dancing, as I imagine it to be

J doing the robot move with Kidnap Bob

Among all the performing arts in Singapore, dance probably has the smallest audience. Yet in the last ten years or so, it grew to have the next highest level of participation, after playing an instrument or singing in a group. Folks young and old are signed up for classes in street dance, social dance, line dance, belly dance, folk dance, tap dance, classical indian dance, ballet, pole dance...and zumba.

We are made to move. Working the fields, walking to gather our food, running away from danger, and moving as a group and as in a ritual to symbolise our being part of one body. Play music to a baby and it [oops] he/she responds to that rhythm, even if in the slightest of movement - that curling at the corner of their lips. Toddlers dance freely. And when we are happy, our foot steps quicken with our heartbeat, not in haste, but in flight.

I imagine that when we learn how to dance, as in learning a sport, we turn the instinct into discipline. And hopefully,  instinct and discipline becomes one, a memory and a new language for making meaning.

And like a child learning a new language, I imagine that learning how to dance can be immensely liberating. It is one more way of being alive. The parallel I draw is a nice run in the nature reserve when your mind, body and the environment or space around you are in sync.

J never understands why I sometimes enjoy watching contemporary dance when I don't have any real knowledge of the form, its histories and tropes.

So friends, if you are like me, here are some ways you can enjoy contemporary dance:

1) At a simple aesthetic level, enjoy it for the physicality and beauty of the body, its movements, and the images formed on stage. I marvel.

2) Sometimes the movements, however abstract, are making patterns from which meaning emerges. Not only symbolically or representationally, but in their ebb and flow, their geometry and length, their lightness and weight, something is being constructed together with the lighting and staging. A pattern, a building, an idea, a statement, an emotion, a drama. I engage. As if solving a puzzle.

3) Sometimes the dance is just speaking simply. Like a hard slap across someone's face is a hard slap across someone's face. I cringe. Like someone slipping on a banana skin and slips on a banana skin. I smile. There's nothing to decode. Your body will respond to what it is seeing.

4) Sometimes with all the meditative movement and music before me, my body tells me it needs to sleep. I allow it to. I shut my eyes, drift into a random thought, pray I don't end up collapsing against my neighbour, and inevitably, wake to a new tableau on stage. I enjoy it like a dream.

And in the best of dance performances, all four happens.

If you are curious, ahem, my shameless plug here is go for Esplanade's da:ns festival 9-18 October! Let me know if you need specific recommendations...

Torobaka at the da:ns Festival, with Akram Khan and Israel Galvan loving and battling it out through dance! 


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