TANZPLATTFORM 2022 >>> Choy Ka Fai entangles ballroom and Shamanism, bodies and technology in “Yishun is Burning“ (HAU2, 16./17. March 2022). This text was written as part of a two-day tanzschreiber writing workshop during Tanzplattform 2022 and under the direction of Mareike Theile, Johanna Withelm, and Alex Hennig. Inspired by a passion for writing and an exchange about dance and dance critique, the authors had an opportunity to challenge and expand their own writing practice. Text: Alica Minar.
“I leave the theater and realize that the colors of the city appear much more vibrant. My sensitivity is heightened. I hear the beats of Berlin’s turbulent rhythm and feel connected to a different world metropolis. I’ve been transported to Yishun, Singapore. I am proud of what the contemporary scene has to offer and how dance builds bridges, opens the doors to freedom of expression.”
Choy Ka Fai embarked on a journey to Yishun with dancer Sun Phitthaya Phaefuang (Amazon Sun) to participate in multi-religious celebrations. They transport this experience and research for the piece in a contemporary context and interconnect movement material and transcendence with voguing, ballroom, queerness, and multi-media.
By examining the relationship between Shamanism and dance, Choy Ka Fai taps into a colorful world between here and there, between now and then. He offers us a whole series of realities. An elaborate dramaturgy, divided into smaller parts, creates a complex albeit comprehensible composition in which the various worlds may encounter each other.
The viewers can marvel at a whole range of technologies, including live-streaming and pre-recorded videos, combined with the analog dance performance by Amazon Sun and instructions by Choy Ka Fai. Technology does not play the role of fancy tool. Instead, it is a useful and indispensable cornerstone of the performance.
The stage becomes a setting when the scent of incense and the introduction of the members of the live band from Singapore reach the senses. The documentary film on the one-week Shamanism celebration ritual exudes smoke and steam from the screen into the theater.
Interviews with a Shaman and a dancer question the relationship to body, sexuality, and transcendence. Sun sees the connection between Shamanism and ballroom as a gender performance that makes surmounting the body’s own limits and attributes, and even the human condition, a possibility. We are offered the opportunity to experience the role of gods and kings and queens in Shamanism and in the ballroom, without prejudice or interpretation.
As if simultaneously both here and there, we see the main dancer, Amazon Sun, traveling back and forth between documentary film material from a past time and the analog performance of today. Imagination fully unfolds as Sun, dressed in blinking, neon, sensory jewels, engages in a playful, circular dialog with his six-armed god-like avatar on the screen. How far can our being expand? Is there even a limit on possible modulations?
A ritual electric party beat accompanied by shrill text reveals the polyphonic call of Yishun. The show reaches its final climax as three voguers enter the stage and present a ballroom event while dancing to 80s disco songs. The analogy to the film “Paris Is Burning” is now fully appreciated.
“Yishun is Burning” is an ode to the freedom of expression and a prayer for an expanded awareness of ourselves. A diverse, energetic, well cut, and nevertheless respectful journey to the celebratory rituals of our times, where tradition and hyper-reality meet.
English translation by Melissa Maldonado
Photos: “Yishun is Burning” by Choy Ka Fai © Singapore Arts Museum
Concept, Documentation and Direction: Choy Ka Fai / Dramaturgy: Tang Fu-Kuen / Spiritual Presence: Kali and Kuan Yin / Choreography and Dance Performance: Sun Phitthaya Phaefuang / Sound Design and Musical Performance: NADA (Rizman Putra & Safuan Johari) and Cheryl Ong / 3D Visual Design and Technology: Brandon Tay / Visual Artist: Sven Gareis / telematique / Light Design, Installation, Technical Direction: Ray Tseng / Technical Direction Singapore Studio: ARTFACTORY / Stage Management: Sanja Gergorić / Touring Administration: Tammo Walter / Production Manager: Mara Nedelcu / Guest Dancers: Magia Prodigy, Loki, Pavka, Jade Mugisha