Lessons learned: Singapore
Touring to Singapore had none of the usual challenges that we have found in countries with less advanced levels in the performing arts, education, theater technology and so forth. In addition, English is universally spoken so no translation was required. It was gratifying to be able to play to audiences and challenge workshop participants who could follow us with minimal layers of explanation and who could absorb the most sophisticated material we were able to dish out.
A one-week program in Singapore offered Battery Dance an exceptionally intense immersion and high impact introduction to the city-state. Singapore’s high standard of living and the dominance of the English language made it appear more like a Western rather than an East Asian city to the crew. The program was supported by the United States Embassy Singapore and the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
In traditional BDC fashion the crew engaged a diverse selection of secondary and tertiary educational institutions, working with teenagers and young adults. The brevity of the Singapore trip required creative planning to satisfy the many requests received by the U.S. Embassy. The company was split into two independent units to achieve maximum outreach. The program week kicked off with a day-long residency at LaSalle College of the Arts with a performance, question and answer session followed by lunch with the faculty and a lecture on arts management. Three teaching artists ran Dancing to Connect (DtC) workshops for four days with 60 students at Republic Polytechnic, a public university that serves over 20,000 students from diverse backgrounds from across Singaporean society. Meanwhile, the other four company members visited schools and conservatories, teaching master classes, delivering lectures and giving mini-performances.
At Republic Polytechnic, the company met Ganesh Kalyanam and Zaini Tahir, the two inspirational leaders of the arts program at the institution. While Republic Polytechnic does not offer majors in the arts, the participating students were members of dance clubs ranging from hip hop to Malay and modern dance. The three Dancing to Connect workshops provided the students with the necessary techniques and skills to support the creation of 3 original works. Republic Polytechnic furnished three amazing dance studios for the DtC workshops and a magnificent theater for the final performance, which was packed with students whose response was raucous.
At Nanyang dance department director Caren Cariño organized a series of master classes on ballet and hip-hop for dance majors. Additionally, the Raffles Institution, an elite Singaporean high school, was host to a duet performance by Robin and Sean, a master class for 80 students, and a panel discussion on the topic of “Lives in the Arts”.
The final component of the Singapore program consisted of a joint performance and sharing session with Madame Som Said and the Sri Warison Performing Arts Group, a premier Malay dance company, at the Goodman Arts Centre. The peer to peer experience with the Sri Warison Performing Arts Group allowed the company to display their own work and appreciate the fascinating art form that is classical Malay dance. Battery Dance extended the invitation to Sri Warison to come to New York in August to take part in the Downtown Dance Festival. This bilateral interaction is a vital competent to the company’s mission.