Dance isn’t about leaping around on stage, says daniel k.
Participating in this year’s Esplanade da:ns festival, daniel k, aka diskodanny, has been performing (or wanting to) since he was 14, when he first became aware of Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson and Dirty Dancing.
Several years on, his love for dance has only grown more, and as he prepares for his performance at the da:ns festival entitled Hokkaido (or somewhere like that), he tells us about the life of a dancer, and why dance is more than just bodies on a stage.
First of all, how did you become involved in dance?
Well, I used to study visual arts in London, and next door to me was a dance school. Eventually I got a bit carried away and ended up going more to the dance school than my own. So when I got back to Singapore, I taught art and started doing choreographing work.
But I feel there isn’t much difference between visual arts and dance – because it’s like working as a visual artist but through the medium of dance.
What are some of the misconceptions that people have about dance?
The things that dance isn’t or shouldn’t be, or what it can be – why is it that we have to talk about misconceptions? I don’t think that there are misconceptions per se, as much as there is a lack of understanding about what dance involves. Even for me, that’s something I’m still discovering for myself.
At a mass audience level, there’s a misconception that people don’t understand dance, but it sells the most at arts festivals. I think people want to see dance. But it could be, at the same time, that it’s easy to watch, just like watching something at the circus. People might think that dance is abstract, because there’s no spoken word and there’s no everyday life images that are used. So in that sense, you’re looking at a body in a spatial kind of way. Then maybe, at the back of people’s minds, dance is easy and difficult at the same time.
To me though, in all arts, my study has always been about looking at what parts could be, more than what it has been. So I don’t expect that my way of thinking [about dance] and looking is immediately accessible. Art does shift and changes, like even art 500 years ago in Europe and 500 years ago in China are very different to each other.
Ultimately, dance is a constantly open concept that is redefined by a case to case basis.
Tell us about Hokkaido (or somewhere like that), how did you prepare for it?
Well, the preparations and working for it is everything. It centres around a journey to Hokkaido, and the process of movement and how we collect information as we’re moving. So I was making a work based on this journey, which had me literally going to Hokkaido, but on this journey you don’t really know what you’re looking for, so you start ‘collecting’ things. Eventually you find that something interesting starts to happen with the information that you’re collecting and it comes down to your ability to create memories. It’s based on these notions that the work came about.
During the work process, we talked about how we remember things, how we create memories, and whose memories. Then it became how these memories create movements to be seen. I wanted it to be concerned about dance, but not necessarily about a body moving to music.
That sounds like quite a philosophical approach to a piece of work, so how did the inspiration come about?
When you’re making a piece of work, it’s good to start somewhere but to also start with nothing. If you want it to be a journey of discovery, there needs to be parameters with some set boundaries. For example, I like to travel but I frown upon package tours. People decide to go to Paris, they see the Eiffel Tower, go to Champs d'Elysees, sip some wine, expect a violin player to come along and serenade them. So when they do that, they’re merely reconfirming the images they had of Paris already. But there’s no real discovery, because it’s the experience of being there and actually soaking in the atmosphere that matters.
You can’t say for sure what the work is going to be about even before you start. So I took this journey and allowed a dialogue and discovery to take place – to let the relationships that formed and the information that I collected along the way be my inspiration.
Having heard all this, what should people expect from your performance?
They shouldn’t expect anything. I hope that one day I won’t have to answer this question anymore. I’m more interested in how people will be engaged instead of telling them what they should expect. It’s almost like telling them what they should read.
I don’t want to tell people what to see specifically, but to give them the tools that they can use to reflect and be aware of what they want to see and so they can form their own opinions. The work doesn’t make an explicit or give a specific experience, but they should know themselves what they’re expecting.
That’s the challenge for me as an artist to make sure there’s a fruitful and rich experience. But they shouldn’t come passive, or waiting to be told what’s going on. At the same time, an artist can’t relinquish all responsibility – they can’t just throw out stuff to the audience and say ‘Make of it what you will’.
They have to plant a thought so people can engage it in sensibility, dynamically. And creating movement I have to be sensitive why there is a movement, what is moving – is it the body, a bit of light or the audience?
There will be very little of just bodies jumping up and down. It’s not so much choreographed dance in that sense.
Experience Hokkaido (or somewhere like that) for yourself, as part of the Esplanade da:ns festival. For all the information, click here. To read what else is happening during the da:ns festival and stand a chance to win two pairs of tickets, click here.