Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Focus at M1SIFF this January

My first performance for the new year is... Focus! This trio is a dear old friend that's accompanied me and watched me grow for the last two years, and I'm really glad that Ole, Jereh and I will be able to perform it again in Singapore in its complete version.  Details here.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Monkey biz

I can hardly believe that we've finally wrapped up three shows of Do Gorillas Peel Bananas? at the Substation! What the heck just happened!

Photography by EnricKoan 

It seems like a really long time since we first tossed around the title in 2012, and then the selection of the Open Call in May 2013. Searching for what my "process" might be...painful-confusing-hilarious-terrifying-absorbing-exhausting-exciting-miserable... I couldn't have gotten through it without some amazing and patient collaborators David Lim, Andy Lim, Brian Gothong Tan, Norisham Osman, a whole new bunch of perspectives from my mentors Natalie Hennedige and Fendy, and the listening ears of friends and relatives. I'm kind of stunned that my silly little experiment with a lot of duct tape has resonated with so many people. A huge thank you to everyone who worked on and supported the show in so many ways. Thank you for the space to grow.

(Thank you the Substation, Lee Foundation, Arts Fund, Rimbun Dahan (KL), Mum, Dad, Yi Gu Ma, Air and Odor Management Pte Ltd, Laura Kho, Tong Wen Yee, Laura Tham, Yen Feng, Joey Feng, Nick Yip, Dylan Tan, Din and Israf, Annabelle and the Substation staff, Pat Toh, Ian Tan, Bilqis Hijjas.)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

dance as an effort to understand

Borrowed from Yong Wei's facebook:

thought while sitting by the pond today: the study of dance, perhaps is not just to perfect the craft of beautiful movements and/or developed aesthetic voice, but is also a science that is an effort to understand, or to understand better, the natural and social world and how it works, with observable physical experiences through the body as the basis of that understanding. It is done through embodying the natural phenomena, and/or through experimentation within a creative process and research. Perhaps...

Performance Updates Aug-Dec 2013

Dear friends,

I’m back from the summer tour of Focus on the Atlantic Coast of France, and working between Singapore and KL on my new performance/installation/creation at the Substation, among other projects.  The next few months for me will include some performances and teaching in Singapore (I’m picking up my lecturer’s pass at Lasalle!), and performances and labs in Sweden, Germany, Malaysia and Taiwan. As always, I would love to catch up with you and share my work here or overseas.  Do drop me a line if you’d like to connect while I’m in your part of the world!

Also for the first time in these updates, I’ve attached a publication from the volunteer team that I run at Oogachaga, a counseling and personal development organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) community. It’s not an artistic pursuit at all – it’s about how we can support ourselves and others through emotional crises. We had an amazing team that worked very hard on this and its associated workshop on 18 Aug. I’m very proud of it and hope to make it available to as many people as possible, LGBTQ or straight, who might find it useful.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have another year like this one. I’m not sure if I should – but here goes!



Sat 31 August 7.30pm
72-13 Mohamed Sultan Rd
Free admission

I’m part of the annual literary reading in Singapore’s pride festival Indignation this year.  The curators have picked an interesting selection of my work from six years ago to the present!  I’ll be reading and probably dancing them.  Curated by Ng Yi-Sheng and Jasmine Seah, you can expect an evening of excellent poetry, prose, spoken word and theatre script readings, often material that hasn’t had the chance to be published. All are welcome (not just LGBTQ folks!) but do come early to get a seat, because it’s usually packed to capacity. Details at

Do Gorillas Peel Bananas? with David Lim
Fri-Sat 13-14 September 8pm
The Substation
Tickets $10.  Email reservations

This is my labour of love for the year.  When I was selected for the Performance Open Call programme this year, I launched myself into a foolhardy adventure into forms and material that I have always wanted to do but never had the opportunity to try before. It’s finally come down to a crazy and I hope funny performance/installation/experiment on non-state censorship and control.  The piece developed out of conversations with David on the sides of the KL Contact Improv festival (where we are co-organisers) in the last two years. It’s the first time that I’m driving the concept and direction for a project of this scope, and I’m lucky to have the support of my collaborators (also Andy Lim and Brian Gothong Tan) and the mentorship of Natalie Hennedige of Cake Theatre and Noor Effendy Ibrahim of the Substation. It has been and continues to be a terrifying, thrilling gamble for me. Audience size is restricted to 40 pax per night so do book early if you’re planning to come!  You can view the synopsis and a fruit ninja promo video here.

