Lim Fei Shen



Lim Fei Shen (b. 1945, Singapore–)1 is a modern dance pioneer in Singapore. Both a dancer and a choreographer, Lee has produced works that show a creative blend of Western and Asian influences. She is also known for her multidisciplinary projects that involve different genres of art as well as artists from different disciplines. For her contributions to modern dance, Lim was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Dance in 1988.2

Early life and career

Lim studied at Nan Chiau High School. She was a quiet student but her teachers encouraged her to take part in various sports and cultural activities. Lim enjoyed dancing in particular. Through the extracurricular activities, Lim got to know Huang Qiu Tan from the Singapore Amateur Players (now known as the Arts Theatre of Singapore), who pointed out to her father that she had a talent for dance. Lim then went on to learn ballet at the age of 16 at the Singapore Ballet Academy. Her classmates at the Academy included Goh Soo Khim and the late Goh Choo San, both of whom would later become renowned dancers and choreographers.3

After her graduation from senior high school, Lim’s parents wanted her to go to university. However, Lim wanted to study dance overseas.4 She left for Germany and studied music and theatre at the Folkwang Hochschule under the direction of Kurt Jooss, a famous German ballet dancer and choreographer.5 She graduated in 1969, finishing the four-year programme in two-and-a-half years.6

Upon her return to Singapore, Lim could not find work as a dancer. Thus she left for Hong Kong to work as a choreographer for Television Broadcasts Ltd. (TVB) from 1969 to 1970.7

In the 1960s and 1970s, the performing arts scene in Singapore was in its infancy. There were few opportunities for a trained modern dancer like Lim who wished to pursue an artistic career in dance.8 So when Lim returned to Singapore in 1970, she turned to commercial entertainment organisations for work. Lim worked as a choreographer for different entertainment related organisations such as the Neptune Theatre Restaurant, Hai Yen Ge Ju Yuan and Fan Ya Dance Troupe.9 Seeking to improve herself, she returned to Europe in 1978 to learn jazz dance.10

Lim’s hard work, persistence and talent did not go unnoticed. In 1980, she was appointed as choreographer and dance instructor of the National Theatre Trust. Subsequently, in 1985, Lim went on to become the artistic coordinator and senior choreographer of the People's Association Dance Company.11

In the early 1990s, Lim decided to pursue further studies in dance. She left for New York and graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1992.12

From 1995 onwards, Lim has served as adjunct lecturer at the National Institute of Education’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, and at the National University of Singapore’s Theatre Studies Programme.13

In 2002, Lim joined the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts as a senior lecturer with the Department of Dance where she continues her passion for dance through teaching and mentoring a younger generation of dancers.14

Artistic career
Lim started her formal dance training when she was 16 years old. Subsequently, she went to Germany for further dance studies and was trained in modern dance and classical ballet. While in Germany, she danced with the Essen Opera.15

Though Lim had no opportunities upon her return to Singapore to work as a professional modern or ballet dancer, she did not give up. While working in the various commercial entertainment organisations, Lim chose to use what she had learned in a different way.16 During her time with the National Theatre Trust, she choreographed, danced and also conducted dance classes.17

As the artistic coordinator and senior choreographer of the People’s Association Dance Company, her works ranged from working on cha-cha style numbers for roadshows to modern dance performances.18 Under her leadership, the company became the first Singapore dance company to perform at the Maison des Cultures du Monde in Paris, France, where they received good reviews. Three of Lim’s works were performed: Xi Fang Ping, Tang Huang and Si Chong Zhou.19

In 1985, Lim was commissioned by the former Ministry of Community Development to choreograph a dance for the Asean Festival of Performing Arts. Together with Singapore’s multidisciplinary artist Tan Swie Hian, she co-produced a dance production called Tang Huang (A Glimpse), which was an Eastern version of Don Juan based on a story by Tan.20

A watershed period in Lim’s career was her time in New York when she was pursuing her master’s degree. The sabbatical affirmed her lifelong passion for dance. She gave many solo performances at the Tisch School of the Arts and the La Mama Theatre, a venue noted for showcasing experimental works.21

Upon her return to Singapore in the mid-1990s, Lim continued with her passion for dance through performing, choreographing and teaching at various institutes. Her notable works during this period include the critically acclaimed Homecoming series of performances.22

Stylistic conventions
A distinctive feature of Lim’s choreographed works is the fusion of Western and Asian cultures both in terms of content and techniques.23 For example, cimo-cimo, a folk dance for social gatherings created by Lim when she was a choreographer with the People's Association Dance Company, incorporated traditional Malay joget hand movements, minuette formation and tiptoe steps.24


