Dance, Talk/Workshop

Failing the Dance: A Double Bill of Lecture-Performances

Organised by: Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay
Performed by: Soultari Amin Farid & Nirmala Seshadri
  • Date:
    24 - 31 Oct 2020
  • Time:
    Premieres on 24 Oct, Sat, 8:00pm
    (Available online until 31 Oct, Sat, 11:59pm)
  • Duration:
    1h 40min
  • Venue:
    SISTIC Live
  • Language:
  • Admission:
  • Advisory:
    Recommended for age 13 and above.


Examining gender roles and cultural custodianship in their respective disciplines, two practitioner-researchers attempt to resolve their ambivalent relationships with their dance forms. Soultari Amin Farid and Nirmala Seshadri revisit their personal histories with Malay dance and bharatanatyam. How have they failed their dance disciplines? How have these forms failed them?

This double-bill features two hybrid performances that blend lecture, dance and video, developed from their collaborative research through Dance Nucleus' Associate Membership Programme and their work-in-progress showcases at the 5th Asia Network for Dance (AND+) meeting. Each performance comes with supporting essays, images and interesting data made available before the performance and ends with an open discussion with the artists.

Amidst the fluid swinging of arms, careful lifting of feet, intricate articulation of fingers, and subtle swaying of hips, male and female Malay dancers are bashful in the lenggang as they contain their excitement of meeting a potential life partner.

In Pok!, Amin performs this courtship dance alone, removing the need to embody the gender expectations placed upon him. To find his own lenggang, he first has to confront bapok both as a derogatory word and a term of endearment for an effeminate Malay man.

The Problematic Danseuse
"It is understood that the danseuse should be very lovely, young, with full round breasts, self-confident, charming, agreeable, dexterous in handling the critical passages, with wide-open eyes, adorned with costly jewels, with a charming lotus-face, neither very stout nor very thin, nor very tall nor very short." She then stands up with the awareness of an imperfect body, walks slowly to the margin and sits at the desk.

Carried within her bharatanatyam body are memories of marginalisation and censorship, plagued by hegemonic and patriarchal issues. In The Problematic Danseuse, Nirmala Seshadri grapples with the classical dance, one that she has known for almost 50 years.


Creative team
Artists - Nirmala Seshadri & Soultari Amin Farid
Dramaturg - Daniel Kok
Multimedia and Sound Artist - Mervin Wong
Filmmaker & Editor - Charmaine Poh
Director of Photography - Jeremy Ho
Project Management - Bhumi Collective
Creation Support - Dance Nucleus

Failing the Dance: A Double Bill of Lecture-Performances