Shortcut Dreams originated from a task that was deceptively simple in articulation: pull together an event relevant to three National Arts Council platforms [ie Got to Move, Singapore Writers Festival and Noise Singapore] and that would involve meaningful, inspiring collaboration between art forms — in this case dance and literature (and possibly more) — for youth talents.
The challenges were obvious: not all who dance take delight in literary work; not all who engage in literary work care for dance; and the decline of interest in literature has been widely lamented. The potential however lay in the possibility of an occasion (or occasions) to rethink definitions and to conceive, to encounter and experience things anew all over again.
So, we first looked at themes which we felt were relevant to contemporary Singapore society. Then we looked at texts which evoked these themes and images, and responded to these texts through texts of our own. Next, we looked for a choreographic language which could be enjoyed at two levels: if you understood the basis of the vocabulary, the message could be obvious; if you didn’t the dance could be enjoyed on its own. Through it all, we wondered how we could create an experience than went beyond being just a dance or literary event.
So, we have Pop-Up Noise: Shortcut Dreams, an experience that you can engage with online in a virtual space as well as the physical tangible world.
The various programmes that make up Pop-Up Noise: Shortcut Dreams — the choreographed performances, the flash mob and the workshops (focusing on movement and literature) — could either then be enjoyed on their own or if experienced in their entirety, could be viewed as an integrated creative encounter in which each art form is interdependent upon one another which attempts to express a collective and hopefully, a universal sensibility.
In our first rehearsal, we set out to borrow basic elements from street dance culture and sought to refine it into a contemporary dance context. We began with deconstructing the “bounce” or “groove”, refining it into an idea of expansion and contraction, returning to neutral points in the body, as if the body was a bubble expanding and contracting. We also played with the rhythm of this; slowing it down or speeding it up independent of music, but set upon the body’s impulses.
We then proceeded to learn the sign language alphabet, and created phrases out of spelling our names out, utilising the above expansion and contraction idea as a transition between letters.
Finally the 5 dancers made sculptures of the letters D-R-E-A-M-S, as if each person were a finger (or thumb).
We began the rehearsal with getting the dancers to journal a highlight or “lowlight” of their weekend, reading it to themselves a few times, to achieve a third person viewpoint of their written narratives and abstract the rhythm of the reading of the text as well as its emotional content. Then the dancers were to pick 5 words that reflected their frame of mind as they read and re-read their own stories. They then drew a line symbolising their journey and kept the 5 words for a later choreographic assignment.
Warmed up with ideas of isolating different body parts, with each body part as if a buoy, floating on its own ocean wave and current, to create a harmonious distortion of the body.
Also played with time stop (element in popping) to break movements and create surprise or emulate staccato rhythms.
Dancers then returned to their tasks and created a phrase that chronicled their frame of mind (of reading the text) but not the actual events themselves. Their phrase had to be in line with the physical qualities explored in this and the previous rehearsals.
They then exchanged and taught each other their own phrases.
17 August 2016
This week we began work on a running phrase, teaching elements from old school hip hop such as the running man, the roger rabbit, and the which-a-way. The inspiration came about from viewing the Cove at Punggol Waterway point and it looked like a racecourse. Hopefully this phrase or section can cover the wide space, and we are hoping to integrate the flashmob into this section as well. This section is also inspired by the scene set in the Eunuch Admiral text of a ship sailing in an ocean, but more so in a dream like imagining of being at sea; sometimes in tranquillity, but in this section, more so like being caught in the waves of a whirlpool.
24 August 2016
We returned to recapping and refining the phrases we constructed on the 10th of August. We noticed that one of our dancers naturally embodied a strongly feminine characteristic in her dancing, in contrast to our original intentions of having the dancers portray abstract or even faceless entities whose forms meld in and out of the embodied sign language. We decided to cast her in a solo to be danced in tandem with a reading of How To Be A Stiletto.
The other dancers shared their phrases with one another and we began refining and investigating the intentions of each movement to be aligned with the expansion and contraction qualities outlined in the first rehearsal.
At the end of the rehearsal, we disseminated the texts that had been finalized, which were How To Be A Stilleto, He Is Always Travelling With Me.
1 September 2016
We created a fusion phrase that encompassed both the running phrase elements and the contemporary elements extrapolated from hip hop, as well as featuring motifs from the individual dancers’ phrases. We also started placing the dancers in space and with defined pathways for them to travel with their individual phrases. We also started work on an introduction for the piece, where the dancers would recreate clumped, sculptural poses that resembled the D-R-E-A-M-S and begin to perform basic sign language verbatim but with different facings. Finally we created a “choral” response for the soloist of How To Be A Stiletto.
8 September 2016
This is the first rehearsal we had some music to play with. The music parameters discussed were to be electronic music, with some ambience in the beginning. No text is to be recorded except perhaps for How To Be A Stilleto (which we thought about in the previous rehearsals).
