da:ns 2013


I spent several evenings this past week at da:ns 2013, an annual celebration of dance held at Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay. This year, I opted to attend one of the festival’s “Shift” performances, rather than its “Centrestage” productions. I also attended two free “Rasa” performances, free lecture-demonstrations showcasing Asia’s traditional dances, with my toddler. A few thoughts:

Khmeropédies III: Source/Primate by Amrita Performing Arts. Khmeropédies III is the continuation of a project that seeks to develop a specifically Cambodian contemporary language in dance, based on Cambodian cultural elements and Cambodian classical dance,” says choreographer French-Cambodian choreographer Emmanuèle Phuon. Source/Primate is an exploration of the monkey from the Cambodian classical masked dance known as Lakhaon Kaol and the behaviors of monkeys in the wild as identified and described by contemporary biologists. The seven male dancers’ control and fluency was extraordinary and certain athletic passages—with soars and turns in midair—were breathtaking.

Kathak by Anjum Bharti. Bharti, a Singapore-based dancer, displayed exceptional technical virtuosity in her performance. One hallmark of Kathak is complex footwork, which is accentuated with ankle bells; another is spinning (or “round and round,” in the words of my daughter). Of the four pieces performed, I most enjoyed her “ghat bhav,” a composition featuring highly stylised and dramatic gat (from gait or stride), and her “jugalbandi”, a duet featuring the dancer and her tabla  accompanist.

(FYI, Bharti is conducting a two-hour workshop on October, 27 at 2PM where she will share Kathak’s age-old history and demonstrate its key elements, such as mudras (hand gestures) and tatkaar (short rhythmic passages).)

Cambodian Classical Dance by Sophiline Arts Ensemble. At week’s end, I watched a mesmerizing selection of classical dances from Cambodia, including the iconic Apsara dance and passages from the Reamker, the Cambodian version of the Indian epic the Ramayana, thus coming full circle. I wish I had seen Sophiline Arts Ensemble’s fantastic display before viewing Source/Primate (as the latter draws so much visual vocabulary from the former)!

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Previously blogged: da:ns 2011. (I missed da:ns 2012!)