50/50 (2015) – Performance
Premiered as part of Theatreworks Singapore's Main Season 2015
4, 11, 19 December 2015, 8pm and 9pm
Theatreworks, 72-13, Singapore
Presented at Brisbane Festival's Singapore Series by CultureLink Singapore
15, 16, 17 September 2016, 7pm to 10.30pm
Judith Wright Centre - Performance Space, Brisbane, Australia
'50/50' (Singapore) was a series of three dance classes held over three separate weekends inspired by Zihan and his collaborators' experience with Lindy Hop, a social dance with African-American roots that is traditionally done to 1940s big band Jazz music.
Audience members purchased a ticket that allowed them to participate in all three classes. Each class was designed in collaboration with a co-teacher with a different topic of interest and focused on a specific aspect of the Lindy Hop.
Class I: Shiny Stockings (4 December 2015)
Performed and conceptualised in collaboration with Joanna Dong
The first class unpacked the assigned roles of 'lead' and 'follow' in Lindy Hop. Zihan and Joanna had a conversation through and about the dance, sharing their experience on and off the dance floor in relation to their designated respective roles of 'lead' and 'follow'. They taught the footwork for the 8-count 'Lindy Turn' - a fundamental step in the social dance.
Class II: Dipsy Doodle (11 December 2015)
Performed and conceptualised in collaboration with Sinclair Ang
The second class centred on 'ethnicity' and covered a brief history of the Lindy Hop. The social dance originated in Harlem, New York among the African-American community. It was revived in the late 1980s by various communities located in the United States, U.K. and Sweden. Zihan and Sinclair taught basic individual jazz steps and discussed what it means to be ethnic Asians performing this dance of African-American origins.
Class III: Love Me or Leave Me (19 December 2015)
Performed and conceptualised in collaboration with Jereh Leong
The third and final class touched on sexuality. Both Zihan and Jereh shared their experiences as openly gay men who were attracted to this heteronormative social dance. Jereh shared autobiographical aspects of his journey as a contemporary dance artist and re-enacted sequences from his past performances. Towards the end of the class Jereh and Zihan conducted an exercise where they attempted to teach the basic 6-count partnered footwork of the Lindy Hop without verbal instruction and through physical contact.
I have been doing Lindy Hop for more than a third of my life, and I have known many in the Lindy community for an equal amount of time. Despite the many conversations through social dancing, I rarely meet up with the community beyond the dance floor. ‘50/50’ was an opportunity for me to get to know Joanna, Sinclair and Jereh a little better. It was also a platform for us to share our passion for this dance with a larger audience.
Lindy Hop use to be a huge part of my life - I was part of a Lindy Hop performance company and we would travel for dance camps and competitions. Whenever I visited a foreign country I would seek out and attend social dance evenings for an immediate connection to the local swing dance scene. Recently, my passion for Lindy Hop has taken a backseat to my artistic practice. Even though it is a lesser part of my life for now, I will realise at times how my experience with this social dance has influenced the way approach movement and dance.
A number of people have questioned me about the performance format - which took the form of a series of dance classes. Lindy Hop is about a conversation between two people, a call and a response. A class format allowed us to move and physicalise this knowledge, information that we often are more comfortable passively receiving. I understand it is a demanding commitment on the part of the audience, but I wanted to replicate the experience of how I fell in love with this dance - through a series of dance classes very much like this. It was not love at first sight, and Lindy Hop does have a very steep learning curve. It is important for me to create an environment where one can sit with the imparted knowledge over an extended period of time.
Another aspect I hope to investigate with these series of classes is how we approach and disseminate information about movement and dance. A consistent question I have posed to all three collaborators while we were designing these classes is to find an alternative way to teach this dance. We wanted to work with the quality of movement instead of the quantity of information imparted.
This journey has been a challenging experience of self-discovery, all three collaborators serve as a mirror to reflect upon my own thoughts about Lindy Hop. I hope this series of classes will not only trigger your interest in the dance, but would similarly serve as a mirror for you to challenge your own preconceived notions of what, why and how we move.
50/50 was commissioned and presented by Theatreworks Singapore as part of their Main Season 2015.
(Click here to access publicity blog maintained by Theatreworks documenting the production.)
Production Manager - Natalie Lim
Swing Music DJs - Johanna Tan and Theresa Wong
Production Photo Documentation - Law Kian Yan and Lim Li-Hsien