bunyi sebagai konsep untuk membuat sebuah musik tari dari
karya tari saya. Pemusik melakukan eksplorasi bunyi untuk menyusun sebuah
struktur bunyi menjadi sebuah musik tari.
Proses kerja kreatif dalam membuat sebuah karya tari yang saya lakukan
juga menitik beratkan pada proses dialog dengan seluruh pendukung
karya yang terlibat langsung. Proses ini untuk menumbuhkan rasa memiliki
pada karya tari yang akan dipentaskan, sehingga karya tari yang sudah terbentuk
memiliki kedalaman nilai yang bisa dirasakan oleh penonton.
Retno Sulistyorini lahir di Solo, mulai belajar
menari sejak masuk Sekolah Menengah
Karawitan (SMKI) mengambil studi tari yang
kemudian dilanjutkan masuk Sekolah Tinggi
Seni Indonesia (STSI) di Solo. Pertama belajar
tari adalah tari tradisi gaya Surakarta
(Solo), juga banyak belajar dengan seniman
di Indonesia antara lain Mugiono, Sardono
w. Kusumo, Eko Supriyanto, Melat Suryodarmo
dan beberapa seniman yang lain. Juga
mengikuti beberapa kegiatan workshop tari
antara lain Lin Hwa MIn, Susane Linke, Xavier
Laroy, Thomas Lehmon, workshop dramaturgi,
DansLab Esplanade 2018, Dance in Asia
2019. Beberapa karya yang pernah dibuat;
PISAU, NAFAS, KUMARI, SANG, SAMPARAN
MOVING SPACE, TUBUH BISU, RUANG DALAM
TUBUH, KLISE, PAGI YANG DIPUNGUT, LABI-
RIN, GARBA, ROMAN, API, KANAN DAN KIRI,
SELAPAN, WAKTU LINGKAR, NOISE.
Practice in the
Making: Agency and
Care in Faye Lim's
Work as Dancer,
Mother and Teacher
Jill J. Tan
At Dance Playground, a program run by Rolypoly Family for children between
the ages of 4-8, most sessions end with a check-in in which the children
are asked to share how they felt. Many often share emotions expected
of the usually buoyant sessions, but occasionally a child will say they felt
“sad” or other potentially unexpected responses within a spectrum of complex
emotions. Dance Playground is run by Faye Lim and her collaborators
and co-facilitators, and they hold space for these emotions.
Over the course of 2019, Faye and I embarked on a year-long conversation
about her practice and identities as a dancer, maker, mother, teacher,
and member of the Contact Improvisation (CI) dance community in Singapore.
Given that I had first become acquainted with Rolypoly Family’s work
as a captain on their Superhero Me Peekaboo! Festival project, some of our
discussions naturally started with notions of inclusion, empowerment, and
broadening the aesthetics of beauty in dance. In this vein, we sought to
reconceive virtuosity in dance beyond commonplace ideas of what constitutes
excellent dance and of how normative bodies are supposed to look
like, instead looking at dance as taking place with the whole body no matter
how a body moves. 1 I observed and participated in Rolypoly Family classes
and jams, watched and made critical responses to performances, and got to
know Faye and her associates through discussions and Contemplative Dance
Practice (CDP) 2 sessions. Faye also often sent me her notes and thoughts on
sessions pertaining to her practice for which I was not present. Throughout,
we were also keeping in mind Faye’s associateship with Dance Nucleus, and
some of the drafts of this piece were presented at both SCOPE #6 and
Faye’s ELEMENT mentorship with Deufert & Plischke. There was much to
explore during a year in which Faye and her collaborators were experimenting
with various forms of making, such as format-making for kids in the
introduction of Family Jam, CDP, and infusing techniques of reflection and
mindfulness across programs. As for performances made, they ranged from
original performances intended for children, in the case of Letters Come
Alive 3 ; to the adaptation for children of Say That Again 4 that had been previously
staged at the Art Science Museum and Singapore Management University
Art Gallery; and an engagement of Herng Yi Cheng’s Paper Playground 5
which not originally made for children but which invited them into the space
at Dance Nucleus.
