Joavien Ng, dancer, choreographer, but more importantly, artist is making her comeback after 3 years! Incarnation of the Beast is her comeback to dance and the stage after her supposed swan-song in 2012 and will feature 9 different artist/performers as they seek to discover the beast within themselves. We were lucky enough to have a little chat with her regarding her comeback as well as the inspiration and creative process behind Incarnation of the Beast. Be warned, this was not the sort of the chat that lasted a few polite lines but rather an incredible story was told!
First off, how Incarnation of the Beast came about. As was previously mentioned, her 2012 performance was at that time what she assumed to be her swan song. “In 2012, I made ‘a Life performance’, in which I created a utopia. I seriously believed that would be the last time [that] I [would] create and perform, which would be an end to my artistic journey.” Yet this was not an easy decision and certainly not because retirement was a luxury or that she felt there was nothing left for her to contribute. Rather, “at that time, my pessimism towards contemporary dance and the industry was at its peak, coupled with the unexpected death of a friend and losing my resident rights to keep my home of 10 years at Seletar Airbase.”
One can see just how much dance meant to her as an art form and as a medium of expression from her decision to stop dance. “I stopped talking about dance. I wanted to forget dance.” Interestingly, it was only dance that she dropped. “I contacted other artist friends to involve me in any other artistic expressions. I wanted to do something else to fuel my creativity. I wanted to paint, sing, act or do anything but dance.” I’m sure that anyone who has gotten their heart broken or been disappointed by something that they truly and sincerely loved or cared about would understand. For her, to stop dancing was her “attempt to find this utopia that I have created on stage in my own life.” This was truly a noble and brave decision and for that we can only salute her and hope that we too can possess the courage to make difficult decisions.
The idea for Incarnation of the Beast would come in drips and draps and the first inspiration for it came in 2013. “Ong Keng Sen (TheatreWorks’ Artistic Director, who is on a leave of absence) spoke to me and asked if I would like to create a new work. I answered him with a firm ‘yes’. He asked me to send him a proposal.” From this, she began to piece together the idea but it was a little like finding your way from an abyss, you simply have to feel your way around. “The only thing I knew was that I wanted the revelation of the work to be organic. And that it has to look for me and not the other way around. So I started documenting my random thoughts, events or occasions I was in, websites that I visited, collecting articles, music, movies or news that caught my attention. I did this for possibly three or four months before I conceptualise this new work.” This would slowly evolve to a visual picture of “a congregation of people. They wore strange masks which prevented me from seeing any faces. They seemed to be discussing something without the use of words. I was very drawn into it. I wanted to know their conversations, but I felt awkward to intrude. Nevertheless, I watched them from afar and was mesmerised by their mysterious yet hauntingly beautiful presence. Then, I heard Mozart’s Requiem.”
Next is how the 9 were selected to be a part of this! She didn’t have anyone in mind, as she said it was “a congregation of people… [who] wore strange masks” so to find these people, she held an open call. “I was looking for people who have little or no performance history in their bodies. I love to work with ordinary bodies…The other thing I was looking for were people whom I had a connection with at the audition. It could be just an instinctive feeling, or if I could connect with their stories. So during the audition, they shared their stories and we had conversations. I selected them not by what was written on each resume, but based on pure instinct and gut feeling.” This revelation should get you excited for Incarnation of the Beast as it will be her art on display, the 9 are her brushes and her paint, but ultimately, it is what the artist does that makes the art great.
Incarnation of the Beast was a highly collaborative work, by the simple limitation that “this work uses their body, not mine [Joavien]” Before we begin, let it be known that despite this being an open call, the dedication and hard work is incomparable, “two months of intensive rehearsals, six days a week and eight hours a day and with nine people.” It started with solo rehearsals “where I had a chance to know each performer better. They were asked to propose their individual ideas in movement in response to certain tasks or questions I post to them, e.g. make a choreography of a ritual they do. Sometimes, we created material based on their personal sharing of their life stories.” What made rehearsals exciting is also why artists love to collaborate with one another (from Drake with Future to Chet Faker and Flume, etc) in moments of pure magic, something unexpected could be created. “After two weeks of solo rehearsals, we then embarked on group rehearsals. It was in these sessions where I started crafting various scenes for the work.”
Incarnation of the Beast will be staged from 15-17 October, an incredibly limited time only, so get your tickets now!
To book your tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 6737-7213.
*Concession applies to Students and Senior Citizens 62 years old and above.