“Art” is a subjective term, with each definition in the eyes of its beholder. Colours, shapes and patterns merge when it comes to a piece of painting. Music, on the other hand, has generally been perceived as the most universal of all art forms, combining patterned constructions of words, rhythm, and instrumental collaboration to bring the inner side of an artist to the surface, giving the world an insight to his personal experiences and vision.

However, one of the most underrated art forms in the world is dance, which has the ability to communicate its message in a way no other can: combining an artist’s grace and fluidity of body movements with the music. A beautifully-choreographed performance can convey a story, set a mood, or express an emotion to audiences, regardless of the genre the piece falls under.

A great place to start appreciating the art form is at Esplanade, which will hold its 13th edition of the da:ns festival from 9 to 21 October 2018, bringing various types of performances by some of the most renowned dancers to Singapore’s sparkling bay.

Past years’ editions have seen major success, with highlights such as Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and Ohad Naharin’s Decadance by Batsheva Dance Company. This year, in addition to an exceptional line-up of international acts, the festival will feature three newly-commissioned works by local and Asian dance makers, namely Kuik Swee Boon and Daniel Kok from Singapore, as well as Rianto from Indonesia.

For those looking forward to the 13-day celebration, here’s our guide to the Esplanade da:ns festival, which also offers a series of workshops and masterclasses, as well as more than 82 free events for dance lovers and the curious to enjoy.

Nederlands Dans Theater 1 (The Netherlands)

The world-renowned Nederlands Dans Theater 1, synonymous with its technical virtuosity and gorgeously slick productions, returns with a power-packed production this da:ns festival 2018.

The production comprises four pieces: the film-noir-inspired, provocative psycho-drama Shoot the Moon and tragic Stop-Motion by house choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, The Statement by associate choreographer Crystal Pite (which is set to a spoken word soundtrack based on a script written by Jonathan Young), and Woke up Blind by Marco Goecke, who is also a resident choreographer with the world-renowned Stuttgart Ballet.

13 & 14 Oct 2018
Sat: 8pm, Sun: 5pm
Esplanade Theatre

Ticket prices: S$40, S$60, S$80, S$100, S$120

International Stars of Ballet

Spend an evening with a stellar line-up of internationally acclaimed dancers from the world’s leading ballet companies as they perform a programme of famous duets from ballet classics and by iconic contemporary choreographers.

For passionate dance lovers, the International Stars of Ballet is one that shouldn’t be missed, as it features some of the biggest names in the dance world. This includes the likes of Adiarys Almeida, Igor Kolb, Maria Kochetkova and Misa Kuranaga, just to name a few. These luminaries have danced with prestigious dance troupes such as Bolshoi Ballet, Boston Ballet and the Mariinsky Ballet.

Maria Kochetkova in Cranko’s Onegin. (Photo by Erik Tomasson)

19 & 20 Oct 2018,
Fri & Sat: 8pm
Esplanade Theatre

Ticket prices: S$40, S$60, S$80, S$100, S$120

Until the Lions by Akram Khan Company (UK)

Established choreographer Akram Khan returns to Esplanade for the 13th edition of the festival with an adaptation of poet Karthika Naïr’s book Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, an original reworking of the 2,500-year-old Indian epic.

In this performance, three exceptional dancers — namely Rianto, Ching-Ying Chien (who won the “Outstanding Female Performance (Modern)” award for her performance in Until the Lions at the UK National Dance Awards) and Joy Alpuerto Ritter — perform on a set designed by Oscar award-winning artist Tim Yip, who won an Oscar for the Best Art Direction for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000. 

9 & 10 October 2018
Tues & Wed: 8pm
Esplanade Theatre

Ticket prices: S$40, S$60, S$80

Medium by Rianto (Indonesia)

After successfully touring the world with Akram Khan’s company and Choy Ka Fai’s SoftMachine, Indonesian rising dance artist Rianto returns to Esplanade with a powerfully virtuosic solo combining folk ritual, traditional and contemporary dance, in dialogue with powerful live Javanese vocals and percussion.

Called Medium, the piece is a deeply personal portrait of Rianto, embodying the fluidity of his practice as well as his life ethos. The performance features him and his childhood friend on a bare stage, highlighting a stark minimalism that goes to the roots of Indonesian traditional dance and music, exploring nature, spirituality and ritual.

Rianto showcases movements from contemporary dance, classical Javanese dance and lengger, a traditional cross-gender dance from Central Java, in which he has trained since young. He is accompanied by Cahwati, who plays a variety of instruments and contributes live vocals.

16 & 17 Oct 2018
Tue & Wed: 8pm
Esplanade Theatre Studio

Ticket price: S$30

xhe by Daniel Kok and Miho Shimizu (Singapore, Japan)

Dreamt up by dancer-choreographer Daniel Kok and visual artist Miho Shimizu, xhe (pronounced like “j’y” in French) is a multidisciplinary performance that brings together an international ensemble of artists, including dance artist Karol Tymiński and electronic music duo Filastine and Nova, whose sounds combine beat production with dense layers of voice, analogue synths and strings.

Not just a spectator, the immersive performance involves the audience in search of an elusive figure that is not a “he”, “she” or “it,” exploring the multiplicity and infinite possibilities that the space, sound, objects and movements can bring about. The durational performance lasts five hours, and the audience is invited to arrive at any point during the performance and advised to stay for at least 90 minutes to enjoy the full range of xhe’s unfolding surprises.

12 & 14 Oct 2018, Fri & Sun
Fri: 7pm, Sun: 2pm
Esplanade Annexe Studio

Ticket price: S$20

For those looking to move along and pick up new dance moves, check out the What’s Your Move? mass dance session, where participants can bask in the moonlight as they pick up suave moves from professional instructors.

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.