For this rehearsal, we expanded upon the beginning, and refined the positions and facings of the dancers; for example one dancer would sign with her hands behind her back, the other would sign as if the back of the knee of another dancer was her chest, etc. This further abstracts the sign language from a distinct individual, but rather creates the illusion of a faceless entity hive mind. One difficulty we faced was the timing of the sign, this had to be overcome slowly through practice and watching one another, as well we verbalising the rhythms during rehearsals.
We also revised and added solo moments for the fusion phrase created on 1st September, hopefully the phrase can serve as a “coda” of sorts to further impress the idea of amalgamation, that in a sense dreams slowly become an amalgamation of all our realities and imaginations.
12 September 2016
The dancers were willing to work on a public holiday, we are grateful to God and to them for their hardworking and enthusiastic spirits. Aaron, a poet introduced to us by Ming Yen, was able to join us for rehearsal today and he prepared a word list related to the readings for the dancers to keep in mind. During this rehearsal, we began structuring entrances to the introductory sign language section. We also cleaned just a small portion of the movement material, before listening to Aaron breakdown the word list he extracted from the readings.
After the rehearsal, we discussed with Aaron and MingYen about refining the written response to both texts, so that the dance, the text, and the written responses would all inhabit a similar universe.
15 September 2016
Today was a photoshoot for publicity with costumes. The costumes which we brainstormed upon were to reflect a certain urban-ness, but as well as a slack, pyjamas-like feel. This could lend a relaxed and sleepy quality that is often associated with dreaming, but contrasted by the movement vocabulary which at times can be fast and expansive. Having unbuttoned shirts would also lend a certain flow and threshing to the movements.
We added more gestures and sign language vocabulary to the beginning section and begin experimenting with layering and canons.
22 September 2016
We received the written response from Aaron and proceeded to pick certain keywords e.g. travelling, ice cream, books, letters, etc. We wrote down our own broken responses our of those keywords, and proceeded to have the dancers learn the specific signs as well as build them into a medium level embodied phrase (unlike their big phrases which they created earlier in August). We then pieced these phrases together with the basic sign language. Finally we pushed through with their bodies to finish the idea that we began with in our first rehearsal, to have their bodies meld into sculptures for the entire letter phrase of S-H-O-R-T-C-U-T-D-R-E-A-M-S. This entire section, we have decided to call section A.
Additionally, we created a spliced version of a difficult phrase. Hopefully this will develop and push the dichotomy of choice (or illusion of choice) within a dream, and start the beginnings of the idea of amalgamation.
29 September 2016
During this rehearsal, we solidified section A and began work on what we now define as section B, stringing together all the material we worked on from the 10th August and 24th August. We also tried putting it to music from Philip Glass Remixed, and we settled upon the ambient beginning of Etudes and a faster music piece for Section B, Descent into Maelstorm. This rehearsal focused primarily on spacing and refining timings.
6 October 2016
Upon review of what we have created thus far, we decided to push the complexities of the first section A. Sometimes in a choreography, certain motifs or ideas have to be carried through with enough persistence or repetition before the motif or idea can carry weight and significance; if not, the danger would be to introduce motifs and ideas that are throwaways and do not contribute to the overall content. We decided to work on increasing the speed gradually throughout section A, as well as fractioning the group into duets and trios. Certain phrases were repeated with different facings so as to allow the audience to review the same motifs but from a different perspective.
We also had the opportunity during this rehearsal to discuss with Aaron, Ming Yen, and Jau Chern the challenges of this multidisciplinary project.
8 October 2016
Having only a short hour and a half, we continued to push through with Section A, as well as tie in a transition to section B that builds upon the motifs of the sculptures with speed and eases into the larger dancing phrases.
12 October 2016
In this rehearsal, we were missing a dancer. We decided to push the idea of breaking in and out that we sort of introduced with the spliced dance on 22nd September. As the idea of walking in and out of the collective appeared subtly in A, as well as the fact that this walking motif will develop into a running one later on in the piece, we begin structuring walking motifs within the larger dancing phrase of section B. We also placed little easter eggs for the astute eye, that the dancers walking in and out would sign the letters that the collective group were dancing out (throughout their entire bodies, for example C would be the easiest. When tasked with embodying C in their bodies, the dancers naturally made curves with their backs and their arms).
13 October 2016
Today, we were privileged to be in the Pavilion, a huge space in Chinatown! The dancers could run freely and finally we had a space that resembled the cove. We began running the piece from the top to solidify it in our memories, and focused on creating interweaving patterns, continuing from the task set the previous rehearsal for Section B. Due to the huge space, we could see the patterns a lot more clearly and this rehearsal allowed us to focus on the expansive qualities of section B. We also decided to change the music from Descent to Maelstrom for Section B to Another Look At Harmony.
20 October 2016
This rehearsal was used to prepare for the showing for 22nd October Gotta Move. We finished the spliced section, tagging it on to the end of Section B. The rest of the time was used to polish and refine the movement qualities.
