The second edition of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) had its opening performance RETURNING, graced by Guest-of-Honour, Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Second Minister for Communications and Information of Singapore, at the Drama Centre Theatre on Wednesday, Aug. 12. SIFA continued in its trail of Singapore commissions by honouring iconic dance pioneer Goh Lay Kuan who conceived and directed this evening’s large-scale new dancework with several generations of dancers from pioneer dance mentors to mid-career choreographers to young dancers.
Festival Director Ong Keng Sen said, “SIFA believes that the commissioning process reveals the potential in the Singapore arts scene. We are investing in the future. Commissioning is not about a finished product, a success formula for consumption, but most importantly it enables Singapore artists to dare to explore novel territories – work with emerging talents, enter into the heartlands, reclaim dreams of pioneers which have been abandoned for efficiency.
SIFA, as the national performing arts festival on an international stage, embraces the risk and adventure of new projects, in collaboration with Singapore artists who must continue to dream for their audiences.
This special evening was hosted by Arts House Limited’s (AHL) Chairperson, Mrs Christine Ong and Chief Executive Officer, Ms Lee Chor Lin, together with SIFA Festival Director Mr Ong Keng Sen. Prominent guests included Mr Naohiro Tsutsumi, Deputy Chief of Mission, Minister, Embassy of Japan; Professor Chan Heng Chee, Chairman of the National Arts Council; Mrs Theresa Foo, Chairman, Gardens by the Bay; Ms Yeoh Chee Yan, Permanent Secretary, MCCY; as well as Ms Kathy Lai, Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts Council; Mr Ng Lang, Chief Executive Officer for the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
In celebration of Singaporeans during this Golden Jubilee year, the Festival has commissioned the largest number of Singapore productions to date. There are 12 Singapore commissions out of 19 productions this year offering Singaporeans, residents and visitors an immersive arts experience. Beginning with emerging talents and pioneers who are not often seen on the Singapore stage of today, the Festival will progress in the middle to established players in our arts scene who produce regular seasons of work, to end with complex dialogues about Bukit Brown and migration in contemporary Singapore.
The dynamic commissioning process this year has prioritised an inclusive approach to arts in communities, venturing into new sites throughout the island of Singapore. Madam Goh, a Cultural Medallion recipient for dance in 1995, had a vision for RETURNING, which was inspired by the life cycle of the salmon. She retrieved the ‘kampong spirit’, or a sense of community, through the bridging and blending of dance aesthetics from the various ethnic heritages represented, and ultimately forged one spirit of creative expression.
“It is fitting to present RETURNING tonight for this large-scale spectacular dance production is unusual in Singapore, which mostly has small contemporary dance ensembles today. We’re also delighted that this marks the first time in 20 years that Madam Goh is presenting a new work. It fulfills a long-lost dream that Singaporean artists can create a large artistic company from the ground up. We are making up for lost time.” added Keng Sen.