Connectivity through dance reflections from Singapore’s 2015 World Dance Alliance conference

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Sitting here at the Ruixiang Restaurant on the footpath of Bencoolen St in the sweltering Singapore heat, sipping lukewarm Tiger Beer and wincing through the thick, pungent haze, gazing at the passing traffic and pedestrians, I reflect on my World Dance Alliance Singapore 2015 experience.

I recall the many local-made talents, cultural, ritual and traditional dances from the Asia–Pacific region and world-class performances I witnessed as part of Singapore’s da:ns festival at the Esplanade. Highlights included Sylvie Guillem–Life In Progress and Torobaka by Akram Khan (UK) and Israel Galván (Spain); Akram’s keynote address via recorded video presented on a remote controlled lecture screen with just an empty chair and a microphone on a stand both placed centre stage; the symposium presentations from academics, emerging scholars and practicing artists from Australia, New Zealand, Papua, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Canada and the USA, to name just a few.

Key words spring to mind, such as empowerment, women, community, collaboration, model, ritual dance, community dance, festivals, intra-cultural, comparison, music, dance, viraha, abhinaya, kathak, homeland, pagkawin, Regatta Lepa, postcolonial studies, reverse orientalism, which have stimulated conversations about practice and methodologies across many cultures, the WDA-AP network meetings and the small gatherings I participated in.

Wondering how it came about that I sat here alone, observing the sweat beads trickling down the contours of my spine, my clammy inside elbows sticking to my biceps when I plié the arm, I kind of pinch myself back to the present moment and I’m reminded that it could not have been possible without several key components: support from Arts NSW, mentors, colleagues and friends from around the globe and my Ausdance membership. But more importantly, I realise I have an inquisitive nature within me that beckons me to experience dance from many different perspectives and commitment to my responsibility as an artist to challenge others to view life through a different lens.

As one of 16 recipients of the Arts NSW Artist Support funding program, this financial assistance gave me an opportunity to attend the World Dance Alliance Singapore conference, Asia-Pacific Dance Bridge 2015: Connectivity through Dance (WDAS 2015), from 16–18 October 2015.

The WDAS 2015 was hosted by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in partnership with Singapore’s arts industry organisations located in the arts and culture district including Esplanade Theatres on the Bay (Esplanade), Lasalle College of the Arts (Lasalle), Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), National Library Board (NLB), and School of the Arts (SOTA).

While at the conference, I contributed to the Symposium’s Performative Program with a presentation titled PERFECT (im)PERFECTIONS – creating dance art with performers from diverse background and led a masterclass titled 'The P(im)P Project—sharing disability-inclusive dance process'.

Powerful workshop with such amazing dancers! Just the inspiration I really needed. —Sae Min (Malaysia)

Facing the workshop leader, a circle of dancers sit cross-legged on floor.The P(im)P Project at the World Dance Alliance Singapore 2015 workshop. Facilitator: Philip Channells. Photo: Jeff Low

Both featured the outcome of a 2014 Norwegian–Australian collaboration between DansiT and Dance Integrated Australia titled PERFECT (im)PERFECTIONS—stories untold. In this commissioned work, I collaborated with 20 performers from different generations (ages 23–80) who inhabit a range of cultural backgrounds, diverse physical embodiment and dance experience.

This project came about as a result of attending the Dance and the Child International (daCi) and World Dance Alliance (WDA) 2012 Global Dance Summit: Dance, Young People and Change! This conference was hosted by the Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA) School Of Dance in Taiwan.

At the conference (my first as an independent artist), I made a connection with a Scandinavian delegate Tone Pernille Østern (PhD, Dr of Arts in Dance), Associate Professor in Arts Education at NTNU – Trondheim, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Tone was interested in learning more about my work with artists from diverse communities and artistic background.

Fast-forward 18 months and these conversations led me to work in Norway and Finland and later saw me sharing the creative process in Sydney, London, Copenhagen, Hong Kong and, more recently, Moscow and Singapore.

One benefit of being an Ausdance member is that we automatically become members of the World Dance Alliance—Asia Pacific (WDA–AP). Since 2012, my membership has taken me around the globe to places, events and situations that have connected me with artists and ordinary people from diverse cultures.

WDAS 2015 Symposium performative presentation #1. Presenters L–R: Naree Vachananda, Annalouise Paul (Australia), Philip Channells (Australia), Yunyu Wang (Taiwan), Peter Gn (Singapore) and Sarah Foster-Sproull (NZ) and Kavitha Krishnan (Singapore).

As an independent artist, I could never have imagined these experiences would have ever occurred had I not taken an interest in the World Dance Alliance (WDA). I have both personally and professionally benefited from this as I’ve continued to stay connected to the WDA, who produce a range of international conferences and performance events, support global networks and generate publications. My experience has fostered new creative possibilities, encouraged me to consider working beyond Australian boundaries, provided life lessons and generated industry relationships that have established many new friendships along the way. Thank you WDA–AP for the connections through dance—until we meet again.

The World Dance Alliance endorses The Beyond Technique Residency and The Corner Dance Lab projects based in regional New South Wales.

To join Ausdance, contact the Ausdance in your state or territory

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