The task of this essay is to examine the ways in which these forms of
agency 6 and care are the conditions of possibility for radically transformative
work with children and dance, through a framing that is ideally emic to the
child’s worlding. This is part of a larger project: the ongoing task of finding
language for Faye’s practice, both within this work and beyond, which speaks
at once to arts institutions, families, artists, funding bodies, creative communities,
and most importantly, to, rather than about, the child. Our conversation
was thus intended to begin the work of merging a relational and pedagogical
praxis of inclusivity and empowerment with the conveyance of an aesthetic
and artistic sensibility that Faye works from. While this sensibility is one constantly
in the making, it is undergirded and influenced by the fundamentals
of CI, and is shared not only by Faye, Bernice, and her other frequent collaborator
Felicia Lim, but by the team of facilitators that Faye has chosen to
work with and mentor in running Rolypoly Family. The postmodern aesthetic
of Faye’s work fuses with her commitment to accessibility: there is on one
hand the modeling that Faye and facilitators perform in classes and jams that
is inflected with their own dance training, but on the other, the opportunity
for child participants in these spaces to take the lead. Premising movement
that anyone and everyone can do emerges strongly as an aesthetic principle
across Faye’s various ventures. Faye and her company intentionally broaden
participation to include observation and curiosity-driven alternatives to the
instructed activity. Dance Nucleus associate, artist, and mother Chan Sze-Wei
also notes: “It's also great that in some activities parents and children swap
roles as leaders or givers. I also notice that the facilitators often take suggestions
or inspiration from what the children are doing in the moment.”
Looking back on my earliest outlines for this project, two of the questions
I was interested in that are best answered by my extended engagement
with Faye’s work are: How can working with child practitioners in turn shape
what practice looks like for adult artists in their orbit? How is the nature of
improvisation recast and retextured by engaging with the lifeworlds of child
practitioners? It feels not incidental that a CI workshop by Chan Sze-Wei and
Daniel Mang in 2016 was where Faye and I first met and danced together.
Having now been exposed to much more of her work with children first
through Superhero Me and now this project, I can see how much of her CI
practice and work with children is mutually constitutive. For Faye, CI 7 has
been the basis of her work--a study in dance and movement as well as a
commitment to its aesthetic, values, political ambitions, and the somatic experience
it creates. It has been therapeutic and healing for her body, allowed
her to be an organiser in the community in Singapore, and served as a means
of visibility for her as a dancer and artist. As Faye expressed to me, “I think of
CI as an organism in terms of possibility, a collective knowledge in a body or
bodies. For the nature of a dance to be a certain way, you need those people
in the room, and those possibilities. The material is really who is in the room
and how they are dancing.” This formulation of the energetic composition of
the room is very much translated into how Rolypoly Family sessions play out-
-they are bespoke to what is put out by whoever is in the room, both child
and adult, and as a result hold space for a wide range of affects and modes
of participation. I also asked Faye how creating a multivalent dance space
translates from CI contexts to dancing with kids, and she stressed the adaptability,
risk taking, self-care in each dance. Faye takes these as techniques she
needs when she dances CI, and would consider herself skillful when she can
dance with everyone in the room, seeking to meet the person, whether child
or adult, where they are, and not taking for granted that everyone is moving
the same way. Where in some other dance forms there are expectations that
everyone is doing the same thing, Faye notes that in CI the skill is meeting the
person as they are, with no necessity for a specific leader and follower, and
intentionally replicates this in Rolypoly Family classes and jams where she
warms kids up in those ways. Faye’s commitment to the pedagogical strategy
of “I do we do you do” 8 is then a modeling of possibilities, allowing all who
are present to decide for themselves, but also ceding to the collective energy
of the room and what they make together.
Thinking about agency and care as grounding this work with children,
I considered both Faye’s practice within and outside her work with children
as an ever-evolving whole, including the work of being a mother. For Faye,
being a mother pertains not only to maternal labour but to the activistic involvement
of her child in her work, driven by a need to be visible about this
in order to fill certain gaps in spaces she inhabits. One of Faye’s challenges is
being pigeonholed as a mother, and the potential overriding of this identity
of that of an artistic maker, which came first for her but is now also deeply
imbricated in the creative energies of motherhood. This is mirrored in the
challenge of legibility faced by work for children to be seen as able to transcend
its genre in terms of critical attention, visibility within an arts scene,
and how it fits into the oeuvre of its makers and dedicated pedagogues. 9
When Faye and I presented on our ongoing conversation at SCOPE #6, we
posed the question of what it would look like if children were to become
part of Dance Nucleus space, and the responses we received ranged from
the political--those interested in the resistance and agency of children--to the
personal, such as those who were artists and mothers and were interested in
the boundaries between those aspects of their lives.
