Studio rehearsal of Infinitely Closerใ€Šๆ— ้™็š„ๆŽฅ่ฟ‘ใ€‹(2022) by Kuik Swee Boon & T.H.E Dance Company, Photo by Crispian Chan

A Glimpse of Contemporary Dance

by Yimin & Kelsey


Often, we connect with the art of dance through its different forms. However, in contemporary dance, we rarely have any pre-existing image or representation in our minds.
As audiences, how can we build a connection?

Oct 13, 2022

We met up with Kuik Swee Boon, the Founding Artistic Director and Main Choreographer of The Human Expression (T.H.E.) Dance Company. Over the short meeting, he articulated how contemporary dance can be a strong media to bring forth topics that challenge peopleโ€™s perspectives.

Kuik Swee Boon, Photo by paraphrase.sg

Connecting audiences with current topics

"We are more concerned about what is happening now." Swee Boon declared. Swee Boon shared with us their upcoming show - Infinitely Closerใ€Šๆ— ้™็š„ๆŽฅ่ฟ‘ใ€‹, which discusses the complexity of pursuing freedom while having multiple identities.

Trailer of Infinitely Closerใ€Šๆ— ้™็š„ๆŽฅ่ฟ‘ใ€‹(2022) by Kuik Swee Boon & T.H.E Dance Company

"Recent happenings around the world have led to louder voices fighting for freedom. I have wanted to talk about this for years. It is getting more challenging for us to freely choose the way we want to live. I am lucky to have resourceful and talented artists supporting my creation of Infinitely Closerใ€Šๆ— ้™็š„ๆŽฅ่ฟ‘ใ€‹. Everyone is as excited as I am to contribute to this project, because this is something that resonates within their hearts."

"One might see contemporary dance as an element or expression to talk about challenges he is facing, a celebration of life or a discussion of social topics."

With palpable passion, Swee Boon elaborated further, using another example from the companyโ€™s repertoire: PheNoumenonใ€Š็Žฐ่ฑกใ€‹.

Trailer of PheNoumenonใ€Š็Žฐ่ฑกใ€‹(2019) by Kuik Swee Boon & T.H.E Dance Company

Swee Boon and his team has discussed the human's relationship with natural phenomena in PheNoumenonใ€Š็Žฐ่ฑกใ€‹.The word, noumenon, refers to individuality. Instead of phenomenon, the team used Phenoumenon from the Greek word, which means derivation of an individual โ€“ a layered term that is closer to what was being expressed in the work. This show, which premiered in 2019, examines how the phenomena we observe these days could result from personal choices. Examples can be simple: the extreme weather we experience today might be caused by the choices of individuals.

Emotional connection through an immersive experience

T.H.E Dance Company works on a handful of cross-collaboration projects in a pursuit to continuously challenge their creativity. Their latest work, Infinitely Closerใ€Šๆ— ้™็š„ๆŽฅ่ฟ‘ใ€‹, is a collaborative work where Swee Boon works with various artists โ€“ Kent Lee, a sound artist from Malaysia, Macau-based projection content designers Jay Lei and Jay Lee, who are collectively known as SEESAW, costume designer Choi In Sook from Korea, local lighting designer Adrian Tan, local dramaturg Kok Heng Leun, Australian-Laotian guest performer Billy Keohavong and the six dance artists from T.H.E Dance Company. 

"With the creative use of 3D holographic projection, 3D sound, and many other elements, we hope to build an emotional connection with the audience and create an immersive experience for them."

 Studio rehearsal of Infinitely Closerใ€Šๆ— ้™็š„ๆŽฅ่ฟ‘ใ€‹(2022)by Kuik Swee Boon & T.H.E Dance Company, Photo by Crispian Chan

Unconventional seating arrangements can be observed in the dance video above. Swee Boon explained that in some of his works, he deliberately chooses to dissolve the boundary between the performers and the audience, so that the performance is an immersive experience for the audience. These positions may evoke different responses from the audience. For instance, in Infinitely Closer ใ€Šๆ— ้™็š„ๆŽฅ่ฟ‘ใ€‹, the audience is allowed to choose how involved they want to be in the performance. Sitting at the second level will enable one to observe the performance from afar while those at the first level are able to roam freely on stage and stay close to the action.

"I believe that people can relate to the arts through movement, but there are other elements that we can connect to aside from movement, such as emotions, colour and temperature. We have five senses that can help us build a connection to our experience of contemporary dance, and these do not require any background or specific education levels."

Overall, a contemporary dance performance, like any other performance, is a shared moment between the performers and the audience, where dancers physicalise the ideas and nuances conceived and directed by a choreographer, and at times, with other key collaborators. The physical presence of both the performers and the audience can provide a profound sense of connection. The audience are led on a journey through different elements presented in the show, and there is no right or wrong answer; moments are simply appreciated and enjoyed.