Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Politics of Imagination: Post-Painterly Art of Interactivity

This awesome title for a future show was contributed by The Random Exhibition Title Generator, also known as the lazy curator app.

I won't claim to know a lot about how art works at this point in my life.  But what I have been finding out in the past year is the critical importance of randomness (and silliness!) in my creative process. It seems that going through art school teaches the cruel discipline of *making* things happen.  That's the part about coming back to the studio even if you feel like crap and still doing those plies, repeating those combinations and monologues, setting brush to canvas. Now to be paired with *letting* things happen.

This has quite more of an impact on my life than I've imagined!  I'm getting much better at dealing with uncertainties.  Choreographers and directors change their minds.  Technical hiccups. Shows lose money. Festivals struggle for sponsorships.  Three year olds never do the steps that you plan for them. Collaborators vanish off the face of the earth. Yet life and art still goes on and has its amazing moments!  Somehow its also making it easier to deal with being confused in real life.  Smashing my favourite coffee mug. Taking a wrong turn. Losing money on the stock market. Scratching the car. Not being able to have everything I want.

Life is so beautiful when it takes you by surprise.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Thank you for asking

I have debated for a long time whether I should keep my dance and performance work separate from the rest of my life.  It was as if my activism work and other musings weren't related. A couple of months ago I had a valuable piece of feedback that it wasn't clear at all in I watched the flowers that I have a special context for discussing motherhood and marriage.  These are really all part of me together.  My life is the frame in which I make my artistic work.  So I've decided to share a posting that I put up on facebook today, about LGBTQ rights.
Just yesterday I had two wonderful and open straight friends ask me "why should I support gay rights anymore when it seems that you guys don't need my help?" and "please tell me why are lesbians so angry?" I haven't answered those questions in so long that I didn't give you a proper answer - and I feel I owe you one!

Activists from the LGBTQ community could never have achieved so much in Singap
ore, so much internationally, without many amazing friends and relatives in the straight majority - like both of you - friends who wanted to understand. Who are ready to listen and decide if it resonates with them that this movement speaks to fundamental fairness in society. That gender and sexual orientation are one important area where we may start breaking down stereotypes that lead to fear, hate, injustice, violence, and discrimination.

We have come a long way. I am proud and grateful that today I can walk down the street most places in Singapore without fearing to be harassed just because I am carrying a pink dot, a rainbow flag, or dressed as androgynously as I feel. I know that this is a victory already because I have met lesbians who have been raped and lesbians who have been harassed and beaten, and gays that have been raided by the police for homosexual activity. I haven’t as many close transgender friends or contacts, but I believe the stories are similarly shocking and true. We still have a long way to go - to allow gays not to fear prosecution when they want to express love and intimacy, to allow me to be able to care for my partner with the rights of a spouse, to celebrate our loving families instead of hiding them in shame, to allow young people to grow up without hating themselves and being rejected as aberrations (and all the unfortunate distortions that this can create in their behaviour for the rest of their lives). There may be fewer rapings and beatings today but many still carry this fear with them every day of their lives. We have generally accepted in the world that these are rights that should apply regardless of ethnicity, religion, nationality, ability or economic status. Is it so much to ask to add sexual orientation and gender identity to this list? It won’t stop hate crimes being perpetrated in the world with immediate effect. But it is a critical starting point.

I am still waiting for the day that I can see my own long-term relationship recognized in this country – and swap my commitment ring on my right hand to a wedding ring on my left hand that represents the recognition of equality in law and in society. In the 10 years that I have been involved in some form of community activism in Singapore, New York and Paris, I have seen the world changing. Yes really, changing. This gives me the courage to hope for better. To hope that this journey has a much longer horizon beyond the repeal of section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code and gay marriage in a handful of states in the USA. A lot has to be done by LGBTQ individuals themselves. And a lot more has to be done for LGBTQ individuals who are scarred by a life of prejudice and struggling to make sense of it all. So perhaps this explains a little why LGBTQ folks may seem to have a lot to be angry about and reasons to continue their activism. Why it is important for the UNOHCHR to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity. I cannot require or expect all my straight friends to support this cause. But I am hopeful that many of them are listening, and want to understand. Thank you for asking. :)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sometimes you get what you ask for

I generally adore all forms of live performance.  Music, theatre, performance art, musicals, folk forms and of course dance.  Except opera.  Somehow it was never something that i could really get into.  The exaggeration of sung emotion alternating with recitative just weirded me out. I couldn't stomach the casting of aunties the size of boats as the beautiful princess Turandot. Everybody on stage just seemed to make such a huge deal out of everything.  I also came to detest singing in public, after too many traumatic and humiliating karaoke sessions. Not that I didn't try to grow to like opera. Even after a span of a decade watching the Singapore Lyric Opera, the Met, Cantonese opera troupes, and even after two years basking in the infectious enthusiasm of Dr John Sharpley's "Music in Dance" course at NAFA. Two years ago I told him, "I have a confession. Opera isn't really my thing.  But I'm willing to be convinced."

