NZ choreographer collaborates
on trans-water art odyssey

We chatted with director of contemporary dance/film production company Daniel Belton about the two weeks he spent in Singapore collaborating with Arts Fission dance company on a new body of work titled Project Search 8 Immortals - a Trans-water Art Odyssey

Can you describe the project you were working on in Singapore?

I was invited by Angela Liong, artistic director of Arts Fission, to join a group of collaborators that would begin research towards Project Search 8 Immortals - a Trans-water Art Odyssey.

Inspired by the popular Chinese folk legend of the 8 Immortals, the multidisciplinary project aims to explore the impact of our world in flux on everyday life framed by cultural identities as well as collective memory loss in the evolving urbanscape and the despoliation of nature.

daniel standing with other members of the arts dance company in Singapore

Daniel (far left) with members of Arts Fission dance company

What's is Arts Fission?

Arts Fission is the longest running incorporated contemporary dance company in Singapore. The company has gathered a diverse and groundbreaking dance-making track record, under the direction of Cultural Medallion recipient Angela Liong.

Arts Fission taps the pulses of new Asia through its creation of original dance works and outreach projects that are informed by Asian aesthetics, cultures and heritage. The company often finds its creative impetus on topical themes like rapid urban changes that affect irretrievable cultural and environmental losses in our times.

Many of their dance works are collaborative in nature, including working with composers and musicians, visual and new media artists, designers and film makers. They have pioneered site-specific dance performance in Singapore, and are still the leading force in extending dance performance beyond the confine of conventional stage.

What was your role in the production?

The residency was a two-week intensive with daily sessions at Arts Fission's studio.

I was able to focus with the dancers on developing movement ideas that related to the concepts Angela Liong was provoking in her initial project brief.

I made sound recordings and three site-specific film sessions were conducted with the dancers.  These early test studies of the filmed dancers along with our motion graphics and sound have established a foundation, and opened a new dialogue.

The film studies show the development of a movement vocabulary that aligns the performer to both geometric space and nature.

 Were you pleased with what you produced in Singapore?

Yes. The company and the process of collaboration with the dancers was especially fruitful and exciting ideas were seeded with the creative team of Joyce Beetuan Koh, Jen Ehr, Jeremy Chua and Angela Liong.

I was particularly inspired by working in the studio again with this talented group.

Black and white picture of dancer holding stick

Daniel: "We are story telling beings. We inspire each other, share our stories and learn from one another."

Where does the project go from here? 

Angela Liong's vision for the project is that it grows a network of international arts collaborators including scientists.

I hope this exciting project and the work achieved so far will be developed further in the near future towards public outcomes for digital and performance installations that connect across cultures with new technology.

Why do you think opportunities to collaborate with overseas/Asian companies is important for a New Zealand practitioner?
It is so important that cultural collaboration – the sharing of skills and ideas continues to be supported between countries. We are story telling beings. We inspire each other, share our stories and learn from one another.

Did you enjoy spending time in Singapore?

I love the warm rain in Singapore, the Dragonflies and Butterflies, the tropical plants and trees, the heat in the Sun and the light. The arts community in Singapore have been really supportive, generous and welcoming.

Daniel Belton is an Art Foundation Laureate Award winner and director of production company Good Company Arts. An acclaimed performer and choreographer, Belton has worked to build networks and relationships in Asia over the past five years. It is envisaged that this would be the first step of a multi-stage collaboration that will span 3 years, and result in various public and published outcomes internationally.