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Interview: Jereh Leong and Max Chen of Singapore Dance Theatre’s ‘Passages’

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Passages is Singapore Dance Theatre’s annual offering of three pieces of work by three different choreographers. Here two of the choreographers talk to us about the production.

JEREH LEONG

JEREH LEONG

JEREH LEONG

When and how did you start dancing?

I started dancing the Lindy at 13 after PSLE exams as I wanted to swing girls in the air. The studio happened to offer other forms of dance so I auditioned for their scholarship program and that started my dance journey…venturing into ballet, jazz, some tap and salsa. The journey became serious when I decided to leave first year of University to join NAFA, majoring in dance. After I graduated, I was yearning for more, so auditioned for SEAD (Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance) and was accepted into their final year program which was awesome as I couldn’t have afforded the whole four years of education, as much as I would have liked to stay on. I came back to Singapore, found friends who happened to also have finished their dance studies, and so we made a dance together commissioned by the substation and eventually joined Frontier Danceland, a local dance company.

How did you get interested in choreography?

At NAFA, there was a module in choreography. Mdm Lim Fei shen mentored me and during graduation, my choreography was chosen to be featured. That gave me more confidence. In SEAD, I was exposed to different sorts of ideas, the students’ enthusiasm to create and try things out without fear influenced me and encouraged me to go on exploring in this area. The process is tough, like childbirth, I get nauseous, but after that, there’s a whole lightness in my body, a sense of fulfilment.

Could you tell us about your piece in Passages?

I am working on a dance with music composed by Samuel Barber, “Agnus Dei”. During the creation, I felt a strange urge to partake in a feast of lamb chops.

Max Chen

Max Chen

MAX CHEN

How did you get interested in choreography?

While I was learning about dance in the first few years after getting in contact with it, I began to [imagine] how elements of dance can come together in different ways to produce different effects in performance. NAFA was where I got really inspired by the lecturer and schoolmates to take on this exploration seriously.

Could you tell us about your piece in Passages?

Inspired by the first four days of the workshop with my group of eight extremely beautiful people/dancers, I came into the SDT studio on day two with the question “What is World Peace?” ringing in my head, maybe because I was working on a kids’ musical about saving the earth the night before. When I made the decision to deal with this theme, I did some internet research about “World Peace” and found many different concepts of what it is and various ways people believe it can be achieved.

In this work-in-progress, I touched on a few of these ideas through an individual’s mind-mapping. They are ideals clashing with reality, lack of inter-cultural understanding, mainstream versus individuality and the desire for power.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.
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