The Third Space – Explorations in Contemporary Asian Dance presented by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
Fri 11 Oct 2013 7.30pm/Sat 12 Oct 2013 6pm
The Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets $15/$10 (concession) at SISTIC

This year NAFA decided to let its alumni choreographers step up for the Third Space platform at the Esplanade da:ns festival. Six proposals were selected, including my new short work “II”. It’s an improvised duet for three dancers, scored from the instructions on the back of a chopsticks wrapper! I am dancing in this piece with Laura Tham and Farliana Ghan.  The rest of the evening’s programme is a varied mix of lyrical, spiritual and experimental visions of five fellow graduates – Lin Juliana, Lee Ren Xin, Max Chen, Elizabeth Lee, Goh Shou Yi. Details at

All Is Divine
October/December 2013
Dansens Hus, Stockholm/Kampnagel, Hamburg

At last year’s Singapore Arts Festival I got to take part in a workshop with Swedish director Charlotte Engelkes, who was developing a third instalment to her Wagner-comedy-dance-theatre trilogy “A Very Wagnerian Night”.  This year the workshop segment has developed into a fantastic full length show, where we spy into the private lives of the German/Nordic mythical pantheon as the world is coming to an end. At which point the gods turn out to be quite human, and quite Asian too. Together with a team of actors, opera singers, sound artists and designers from Sweden, Germany, and from Singapore singer Celine Rosa Tan and visual artist Brian Gothong Tan. Details at

Asia Pacific Impro!
4-10 November 2013
DPAC, Kuala Lumpur (PJ)

I’ve been invited to the first platform in Southeast Asia for improvised performance, along with dancers and musicians from Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.  We will be involved in a week of research labs, but also opening the doors to teach dance workshops and share performances. Details at

Be with Me - Self Care in Emotional Crisis a publication by Oogachaga/OC Women

Friday, 16 August 2013


"You should not be practicing to have a 'good' practice, but instead to keep steadiness within yourself. Practice happily regardless of whether it is 'good' or not. Sometimes some postures will not be possible, but when you accept the good and the bad and everything becomes equal for you, that is yoga."

- R. Sharath Jois

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Why I dance III

This morning I finished my yoga practice and realised that I have come to these interrelated body practices - dancing, yoga, improv - probably because I have needed them so much.  They have been literally exercises for the physical but more importantly for the mental aspect.  My practice has gotten me through a lot of challenging and stressful times in my life.

I had to learn patience with my body... and having an older and inflexible body in professional training needed a lot of patience, and perseverance! It was patience with my body that got me to learn patience with myself, and finally patience with other people.  Not just the kind of patience that prevents me from losing it and being nasty to people, but a patience to try and hear others out even when I really don't agree, and understand why.  I still have my temper and my moods of course; they will always be a part of me.  But I do find that I want to bite people's heads off less often.  And I can recover my emotional balance more quickly.

Both in my improv practice and yoga, I am dedicating time to observing and listening.  Not just with eyes and ears, but with touch, smell, awareness of space, time, energy.  Maybe that's why I never watch TV anymore - I prefer to spend time listening to my breath, my time, or other bodies'!

In a way this lesson worked in the reverse to the patience lesson.  It was through other bodies in contact improv that i discovered what it was to listen and to be present.  Not in the combination, not in the corrections, not in my expectations or anticipations, but just here and now.   Realising that this made a huge difference for how I worked as a performer and particularly as an improviser, and that it is also perceptible to other dancers and my audience.

An amazing question that I received recently was "how do I know I exist?" In fact it came incidentally twice, in the two unrelated great workshops that I took in April with Karen Nelson and Joerg Hassmann. (How's that for a sign!) Both Karen and Joerg talked about how other bodies and encounters allow us to discover ourself.  So observing and listening came to me from the outside... and I am now learning to apply it to myself and my body.

In another context completely (group therapy facilitation practice!) I also recently received the idea that we go through cycles of experience but we benefit most when we take the time to integrate them.  I guess this is a moment of integration.  I don't know how long I'll be here, when I might move on or need to retrace my steps.  But for now I have a sense of gratitude for what I am receiving.

