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[ENG][中]Dance en Scene – Rethinking regional collaboration and connection in the pandemic era

Text: Iris Cheung


Dance film—a coming together of two art forms—empowers dance artists and filmmakers alike to rethink movements and transform storytelling. While this hybrid form has been around for decades, it has garnered greater exposure, understanding, and knowledge from dance artists, filmmakers, and audiences in Asia during the pandemic. As a Programmer at Esplanade – Theatres on the bay (Singapore) , I was excited to be involved in one such “creation”—Dance en Scene—an initiative led by Esplanade in partnership with three other arts centres in the region. This three-year programme (2021- 2023) was dedicated to providing a platform for dance artists and filmmakers to come together to explore themes of significance and site-specific inspirations. I am honoured to be invited by dance journal/hk to share some thoughts and reflect on this compelling journey, one which has given me the opportunity to develop myself both personally and professionally.


《舞蹈風景》(2023)台中國家歌劇院(台灣)主視覺Dance en Scene (2023)Key visual used by National Taichung Theater (Taiwan)(照片由濱海藝術中心提供Photo provided by Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay)


From stage to screen

To curb the spread of COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic, Esplanade, like many arts centres around the world, had closed its performance venues to the public but it continued to engage audiences through online streaming of archival recordings of past performances for free of charge viewing. It was during this critical period that I started brainstorming with my colleagues in Esplanade who were working on our cultural festival, Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts, on how we could create a new digital dance programme which would engage audiences meaningfully, involve our local dance artists (who had to cancel almost all their performances and projects during the lockdown), and allow us to connect with other artists and arts centres in the region during the pandemic. We did not want to ‘simply’ record or livestream a dance production from stage to screen, as we felt that the engagement with viewers would not be ideal for dance. Resources were limited and the many safe distancing measures imposed in Singapore seemed to stifle artmaking, especially for dance. Honestly, many of our brainstorming sessions came to a dead end, until one of my colleagues uttered a passing comment,


“How I wish I’m not stuck in my small flat in Singapore, even working from home in some scenic countryside in Taiwan sounds better… Or maybe I just miss travelling!”


That sparked an unexpected “aha!” moment for me, because, in short and deep down, many of us wished to escape and be transported to another part of the world and do what we love. That gave me the idea to create works which would enable us to escape into an imaginative world and bring the dance and sights of another realm to us on our screens.


Our focus then turned to commissioning dance films—outside the context of theatres, instead created and performed as site-specific dance performances. In addition, we decided to pair dance artists with professional (dance) filmmakers, to offer a new lens of expression and encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing between artists of both art forms.


Mapping out structures and gathering partners

Aside from artistic considerations and audience experience, we also aspired to maintain our connections with overseas artists. Hence, one key characteristic of Dance en Scene was that it involved collective efforts from regional arts centres, exploring new ways of touring and co-presentations based on an open and democratic structure. Each presenter was free to curate the artists of their choice and the themes or topics of their works. While each presenter would only commission one dance film a year, all participating arts centres in Dance en Scene were committed to screen one another’s films in their respective locations. Collectively, the project showcased and celebrated a diversity of cultures and inspirations, as well as the creative processes of artists living in different cities.


With the overall direction, framework and working structure defined, we pitched the idea to regional arts centres and we were delighted to have National Taichung Theatre (Taiwan), Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts (Hong Kong) and National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying) (Taiwan) come on board as partners for three years (2021 – 2023). Together, we had regular online meetings to discuss details such as branding, timelines, co-presentation platforms and structures, as well as setting copyright terms which would work for all parties.


Trust, care and respect

As I was new to dance films, it was a steep learning curve for me. I had to quickly adapt to learn and understand the many differences in managing budgets, timelines, manpower and deliverables for films, since my experience had been in producing live dance performances. I remain grateful to Elysa Wendi (Singapore / Hong Kong) and her team from cinemovement, with whom Esplanade collaborated for the first edition of Dance en Scene in 2021; they guided me through this journey with patience.


This brings me to another key learning point—managing relationships between the choreographers and the film directors. Just as I had to learn on-the-go, our choreographer-dance artists and film directors too had to deal with a change in dynamics in their roles in the creative process. Typically, a choreographer often calls the shots in many aspects of a dance production; but here his/her role had changed. The same went for the film directors as well. Therefore, I also saw the need to have regular individual check-ins with each party on their thoughts and feelings during the process to keep the collaborative spirit going and have both their voices well represented in the work they were creating. It was also important to see that the collaboration offered new perspectives in artmaking. Till today, I still remember the remarkable moment when Singapore choreographer Albert Tiong (involved in Dance en Scene 2021), shared with me that the experience had been liberating in a way he did not anticipate; that it was only through letting go, that he found trust in himself once again.


