Singapore Dance in New York

The acclaimed Singapore dance troupe Maya Dance Theatre will return to New York to perform for the arts festival, Something To Write Home About. The troupe will be joined by Singai Tamil Sangam & Yun-Chun Chua in an evening of dances specially choreographed for the festival. The performance will take place on Tuesday, September 15, 7:30 – 10:30 pm, at the iconic downtown venue of La Mama Theater. Tickets ($24) are available on-line.

The show will take the audience “on a journey through Singapore’s arts and culture with performances by traditional and contemporary dance artists and musicians,” according to the festival website. Artistically directed by Kavitha Krishnan, the show features dancers Shahrin Johry, Bernice Lee, Eva Tey, and Phitthaya Phaefuang, dancing together with NYC-based Bharathanatyam artist Kiran Rajagopalanwith. Musician Kailin Yong and flautist Raghavendra provide musical accompaniment. Highlights of the evening include works choreographed in collaboration with NY-based artists and choreographers Janis Brenner and Esme Boyce. The show is followed by an Indian food reception by chef Larry Reutens.

Kavitha Krishnan, the co-founder of Maya Dance Theatre, kindly agreed to answer a few questions.


SP. How would you describe Maya Dance Theatre’s style of dance? In three words.

KK. Asian Contemporary Dance.


SP. The upcoming show “Letters from Home” will include dances made in collaboration with NY-based artists and choreographers, Janis Brenner, Esme Boyce, Kiran Rajagopalan, and Chua Yun Chun. What is the most interesting aspect of the collaboration?

KK. Dance has given us an opportunity to collaborate with many like-minded artists. We worked with renowned NY-based artist/ choreographer Janis Brenner in 2014 when she came to Singapore to choreograph two works for Maya Dance Theatre. We also performed together with her company, Janis Brenner & Company, at 92Y and Kaatsbaan International Dance Centre in the same year.

Working with Janis gave the dancers from Maya Dance Theatre an opportunity to expand their repertoire of techniques and styles. Janis is an experienced creator and educator who teaches in The Julliard School. Her mentorship has enhanced our understanding of choreography. When we performed last year’s collaboration with Janis, we received very good feedback from the audience. Many were surprised that the work was created in 2 weeks (!) in Singapore. “Conference,” a recent work by our Shahrin Johry (an award-winning choreographer and dance artist), shows Janis’s influence. The work will be presented at the NY show “Letters from Home.”

It was through working with Janis that we were introduced to the lovely Esme Boyce, an emerging choreographer/dance artist from NYC. She was a part of the creation process with Janis in Singapore last year and thereafter performed together with Janis’s company and us in NYC. Esme took only 20 hours in total to create a new work with Maya Dance Theatre. The work, created in residency at Kaatsbaan International Dance Centre, through a visual art process, will make its New York debut at the festival.

We met Kiran [Rajagopalan] in 2012 when Maya Dance Theatre and he were performing at the Jogjakarta International Performing Arts (JIPA) festival, Indonesia. We have kept in touch with each other all these years, and were able to meet up the last time we were in NYC. When this opportunity to be part of Something to Write Home About came along, we decided that it was a right time for Kiran and us to collaborate.

Chun [Chua Yun Chun] is a friend of Shahrin’s, whom we met in NYC. It was Shahrin who wanted to collaborate with her on a work for “Letters from Home,” and we all said yes. So she will be presenting a new work with him in “Letters from Home” as well.

Another thing to add is that, apart from Janis and Esme, whom we had met and worked with in person, we have not been working with the other collaborators, Chun and Kiran, face to face as we are in Singapore and they are in NYC. Here, modern technology comes into play. We are working with them through Skype and other social media channels. This goes to show that distance is no hindrance to collaboration between creative minds.


SP. What should the audience expect to see, hear and feel at the show?

KK. They will feel the cultural nuances of a country as cosmopolitan as Singapore. They will be taken through a journey that harmonizes our differences. The arts have a beautiful way of connecting all of us as one. The audience will also see the different artistic expressions of emerging and experienced artists, and witness the fruitful collaboration between them. Finally, they will enjoy the collaboration between dancers and musicians in an integrated production. Born of artistic friendship, “Letters from Home” is a kaleidoscopic presentation of sounds, beats, and movements, set within inter-cultural contemporary dance design.



About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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