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Singapore a "pocket of creativity" for choreographer

Choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull describes her time developing a new dance work as choreographer in residence at Singapore's The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company. Sarah, who travelled to Singapore with family members – including her new-born baby – was supported to attend the residency by the Asia New Zealand Foundation and Creative New Zealand.

Can you say what attracted you to doing the residency?

Singapore is a fascinating destination and I was craving to understand more about the contemporary dance in that region. In addition, I was aware of T.H.E.’s work and interested in the processes and people involved with the company.

When the opportunity was advertised, I leapt at the chance to get to know more about them and their work, as well as showcase my own work in Singapore.

A group of dancers on stage

Can you describe the work you created at T.H.E and the process of creating it?

I collaborated with a group of 11 talented dancers in the T.H.E. Second Company to construct a work looking at the idea of migration.

This was approached through a re-visioning of migration to look at magnetising the body towards and away from another person/s. It looked at relationships between people and the tensions built as well as dissipated.

How was the performance you developed in Singapore received?

The work was received exceptionally well; I was really thrilled with the outcome.

In the construction of the work, I went to Singapore twice, once for an initial development period and then again to get the work into the theatre. On my first trip I had a 6 week old baby, so as you can imagine it was a very ‘full’ experience!

What was it like having your family with you?

I was caring for Roman [Sarah's newborn baby] when I wasn’t choreographing.

Our days were full of new adventures, both in a new country and with a new baby. We were staying in Geylang, which is well known for it’s local foods, so we tried as many new things as possible.

Sarah Foster Sproull feeding her baby with her seven-year-old daughter behind her

On my second trip my husband and 7 year old daughter couldn’t travel because of work and school commitments, so my mother came with me and looked after Roman while I spent time staging the work.

I was very lucky to have the support of my family, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to undertake the opportunity.

As an artist and mother, it is really important to me to maintain my practice alongside raising my children, as this is the reality of how they are being raised.

Raising kids within the arts requires a tremendous amount of negotiation, flexibility, and patience, but it is important that my kids to grow up in a world filled with art in all its messy glory. A world filled with creativity, connection, lateral thinking, and glorious people.

Can you discuss the value of the residency?

The value was very much centred on the ability for me to meet and work with Swee Boon, Silvia, and the T.H.E. family, and present my work on an international platform.

This was tremendously valuable for me, and has established relationships that I intend to build upon in the next two years as CNZ’s 2017-2019 Choreographic Fellow.

What was the highlight of your time in Singapore?

The highlight was making the work and meeting the dancers in such a beautiful and well supported environment.

Sarah Foster Sproull and a group of students sitting in a circle in a dance studio

I feel that I made a bunch of new friends, and discovered an awesome pocket of creativity within the wide world of international dance.

My world was broadened through this experience, and my sincere thanks go to the Asia New Zealand Foundation, and Creative New Zealand for this opportunity. 

In July, Sarah was awarded $100,000 2017 Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship to collaborate with international dance companies and develop a new Auckland-based company for dance graduates.

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6 September 2017