Concurrently, there was much care and trust amongst the arts centres. We learnt to be respectful of one another’s cultures, keeping in mind each city’s social contexts, considerations and audiences, while maintaining the key point that developing and promoting the arts are central to our mission.


《漫漫》 大館—古跡及藝術館(香港)委約作品(2022)A Long Walk (2022), Commissioned by Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts (Hong Kong)(照片由濱海藝術中心提供Photo provided by Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay)


All in all, having personally worked on Dance en Scene, it was an immensely fulfilling experience. The 12 dance films commissioned by four arts centres in three years were astonishingly diverse—each film with its unique narratives, views, approaches, styles, themes and topics which matter and inspire, highlighting each city and each artist’s distinctive social and cultural messages and expression through dance. This three-year long working relationship with open and honest communication among the arts centres has helped all of us grow as producers and presenters. Dance en Scene has enhanced a deeper understanding of one another’s working structures, distinct artistic voices and focuses. It has set a good foundation for future opportunities between artists who have forged new friendships and broadened their perspectives. It has also allowed arts centres to prospect new pathways for international participation and collaboration.


While the partnering arts centres have yet to meet to discuss future possibilities of how Dance en Scene may evolve as we emerge from the pandemic, I do hope we can look for more avenues to screen these 12 commissioned films and reach a global audience.



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Iris Cheung has over 15 years of professional experience in festival management, creative programming and producing dance. She joined The Esplanade Co Ltd in 2015 and has been working on da:ns festival (now da:ns focus) and Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts.



[中]《舞蹈風景》——從疫情時代反思區域合作的意義

文:張海昕

翻譯:Terri Lo


舞蹈電影是把兩種藝術形式結合起來,使舞蹈藝術家和電影製作人能夠重新思考作品的動作,改變故事講述的形式。儘管這種混合形式已經出現了幾十年,然而在疫情期間,亞洲地區的舞蹈藝術家、電影製作人和觀眾對這種形式有了更多的接觸、理解和認識。作為新加坡濱海藝術中心的節目策劃員,我很高興能參與由濱海藝術中心與區內三個藝術中心共同發起的「創作」——《舞蹈風景》。這為期三年的項目旨在為舞蹈藝術家和電影製作人提供平台,共同探討重要議題和對特定地方的靈感。我很榮幸受到《舞蹈手札》的邀請,讓我就著這段充實的旅程談論一些想法及反思,分享我在個人和工作上的成長經歷。


從舞台到銀幕

與世界上許多藝術中心一樣,濱海藝術中心在疫情初期對外關閉了表演場地,以抑制COVID-19的傳播。但為了繼續吸引觀眾,中心在網上播放過往的表演錄影,讓市民免費觀看。而在這非常時期,我與濱海藝術中心負責籌備我們的文化節目——華藝節的同事,開始商討如何製作一個全新的數碼舞蹈節目,既能充分吸引觀眾,又能讓我們當地的舞蹈藝術家參與(他們在封城期間幾乎取消了所有的表演和節目),並可以在疫情期間讓區內其他藝術家和藝術中心一同參與。我們不想簡單地把將舞台表演錄製或直播到螢幕,這樣的觀眾互動對舞蹈表演來說實在並不理想。但資源緊絀有限,新加坡實施的許多安全距離措施都扼殺了藝術創作,而舞蹈界受到的損害尤其嚴重。老實說,我們多次會議討論都陷入困境,直到同事慨嘆:


「我真希望自己沒有被困在新加坡的小公寓裡,還不如在一些景色秀麗的台灣鄉村裡在家工作……也許我只是想念旅行的時光!」


這讓我恍然大悟,簡而言之,其實很多人的內心深處都希望能逃離現實,被送到世界的另一個地方,做自己喜歡做的事。這個想法啟發了我:創作出讓人可以逃進想像世界的作品,把來自另一個領域的舞蹈和景象呈現到銀幕上。