The question of legibility and cultivating identifiable expertise is complex
when one’s practice is as polyvalent as Faye’s, and even more so when
labour and creativity is not neatly divided between public and domestic
spheres. For one, motherhood in Faye’s conception is in part an attunement
to vulnerability, risk, and boundary-traversing over time, a mode of being
that overlaps with and informs creative life force. Faye questions why it is
that women are scrutinised and disadvantaged when they are visible as a
mother in certain spheres, and engages with the frustration and fear this
question provokes through acts of negotiating the social contract of what
it means to be a working artist in bringing her child into those spaces. She
does so out of necessity, and with full knowledge that these acts of defiance
may well be read as further evidence to see her as a mother and nothing but.
Yet Faye continues to question and play around with the categories of artist
and mother, asking “When and how does motherhood include artistic work,
communities and networks? When and how does a working artist prevail and
thrive while being a caregiver? What are the social and domestic conventions
that inhibit these?”
One of Faye’s frequent collaborators is her son, who has made performances
with her, such as Baby Bear Mama Bear. 10 This performance by Faye,
Bernice Lee, and her son originated at Goodman Arts Center in Singapore,
and was later performed in Vientiane with significant variation. When Faye
and I shared our work at SCOPE, there was interest in the ways in which
we were thinking about how the contract of the performer differs greatly
when that performer is a child. This may be further highlighted by her son’s
2019 staging of an original performance, Scooter Dance, in which he choreographed
alongside Faye but ultimately chose not to perform, but rather
to play on scooters with his friends on the day of the performance, due to
several factors such as audience members whose invitation Faye had not discussed
with him prior. As an artist who enjoys making with her son, Scooter
Dance caused Faye to realise that the nature of this creative and maternal
relation is an evolving one, in which her son’s independence and shifting interests
will shift when, how, and what they make together. When I asked Faye
how she would feel if her son was not as keen to collaborate on performing
with her as he used to be in his current stage of life, she responded that she
did not feel impatient for him to desire to do so again, and that in the meantime
she was excited to grow many different sides of practice alongside him.
She also noted that while her son’s growing independence contributes to his
decisions to participate and perform, his prior participation in works such as
Baby Bear Mama Bear did not necessarily correlate to greater agency than in
non-participation of Scooter Dance. Faye also said of her son that he is “still
very in his body and in his movement, but he is also doing a lot of creating
outside of movement like writing books.” His creativity and expressivity in
other areas also inspires Faye, and they continue to collaborate.
For Faye and Bernice’s 2019 performance Letters Come Alive, Faye
and her Rolypoly Family team were working on movements together with
Bernice and Faye working on the structure and text. Her son came in to
participate when the letters were made and scenes were in progress, and
would join whenever there were new scenes to be workshopped. Faye noted
that he influenced the work by way of his own playing and interaction with
the work. For instance, he would make a shape that's different from what the
adult performers did, and they would possibly incorporate it in place of their
original idea. Faye wrote in her notes to me: “He has a sense of affinity with
the work, wanting to play with the cards, have a set for himself, take the work
to his school, etc. I think this is because he has had many opportunities to
enjoy the work and have the freedom to interact with it the way he wants to.”
She also shared that her son’s responses such as his laughter, eager physical
participation and rapt attention gave them confidence as they were making
the work, and gave them practice as to how to perform the work in the pres-
ence of children and having children physically interacting with the work.
This would prove hugely important as, at the performances which I attended,
I noticed that there was an organic horizontalisation occuring in the room of
both space and action--as Faye and Bernice were performing at the front of
the room, the spirit of the performance and its humor created an energy that
seemed infectious to the children, who would then proceed to join in from
where they were in the audience, and at times on the performance floor when
their presence was called upon. The children thus became performers for their
family members who were in the space with them, who then balanced their
attention between enjoying the performance, by which both adults and children
seemed delighted and amused by, and watching how the children were
responding with their bodies. I was struck by how rare it was to be a part of a
non-immersive performance at which children were allowed to do something
more than sit and watch.
A further reverberation I hope my collaboration with Faye makes is to
begin to address the dearth of both arts criticism and academic scholarship
on creative dance-making of children beyond pedagogical studies and developmental
psychology. Some questions I want to throw out there for others
that I myself am still pondering are: How do we truly make, appraise, and
watch work made by and with children? With this work paid credence beyond
“this is dance for/by/with children”? How do we make working with child practitioners
a fulcrum for a new aesthetics of dance that counters notions of
rudimentary making? Some of these lines of inquiry are ones which I hope
to pursue in further collaboration with Faye given the focus of her proposed
2020 associateship that will focus on choreographing with children, on which
she would work with Seet Dance from Sydney.
