Dance is one of the quieter art forms in Singapore. It is pretty seldom that we hear about it from the press, compared to theatre and music. Is it because of how dance is being portrayed by the media? All the grandeur, big stages and little audience interactions? Perhaps works such as She Ain’t Heavy, She’s Reaching Into Space by Eng Kai-Er and Faye Lim will slowly change perceptions.
With audiences’ decisions being able to change the performance, this dance promises engagement and enjoyment. For the dancers Kai-Er and Faye, it is about the never-ending conversation of bodies curving, entering imaginary forests and befriending teddy bears. But what exactly about dance makes it a beautiful art form to work with?
“Dance is wonderful, I like to move in different ways, I also feel emotions when I move. I like to use dance as a way to express myself. At the same time, I like to practise things in a sports-like way and over time, acquire certain movements through muscle memory and coordination, and then I feel like I’ve learned something. So in that sense dance is both about expression and about physical challenge. Dance is great because when I connect with my body, I really feel connected with myself. But maybe I should also say that in our show, we don’t dance a lot! We are still dancers and use dance as an expressive medium in this show, but the focus is on other things than dance,” gushes Kai-Er.
This piece of work is also part of TheatreWorks‘ belief of developing and nurturing local artists to present their artistic contemporary works to the public. The dancers speak to Popspoken more about their show happening this week and collaborating with each other.
Popspoken: How did the presentation name come about?
Faye: The name alludes to the way dancers make themselves lighter when they are being carried by their partners. Instead of letting all their weight sink into their partners, they reach out with their extremities to spread their weight around. Of course, there is also a reference to the popular song by The Hollies.
PS: What are some difficulties faced during this creation process?
Kai-Er: We work very closely together and make our decisions jointly. It feels very rewarding now. But along the way we’ve had to learn about each other, be patient, and make efforts to communicate better. I guess we had to learn to speak in more generous ways and be better listeners.
PS: Any discoveries both of you made about each other while working together?
F: I’m glad you are interested in this. Yes, we reveal these discoveries during our performance. One thing I’ll share here is that Kai is extremely meticulous. She might make a typo once in awhile, but for the most part, she remembers every detail from our rehearsals and our discussions. I’m not nearly as detail-oriented so I’m kept on my toes.
K: One thought occurred to me that maybe Faye works from bigger concepts as a starting point and then goes into the details later, whereas maybe I start with details and grow the details into content, and then look for the bigger picture as I’m building the content. Faye has a wonderful way of describing concepts. She is able to describe concepts or structures, in a way that is open enough that doesn’t restrict what the content has to be in order to fit into those structures. I think she tends towards leaving many things open and that’s given me a lot of space in this collaboration.
PS: What’s the experience you would like audience members to take away from this performance?
F: Every night, as part of the performance, Kai and I engage in unscripted dialogue that gets into very personal territory. I’d like the audience members to have experienced a raw and heartfelt exchange between 2 people who are trying to push through their differences and learn to work together. The differences cut across working styles, artistic beliefs, attention spans, communication patterns, appetites for conflict, etc. It’s a situation that could be familiar to audiences in various facets of their lives.
PS: If you get to collaborate with another other artist out there, who would it be and why?
F: Locally, I would love to collaborate with Lim Chin Huat. He is quite a legend to me, and I was immensely moved by his solo in the final ECNAD performance, entitled Reborn.Fullstop.. at The Arts House back in 2013. I would also like to collaborate with my family members in some way, though they would probably not identify themselves as artists. There are many other artists I admire but I don’t need to collaborate with them.
K: I was recently really blown away by a company called Markus & Markus that came to perform Ibsen: Ghosts at SIFA Open. I liked their on-stage chemistry and their sense of humour. After their show, I kept fantasising about how wonderful it would be to work with them. But afterwards, I realised it’s more that I want to make something like what they made, than that I want to collaborate with them. I want to collaborate with people here (there are a handful of actors, dancers and musicians I’m thinking about), and make something as powerful as what Markus & Markus made. I don’t dare to name the local artists that I’m interested in. What if they read this, and they don’t feel like working with me at all? I need time to approach them slowly and check out how they feel about me!
PS: What is one dream piece you would love to create and perform?
F: I would love to create a dance improv sketch show, but I am lacking in the comedy department. (I saw that Kai mentioned dancing underwater with me. Yes, that is something I want to perform with her as well.)
K: I want to dance underwater with Faye!
She Ain’t Heavy, She’s Reaching Into Space
Date: 28 & 29 July 2016
Venue: 72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road
Admission: $25 (Concessions available. Get your tickets here.)
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