因此,我們把重心轉移到舞蹈電影的委約製作上——不在劇院內,而是以場域特定舞蹈來創作及構思演出。此外,為了帶來創新的表演模式與視角,我們決定將舞蹈藝術家與專業(舞蹈)電影製作人進行配對,鼓勵雙方藝術家攜手合作共享知識。


《沖流》衛武營國家藝術文化中心(台灣)委約作品(2023)Swash (2023), Commissioned by National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying) (Taiwan)(照片由濱海藝術中心提供Photo provided by Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay)


確立架構,聚集合作伙伴

除了考慮到藝術因素和觀眾體驗,我們也希望能透過計劃與海外藝術家保持聯繫。因此,《舞蹈風景》的主要特點之一就是與各地的藝術中心同心協力,以開放和民主的結構為基礎,探索巡迴演出和聯合呈獻的新方式。每個參與團體都可以自由選擇藝術家和作品的主題。雖然各團隊每年只委約一部舞蹈電影,但《舞蹈風景》所有參與的藝術中心均會在各自場所互相播映彼此的電影。整體而言,項目展示及宣揚了各種各樣的文化和靈感,同時呈現了生活在不同城市的藝術家的創作過程。


確定了方向、框架和工作結構後,我們向各地區藝術中心提出了這個想法,而很榮幸地,臺中國家歌劇院(台灣)、大館 — 古蹟及藝術館(香港)和衛武營國家藝術文化中心(台灣)都答應成為我們的三年(2021-2023)合作伙伴。各方會定期舉行線上會議,討論品牌、工作進度、聯合展示平台和結構等細節,並定立適用於各方的版權條款。


信任、關懷和尊重

由於我初踏足舞蹈電影界,所有事情對我來說都具有挑戰性。我的專長本是製作現場舞蹈表演,很多方面都與電影管理有所不同,所以必須盡快掌握學習和了解各種差異,例如預算、流程、人力和成果等。到現在我仍然很感謝葉奕蕾小姐(新加坡/香港)及cinemovement團隊,他們在2021年受濱海藝術中心的邀請參與了第一屆的《舞蹈風景》,並耐心地引領我製作舞蹈電影的過程。


這次的經歷亦讓我學到另一個訣竅——如何協調編舞和電影導演之間的關係。正如我必須邊工作邊學習一樣,在創作過程中編舞/舞蹈藝術家和導演也需要適應他們角色定位的變化。一般來說,編舞在作品中通常都是擔當主導角色,然而,這次他/她的角色已不再如同過往;電影導演亦然。因此,我覺得在過程中有必要定期採訪雙方的想法和感受,令合作順利進行,確保作品有表達出兩者的想法。同樣重要地,我們希望這次合作能為藝術創作提供新的角度。直到今天,我仍然記得參加2021年參與《舞蹈風景》的新加坡編舞家張永祥Albert Tiong與我分享的他的難忘時刻。他說這次經歷竟以意想不到的方式解放了自己;只有放手,才能讓他再次相信自己。


同時,藝術中心之間也給予彼此關懷和信任。我們學會尊重彼此的文化,牢記每個城市不同的社會背景、考慮因素和觀眾,同時謹記著我們的核心使命是促進藝術發展。


總而言之,親身參與《舞蹈風景》是非常充實的體驗。三年內由四家藝術中心委約製作的十二部舞蹈電影都出乎意料的多樣化——每部電影都有其獨特的敘事、觀點、方法、風格、題材和主題,而這些都具有重要意義和啟發性,突出了每個城市和藝術家透過舞蹈表達出獨特的社會文化訊息。長達三年的合作關係中,藝術中心之間一直以開誠佈公的態度溝通,協助大家成為更好的製作人和主辦者。《舞蹈風景》讓各藝術中心更深入了解彼此的工作方式、獨特的藝術風格和發展重點,藝術家亦通過此平台結交新朋友和拓寬視野,為未來的合作奠定良好基礎。透過這次計劃,藝術中心亦可以摸索到國際之間合作的新途徑。


隨著我們從疫情中逐漸走出來,一眾藝術中心尚未討論《舞蹈風景》未來應如何演化,但我希望我們能找到更多方式,讓全球的觀眾都可以看到這十二部電影。


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張海昕Iris Cheung在藝術節管理、節目策劃和舞蹈製作方面擁有超過十五年的專業經驗。她於2015年加入新加坡濱海藝術中心,主要節目策劃包括da:ns festival(現為da:ns focus)以及華藝節。


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