It's making me enjoy my practices more and more. Hopefully they also make me a better dancer and artist, if incidentally.  I suspect that in these very small ways, they're also making me a better person.

#whyidance - I had a vague memory that I'd been writing on this title some years back.  Looking through my old entries, I have been doing this even more than I thought!  So I've created a new tag if you want to look back in time with me.

EnricKoan photography 2011.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


I am home, and in contact! I'm working on two dancing opportunities here and in KL in the next 2 months:

Contact Improv Singapore Community JamsI'll be facilitating a series of contact improv jams in the next two months, starting with 19 May Sunday, 10am-12noon at Frontier Danceland. The jam will start at 10am with a warmup to awaken body and mind. Open contact improv jam until 12noon. All levels welcome. This session will be facilitated by Sze. Random music welcome, please contact sze ( to put your music on the playlist. Suggested donation of $10 for jams - proceeds to our CI Singapore Community Fund and to our hosts. For info on further jams please join our facebook group.

Frontier Danceland
BLK M, 90 Goodman Art Center #02-51/52, Singapore, Singapore 439053
View map · Get directions
BLK M, 90 Goodman Art Center #02-51/52, Singapore,
Nearest MRT: Mountbatten. Frontier Danceland's studio is located at the second floor of Block M, Goodman Arts Centre.

Contact Festival Kuala Lumpur
The dancing continues a few hours away at Contact Festival Kuala Lumpur at the garden studio of Rimbun Dahan, from 22-30 June 2013. Yong Wei from Singapore will be leading an underscore practice over the weekend of 22-23 June, where we'll be linking up to the Global Underscore for the first time in Asia!
Followed by a week of workshops by Genevieve Cron (France), David Lim (Malaysia), Vangelis Legakis (Greece/UK), Yu Yen Fang and Yu Xiaochu (Taiwan), with a public presentation on 29 June 2013.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What is a triangle II

My last five days now have been spent in Coventry, immersed in Tuning Scores improvisation work with Karen Nelson.  (a workshop organised by decoda in Coventry)

One of the first few exercises had the initial 12 of us working around a large studio space with our eyes closed - a cornerstone of the sensory heightening in this work - when Karen said "now make a triangle".  What was that?  How would we find that without sight, with so many people, and the confusing immediacy of touch, sound and intuition?  After the exercise ended, Karen said, "Give me a title for what you just did." One dancer volunteered, "what is a triangle?".

The questions continued.  How do you know you are dancing? Can you walk forward, with backwards eyes? How do we know we exist?  We learned to make suggestions to the group as we danced, and worked on listening to the calls and to our senses and our desires and expectations.  Pause. Reverse. Replace. End. Begin.  A multitude of instantaneous decisions and interactions.  So much information around us, in every instant. How do we survive this world?

These five days in, I know my improvising will never be the same again.

There is such a richness in this practice of sensitization and questioning. As individuals we take in snapshots of inspiration from time to time, and live in a world constantly filled with many other people. But in how many of those moments are we actually existing together, in connection? I realized today that this work is one of those pathways that allows us to cultivate the present.  When reaching with intuition and an activation of as many of the senses as we can muster.  Calling out our desires and curiosities to ground our attention and to allow us to enter into each others' perception and experience.  Allowing us to be present in a common reality with ourselves and connected with others - moments otherwise so fleeting and often unacknowledged.

Right now there is nothing better than having no idea what is going to happen next.  "A funeral," said Karen, "for our desires."  It is a work that takes practice - for people like Lisa and Karen, a lifetime.  It is fun and at times playful but it is also exhausting work and a commitment to be alive, to be awake and to be together with other people.  At the workshop, Charlie Morrissey recommended this article by Lisa Nelson on how we look at dance - and how we dance as a consequence.  Before your eyes: Seeds of a dance practice.

What is an end?  I am growing to love how the idea of an "end" is a marker that holds time.  It draws our attention to see a possibility of finite-ness, or the space for new beginnings.  In our lives, we identify things as "end" because that's a test of how much we want to be able to stop time.  Or how much we wish we could force it to continue as it was before. Continue it does, but only in a way that we have no control over.  We can only respond.

For the first time, on the last night that I am here, I am noticing the sound of the train going by. Tomorrow I will be in a new place.