22 October 2016
We had just finished a workshop at Gotta Move, it was inspiring to see how open the participants were and they were pretty game to have a little exhibition of what they created in the workshop to share with all of us! After the workshop and presentation, we moved on to have our first rehearsal with the flash mob, beginning work on section C, working title “the running section”. We taught them certain movements on 17th August, and after the rehearsing with them, we proceeded to work on How to Be a Stiletto with Abigail. Director Ming Yen was there to help facilitate, and he reworked the poem by Pooja to fit better with the phrasing of the dance choreography. This reworked poem was then given to Aaron and Namiko to record into an audio track.
26 October 2016
We continued work with the flash mob while the core dancers cleaned their choreography from previous sections. We focused on creating material that the flash mob could use in their own 2 minute segment before the longer dance piece, and because we had limited space, we decided to create a “dancing around a disco ball” segment in the running section where it would bring back elements of the flash mob celebrating around a certain dancer.
27 October 2016
The running section had to be preceded by some build up (it occurs right after the poem How to be a Stiletto), and thus we utilised what is known in choreography as a wash, and this dissolved into a walking section with elements that created the image of a running track as well as a “threadmill” where people would moonwalk on the spot whilst others passed them by. This was a difficult point in rehearsal as the space was small and the complex walking patterns we were trying to create was more difficult than expected: It required dancers who are trained as a “hive mind” and have good chemistry in understanding and navigating space especially negative space. We decided to abandon this for an easier oval with a diagonal “feature” path for the dancers to run around in.
2 November 2016
In this rehearsal we did not have the flash mob, so we focused on cleaning the material we had as well as visualizing the music sequence for the running section to the very end, dividing it into huge chunks of 32 eights and identifying musical “signposts” and cues in the music to help us know when to change in each section. We also focused on the final core dancers’ unison phrase at the end of the piece.
3 November 2016
Today we added a “chorus” element to the poem How To Be A Stiletto, where the other four dancers besides Abby surround and frame her like a backdrop whilst signing the poem verbatim. We also began to put the flash mob into the sections we designated in the running section: Walking, running, slow-motion, house, discoball mobbing, unison phrase, and chaos ending.
9 November 2016
On this rehearsal we put together the entire section C (running section) and it was the first time the flash mob had to deal with all 7 minutes of the material. They were tired and it took a toll on their stamina. Our dancer Abby also had problems with sustaining the running, thus we made an executive decision to have her be highlighted in the middle of the “feature” path as an “anchor”. This worked out beautifully as her presence gives contrast to the whirling dervish of running around here! Sometime happy accidents occurs and this is just another experience in choreography where we work around our limitations and understandings of each other’s bodies, and options unknown to us that enhance the piece may and can appear!
10 November 2016
Today we ran the entire piece from start to finish. There is nothing left to do except to clean the choreography and tighten up the transitions. On this day we appointed Wen Ning as the “leader” of the flash mob, as we have come to notice her qualities in understanding the bigger picture and willing to count verbally and think beyond her steps despite her tiredness. We hope she will see it as an encouragement and affirmation that what she is doing is right and this spirit of thinking beyond oneself should be continued.
14 November 2016
On this day we had a workshop and showing for the Lasalle students, and we would like to thank Melissa Quek the department head of dance for this opportunity and privilege. It allowed our dancers to run the full piece for an audience for the first time. Subsequently we went to the to pavilion at Telok Ayer to run the entire piece again for the flash mob and with shoes in a more urban environment. This is the rehearsal we noticed that the flash mob has started to pick up in energy and dance with a joy amongst themselves!
18 November 2016
This was just a day of full dress rehearsal at Waterway point. Our first rehearsal in the space, the water fountain area was just vast and a delight but a challenge the younger dancers to cover the space and not appear tired but full of joy and energy like a tidal wave pushing them along. We could only encourage them to not give in to their physical tiredness but to spur them on to greater heights. Wen Ning today and to some extent Rui En and Sharan helped out a lot today in being exemplary to their peers and this is what is magical, when performers truly take care of each other off-stage, the camaraderie and joy will show on stage as well. For the core team we had to figure out the performance area at the top in the promenade, as there was not a favourable front facing and the “warped” space made it difficult for the dancers to maintain their orientation to one another and the “front”. We were tired but we were looking forward to sharing with the people of Waterway point the next day.
19 November 2016
Show day! Show day taught us to share with the community beyond our tiredness, and to be open and honest with anybody who was willing to come partake in what we had to share. Although there were certain hiccups here and there, what was more important was to understand that we are here as part of a bigger picture, and to bring our art out from the theatre into the community, as well as share whatever insights we can to the people here. The day was filled with wonderful conversation as well, with Jau Chern, Ming Yen, and other artistes who came to watch and support us. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for this entire journey, we know that everything came by God’s good hand, and we are blessed only to be a blessing to others. We would like to thank Ming Yen, GCAL, NAC for all their support, and all the dancers and staff who have been of such great help along the way.