Further, just as Faye faces the anxiety of motherhood’s subsumption
head on by intentionally and continually harnessing it to evolve spaces which
have the potential to benefit from interaction with children and vice versa,
one thing I had hoped to premise in my engagement with Faye and Rolypoly
Family was to recursively move back to engagement with the child when considering
conceptual and critical space-making practices that default to their
exclusion. This aspect of the project will require the opportunity for further
engagement with children involved in the Rolypoly Family community, and I
am excited to see, hear, and feel all that they respond with.
Finally, another thing that I hope Faye and I can begin putting together
after this research is complete is articulating a statement of intent towards
developing a collective practice amongst adult artists who work with children
that spurs reflection on their pedagogy. Should this be of interest towards
anyone at Dance Nucleus, we would be most glad to hear your thoughts. I can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and would love to hear from you.
1. Burridge, S. (Ed.), Nielsen, C. (Ed.). (2018). Dance, Access and Inclusion. London: Routledge,
2. Middleton, Deborah. (2017). Dancing with Dharma: Essays on Movement and Dance in
Western Buddhism edited by Harrison Blum. Buddhist Studies Review, 34.
3. Letters Come Alive (2019) was produced by Rolypoly Family, directed by Bernice Lee,
created by Bernice, Faye and team. Team contribution from Neo Yanzong, Sarah Oh, Felicia
Lim, and Keryn Ng
4. Say That Again (2012) was directed by Faye Lim, with Bernice Lee collaborator and
co-performer, with adaptations in 2013, 2015, and 2019.
5. Herng Yi Cheng, Paper Playground (2018), http://www.herngyi.com/performance.html
6. “Agency can be strange, twisted, caught up in things, passive, or exhausted. Not the way
we like to think about it. Not usually a simple projection toward a future. It’s what we
mean by “having a life”...But it’s caught up in things. Circuits, bodies, moves, connections.
It takes unpredictable and counterintuitive forms. It’s lived through a series of dilemmas:
that action is always a reaction; that the potential to act always includes the potential to
be acted on, or to submit; that the move to gather a self to act is also a move to lose the
self; that one choice precludes others…” in Stewart, Kathleen, Ordinary affects. (Durham,
N.C: Duke University Press, 2007), 86.
7. Contact Improvisation “is based on the communication between two moving bodies that
are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern
their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia.” in “About Contact Improvisation,” Contact
8. Hammond, L., & Moore, W. M. (2018). Teachers Taking up Explicit Instruction: The Impact
of a Professional Development and Directive Instructional Coaching Model. Australian
Journal of Teacher Education, 43(7).
9. In Faye’s essay in this same volume, she also reflects on how her subjectivities and commitment
are shaped by factors such as socioeconomic status and access to resources.
10. Baby Bear Mama Bear (2017) was directed by Bernice Lee, first presented at Maya Dance
Theatre's "In Bloom" festival, and subsequently brought to Vientiane with support from
Singapore International Foundation.
Jill J. Tan is a Singaporean writer, artist, and
researcher. Her work has appeared in publications
such as Guernica, Palimpsest, and
Mynah Magazine, and is forthcoming in Resistant
Hybridities: Tibetan Narratives in Exile
(Lexington, 2020). Her current ethnographic
project as a PhD student of anthropology at
Yale University explores the public consciousness
of death in Singapore as shaped by the
funeral profession. As an anthropologist and
artist, she is committed to collaborative practice,
co-theorisation, and multimodal exploration
through games, interactive performance,
and poetics, amongst other media.
Dance Nucleus is a space for practice-based research,
creative development and knowledge production for
Dance Nucleus fosters a culture of critical discourse,
self-education, artistic exchange and practical support.
Our programmes are designed to respond to
the needs of our members in a comprehensive way.
We build partnerships in Singapore, Southeast Asia,
Asia & Australia, and internationally.
Dance Nucleus is an initiative of the National Arts
Council of Singapore.
Mok Cui Yin
Chan Hsin Yee
Chan Hsin Yee
90 Goodman Road, Goodman Arts Centre
Block M, #02-53