(some little edits from what I posted a day ago.  blogger's license!)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

what is a triangle I

This is one of those moments!

I am never going to be the same again.  My dancing and my living has taken me into another place, another phase. I am older, I am changed, I am new.

I could feel the change coming in the last month  in France.  Focus was back on tour. 9 shows from the South-west, to the Ardeche, Lyon and Paris.  Format-wise, little has changed.  On the road rehearsing, eating, sleeping as a trio.  In its shape the show isn't so different from what you might have seen in Avignon or Singapore last year.  But in its execution we are all profoundly different.  A year later, each of the silences has found its sense, the lines their parallel and our words their rhythm. 

The biggest difference for me was that Ole did work some changes into my opening solo, which is now a duet between me dancing and him whipping the wind out of the Kaossilator gadget.  It's been a year that I have been searching for that improv solo, tormenting even at times when we were not performing. I was sure that despite all the work I devoted to it, it was my most forgettable moment on stage and I dreaded it. Then finally, Ole gave me some new ideas the day before we opened in Paris. I wasn't sure when we went out and sat on stage in the fog, but once I started moving that night, I knew that it had been found.  The sense of finally having found what I want to say and digging into the space between me and the audience to hold it.  Each night, it grew.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

"the only thing that's a mess is your self-confidence."

an amazing bit of advice that I had at the beginning of the year.  I hope to be able to act - or rather dance on it.  Thanks Uncle Y!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

m1 Fringe Festival - Deproduction and Xtra Large

It's been quite a while since I published a review - by my own choice because I sometimes find it difficult to reconcile the positions of artist and reviewer.  I happened to get a request to review a couple of shows for last month's Fringe Festival for  In the end it was actually quite nice to discipline myself to sit down and put in words what I had read from a performance.

Deproduction by Assoc Sam-Hester

Xtra Large by Cie Irene K

Sunday, 13 January 2013

2012 My Year in Art

2012. It went so fast that I feel like I hardly know what happened! But wait, I refuse to let it just slip by and disappear like so many things seem to do in Singapore life.  I am lucky, I am grateful. But there's a lot more to it than that. I guess that's why I keep making these shorthands for time, and attempting to decipher them afterwards.

Making Things.
The rhythms of my year were structured around creation - works for others as well as works for myself. More than once, I realised that the experiences that were changing me the most weren't the actual performances.  I've been conditioned for years to yearn only for the magical moment when the curtains go up, etc. For which everything else was merely a preparation.  Nah.  I am getting quite hooked on the rehearsal process - getting convinced that sometimes the best things are discovered in the studio, with other like-minded artists.  Now I suspect that "performance" is the excellent convenient enabler for those rehearsals to happen and for me to continue to grow.  Sh.  don't tell the funders.

Focus with KHAM Cie (Jan-Mar/Apr/Oct/Nov in a lot of places) was the first time I've experienced the intensity and luxury of a creation residency, and the bizarre intimacy of a company living and learning and working together on tour in different venues and different audiences, watching a work change and grow over several performances.  I also learned not to panic when faced with grant applications, tour budgets, and festival applications. 

I watched the flowers (Jun at the Substation) was my first full-fledged production as an equal artistic collaborator, decision-maker and producer. A leap of faith that Nirmala decided to take with me.  We had so many wonderful collaborators and friends who made that work possible. It was a trial by fire but also a rebirth...  

All is Divine (May at SOTA Theatre) with Charlotte Engelkes was the shortest of all the production processes that I did this year.  I didn't think I liked opera but here I guess I got what I was asking for! I was amazed by what Charlotte's intuition and decisiveness led our team of collaborators to explore and stage in just one week, and I'm really excited about continuing this work this year.

My best birthday present was Pretty Things (Sep at the Substation) by Pat Toh and an amazing team.  I haven't attempted any theatre work since I was 18 years old (or okay, since I auditioned for the Vagina Monologues in college and didn't get a part). Pat is a crazy girl who assembled a fabulous team for her crazy experiments.  Milk, sheep, cakes, poetry, gonzo and so many questions.  I wish we could do it again!