Then in June I got cast to workshop "All is Divine" for the trilogy "A Very Wagnerian Night" by Charlotte Engelkes from Sweden for the Singapore Arts Festival. I got worried.  I gave myself a crash course on Wagner, and of course called Dr Sharpley...

And from a week in the midst of some wacky and very talented people who find a stairwell and burst into song for the acoustics instead of doing extensions on the handrail or hopping on it to slide down, I finally found myself thrilled about song and its place in live performance experience. I had some spoken lines in that show but I didn't get to sing - no way to put my untrained voice next to people with operatic and musical theatre backgrounds - but I sure wished I could!

It's been years. I began to remember fondly the days when I was thirteen and singing "Help Help the Globolinks" with the children's choir of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra Ladies' League.  More recently I was sitting in the premiere of "Fences", a new opera by Dr Sharpley and Robert Yeo, and realised that I was genuinely moved.  It didn't matter any more that the leading role of the Malay girl was being sung by a Korean lady with an uncanny resemblance to Suzanne Jong.  I guess I'm finally learning to feel and appreciate the departure from realism into surging emotion and aural aesthetic, something I only knew and accepted previously in movement (of course when the prince and princess fall in love, they dance, what else would they possibly do). Anyway, full circle... this weekend I am singing on stage again for the first time since the Globolinks (1993) and a brief comic outburst in Melissa Quek's "Possibilities" (2007).  It's a theatre piece, "Pretty things" by Pat Toh.  I'm starting modestly - it's only "Happy Birthday" - but I am really getting into it.                     

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Dancing and Moving

I was asked to bring together some of the writing I've done about dancing and travelling for the May 2012 edition of the Aesthetics Magazine published by Nritalaya Aesthetics Society.

Dancing on your own

Our local chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao did a feature on freelancers last month, and I was lucky to get to talk about dancing professionally outside a company - and have some nice pictures taken in the process! 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sze's Dance Updates Sep-Dec 2012

Dear friends,

Thanks to everyone who came to support the shows and sent well wishes in March-July!

I'm performing my first theatre piece (since Junior College) in two weeks at the Substation, then I'm back on the road from October onwards.

Pretty Things
21-22 Sep 2012 (Fri-Sat)
The Substation Theatre, tickets $15
Another crazy romp! About conformity, questions, love, divinity. Written and directed by Pat Toh. With Bright Ong, Ian Tan, Jean Toh and Yazid Jalil.  Lighting by Andy Lim and sound by Zulkiflie Mahmod.  Not recommended for the faint-hearted!

Kuala Lumpur Contact Improv Festival
1-7 Oct 2012
Rimbun Dahan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I'm a happy part of the organising team for the only international contact improv festival in Asia this year. It's a residential workshop featuring some greatly respected contact improv practitioners from Singapore, Taiwan and Australia - and also an amazing retreat for active mind-body connectedness at all levels of experience, for dancers as well as non-dancers.  We'll also have a performance and sharing open to public on the final day of the festival on 7 Oct at the Rimbun Dahan artists' sanctuary on the outskirts of the city.

Fang Mae Khong International Dance Festival, Laos23-28 Oct 2012
Vietiane and Luang Prabang, Laos
Because I couldn't just stop at one - I'm returning to the Fang Mae Khong festival in Laos after the amazing experience I had last year, this time as part of the organising committee.  I'll also be performing "Focus" the new trio by Ole Khamchanla/KHAM Cie in Vientiane.

Focus by KHAM Cie

Nov-Dec 2012, France
Following our Singapore premiere, Focus is continuing for a second French tour at the Reconnaissances competition in Annemasse in November, and residencies in Grenoble and Marseille to develop the piece into a full length work for performance in Paris and other parts of France in 2013. I don't have details on hand at the moment for public performances or workshops, but do let me know if you're interested in more info on the French leg (or in catching up while I'm in France) and I will keep you informed!