‘Out of Asia 2’ promises no dancing around the pointe

Out of Asia 2
SoftMachine: XiaoKe & ZiHan. Photo by Law Kian Yan

‘Out of Asia 2’ delves into state of contemporary arts in the Far East.

WHEN Singaporean artist and performance maker Choy Ka Fai first saw a promotional video for Sadler’s Wells’ inaugural ‘Out of Asia’ season in 2011, he labelled it “one-dimensional”. “Who are you to tell me what is interesting, what is the future of contemporary dance in Asia?” Choy has said, of his reaction to the showcase of modern dance forms in the region.

This response prompted Choy to create SoftMachine, a multimedia project that follows dance makers in five Asian countries to address the often exoticised surface of contemporary dance in the region and attempting to look beyond it.

When it came time to curate Sadler’s Wells’ second Out of Asia season, Choy’s criticism and the subsequent success of SoftMachine might have sent the weaker-willed running in the opposite direction. But artistic programmer Eva Martinez says such agenda-setting projects, and strong voices, were key to taking ‘Out of Asia 2’ a little deeper than its predecessor.

“I think he had a valid point… though Choy was probably a bit surprised himself when I emailed him,” she says. “We wanted to put more of a focus on independent artists… I was also particularly interested in someone from Asia wanting to be part of the conversation around how we showcase the region.”

Choy’s work anchors a fresh new programme of work by established and emerging companies across Asia; including a UK premiere from Beijingbased TAO Dance Theatre to open the season and the National Ballet of China’s performance of The Peony Pavilion to close it. SoftMachine appears first as a free exhibition across Sadler’s Wells’ public spaces, featuring documentary footage of dance makers in five countries.

Two double-bill performances showcase the work of contemporary dancers from India and China, and Japan and Indonesia. Choy will also lead Inside Asia, a series of specially curated talks throughout the season that Eva hopes will create space for debate around exoticism within the arts. “I don’t want people to feel bad, or create a sense of blame, we have a very sophisticated audience who exist within a very multicultural society and it seemed restrictive not to create space for those conversations.

“I think in a post-Brexit society, these questions of what it means to belong somewhere are extremely relevant beyond Asia and I hope this programme contributes to that conversation.”

‘Out of Asia 2’ is on at Sadler’s Wells Theatre from 3 October until 3 December. sadlerswells.com/outofasia2