Developing my new solo S@ (Dec, Srawung Seni Candi) was a test of my own discipline and also a test of my own methods and intuitions that continue to develop - versus my own inertia!  Then the unnerving serendipity of getting to perform the piece for the first time in such a spiritual and imposing place itself dedicated to reincarnation.  In the meantime I've also began conceptualising two new pieces - seeds for a duet and two ensemble experiments that i hope will grow in 2013!

Making things happen.

I fully acknowledge my festival junkie-dom. I jumped on board the organising teams of two festivals this year - Contact Festival Kuala Lumpur and the Fang Mae Khong Festival in Laos. Obviously festivals look very different from a co-organiser/administration perspective than as a volunteer or a performer. It is a sort of satisfying constant state of panic.  I was seeing how things happen - or rather very often almost not happen.  Who needs bungee jumping. We have the adrenaline rush of pulling together gigs that may or may not have all the artists, the funding, the equipment, gambling with last minute changes and the weather.  Devising makeshift solutions and turning decisions on a dime.  And the great satisfaction of working with some capable collaborators and teams that support and forgive.

I'm also a class junkie.  As in taking class.  I hope my addiction is more than the old fashioned technique zombie insecurity that the dancing body cannot survive without being fed with a million plies - or the comfort of switching off my head and letting the teacher tell me what to do.  I do like seeing other people's methods of working, of moving, and trying them on.  It's a bit like shopping in a vintage vault.  You don't always recognise yourself but it can be very entertaining.  Sometimes just silly, sometimes it helps you to see something new.  I have been a shopaholic in 2012. Odissi, capoeira, acroyoga, contact improv, popping, contemporary randai, the Jan Fabre method and even a moment of pole, on top of my rat race to keep up ballet and contemp classes wherever I could find them.  When I find a method that works for me I love to get to know the garment in as many qualities as I can - even if maybe I'll never learn how it was made.  And not by any planning of mine, I also ended up teaching.  Baby ballet (terrifying), improvisation for french high schoolers (chaos) as well as rolls on the grass for adult dancers (by far the kindest of them all). I still don't love teaching and I enter most classes wanting to bolt for the door.  But I see each time that the process is teaching me - and I am increasingly fascinated by how classes are constructed and how instructions and constraints affect our experience.

Some folks can't live without TV.  I can't live without theatres and performance - and after that without books and visual art.  Last year these guys knocked my socks off and i never want to forget them - they grabbed my heart and didn't let go, set my brain on fire, made my jaw drop, or got tears streaming down my face.

Waiting by Carlotta Ikeda (les Hivernales, Avignon)
Pavlova's Dogs by Rachel de la Nieta and performed by Scottish Dance Theatre (The Place, London)
(un)it: HD85828 by Ming Poon (The Substation, Singapore)
Lear Dreaming by Ong Keng Sen (Singapore Arts Festival)
Gostan Forward by Marion de Cruz (Singapore Arts Festival)
The Lan Fang Chronicles by Choy Kar Fai (Singapore Arts Festival)
A Very Wagnerian Night by Charlotte Engelkes (Singapore Arts Festival)
Double Take by The Plant Collective (Reconnaissance competition, Echirolles)
Cheerleader by Danny K (SidebySide at the Esplanade, Singapore)
Phase47  by Shoko Kashima and Chico Katsube (Telok Ayer Performing Arts Centre, Singapore)
Preparatio Mortis by Jan Fabre/Annabelle Chambon (Theatre de Gennevilliers, Paris)
Bouziane Bouteldja in Alterite by DAN6T (Fang Mae Khong Festival, Laos)
And some new discoveries of older things:
A retrospective on the work of Lee Wen at the Singapore Art Museum
Selected short stories by Rabindranath Tagore
Paroles by Jacques Prevert

Suprapto Suryodamo, Martinus Miroto, Eko Supriyanto, Fitri Setyaningsih and Danang Pamungkas (Srawung Seni Candi, outside Solo)

Penangsang Gugur by the faculty and students of ISI Solo

That now familiar ache of a disappearing landscape (captured in 2011 so poignantly with Dust: A Recollection) I found again, visiting the displaced hallways of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and the rail corridor, the deserted blocks of Covent Garden estate and the sad boarded face of the Shui Xian Gong when invited to Old House @ Zion.  I didn't make it to the Bukit Brown Cemetery except in essays and I discovered wonderful photographs of HDB playgrounds only after they were demolished.