In an exhibition by Zao Wou-Ki at Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), LASALLE presented a dance performance in an interdisciplinary collaboration between Susan Sentler, Lecturer, School of Dance & Theatre, five Diploma Level 3 dance students – Chua Peiyun, Lynn Tan Ling, Muhd Sharul Mohd, Nur Afiqah Binte Rapee, and Vasantha Tan Zi Wen – alongside Adrian Huang, Lecturer, School of Fashion.
Choreographed by Susan, the performance was a dialogue with the works in the exhibition through body, space and time. Complemented by costumes produced by Adrian, the response was generated abstractly by the use of mark-making as well as qualities of line, light, colour and spatial scape that were within Zao's canvases. Susan also collaborated with musician/composer, Ronen Kozokaro, to nest the work in a stunning sound scape.
We spoke to both lecturers on how the collaboration took shape and their experiences working together. The students also shared their experiences performing in an unconventional space of a gallery.
Image: Singapore Tyler Print Institute
How did this cross-faculty collaboration come about?
Susan: We were introduced through a colleague, Vera Kwok. I invited Adrian to deliver a talk to the dance students on his research with use of a Creative Practice Journal (CPJ). A CPJ would be beneficial for the dance students to archive and go into greater depth in their creative process and choices.
I had already started on the choreographic response to Zao’s work then and asked Adrian if he would be interested in working with me. Adrian was positive and proactive from the start. He understood and read my ideas clearly and was able to take ownership with his excellent choice of details. He produced costumes that were stunning, allowing the dancers and the whole of the space to become even more alive.
Image: Susan Sentler
How was it working with lecturers from a different discipline?
Susan: I personally adore working across disciplines. Sharing varied methodologies, languages and creative ideas push my practice, opening new possibilities and pathways.
Image: Susan Sentler
What were some of the key takeaways from this project?
Adrian: Firstly, I think collaborations work best when their creative objectives are aligned. For this project, we were all responding (perhaps even paying tribute) to the works of Zao – from Susan, to the dancers, to myself, that was our shared objective. Secondly, I think trust is important. I'm grateful that Susan trusted me to deliver even though it was our first time working together.
Susan: I think all of us – the students as well as Adrian and myself – have benefitted from this project. I was asked to create a 40-minute work, voyaging throughout the entirety of the space and responding to the magnificent works within the exhibition. I have done 'responses' like this in the past, but with each one, I am challenged to grow as an artist. It was wonderful to be able to share this response with the students and with Adrian.
Image: Susan Sentler
Sharul, Lynn, and Vasantha, could you share your experiences performing in a different setting beyond the stage?
Sharul: I felt that performing close to the visual art pieces brought about a stronger meaning to my movements. The white wall, high ceiling and cemented flooring provided me a sense of openness. Exploring movements based on the flow of the space as well as the existing pillars provided us with variations to our movements and transitions.
Lynn: The intimacy of the audience gives off a different sensation as compared to performing on a proscenium stage or in a black box theatre. Usually in a theatre it would feel like the audience is feeding off your energy, but in a gallery, I feel like as the performer, I am feeding off the audience’s energy instead.
Vasantha: It was intriguing responding to an artist’s works. We were given the opportunity to explore how our bodies could represent paint brushes in order to imprint strokes in space – we were replicating Zao’s artwork through movement. It was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate across disciplines and we were able to explore the same idea using different art practices.