Chinese classics, such as Liao Zhai Zhi Yi (Strange Tales from a Lonely Studio)25 and Wu Xing, the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, earth found in Chinese philosophy, served as inspirations for some of her works.26

Another distinctive characteristic of Lim’s works is her interest in exploring and creating unique contemporary works through multidisciplinary collaborations.27 Artists she has collaborated with include composers Phoon Yew Tien, musician John Sharpley, as well as multidisciplinary artist Tan Swee Hian.28

An example of Lim’s multidisciplinary work is Homecoming: A Journey into the Space Within (1994), which blended live music and the visual arts. Lim performed her dance in a calligraphy museum where artist Ng Yak Whee had designed an installation. In conjunction with Lim’s performance, musician Sharpley played hybrid music that incorporated instruments such as the Balinese tingklik, a wooden xylophone, and the saron, an Indonesian musical instrument used in the gamelan.29

Lim sees herself as more an artist working with body movements rather than a dancer in the traditional sense. In her works, she prefers a more abstract form of expression.30 For her, a good dance is one that stirs the heart and mind of the audience.31

Awards32
1988: Cultural Medallion for Dance.


List of selected works33
1992: Eddies.
1993: A Dance Through the Fire.
1993: Garden of Earthly Delight.
1994: Homecoming: A Journey into the Space Within.
1995: Broken Birds.
1996: My Body, My Choice.
1996: Homecoming II.
1997: River People.
1998: StairWaltz.
1998: Prayer.
1999: Earth and Matter.
2000: Strange Attractor.

Appointments34
1995: Arts resource member for the National Arts Council.

2000: Arts consultant for The Necessary Stage.


Author
Chor Poh Chin


References
1. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 307. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
2. National Arts Council Singapore. (2012). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Dance. Retrieved from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/dance/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-dance
3. 陈传成 & 林弘谕 [Chen, C. C. & Lin, H. Y.]. (1994, September 4). 足尖下的世界 [Zu jian xia de shi jie]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 57;
文化奖得主林飞仙曾在海皇编艳舞 [Wen hua jiang de zhu Lin Fei Xian ceng zai Hai Huang bian yan wu]. (2007, October 16). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4.
陈传成 & 林弘谕 [Chen, C. C. & Lin, H. Y.]. (1994, September 4). 足尖下的世界 [Zu jian xia de shi jie]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5.
Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. (2014). Our people - Lim Fei Shen. Retrieved from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts website: http://www.nafa.edu.sg/OurPeople/AcademicDirectory/DepartmentOfDance/LimFeiShen.html
6.
陈传成 & 林弘谕 [Chen, C. C. & Lin, H. Y.]. (1994, September 4). 足尖下的世界 [Zu jian xia de shi jie]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7.
Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts. (2011). Performing artist – Lim Fei Shen.Retrieved from http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/artist_biography.aspx?id=47
8.
潘正镭 & 李白娟 [Pan, Z. L. & Li, B. J.]. (1994, July 6). 林飞仙离校回家 [Lin Fei Xian li xiao hui jia]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9.
林飞仙简介 [Lin Fei Xian jian jie]. (1994, September 4). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 58. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10.
许彩苹 [Xu, C. P.]. (1981, July 26). 美的升华·艺的结晶·访浪漫的舞者林飞仙 [Mei de sheng hua yi de jie jing fang lang man de wu zhe Lin Fei Xian]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11.
Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts. (2011). Performing artist – Lim Fei Shen. Retrieved from http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/artist_biography.aspx?id=47
12. Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts. (2011). Performing artist – Lim Fei Shen. Retrieved from http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/artist_biography.aspx?id=47
13.
Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts. (2011). Performing artist – Lim Fei Shen. Retrieved from http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/artist_biography.aspx?id=47
14.
Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts. (2011). Performing artist – Lim Fei Shen. Retrieved from http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/artist_biography.aspx?id=47
15.
Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts. (2011). Performing artist – Lim Fei Shen. Retrieved from http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/artist_biography.aspx?id=47
16.
陈传成 & 林弘谕 [Chen, C. C. & Lin, H. Y.]. (1994, September 4). 足尖下的世界 [Zu jian xia de shi jie]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
国家剧场下月开办现代爵士芭蕾舞课程请林飞仙主持 [Guo Jia Ju Chang xia yue kai ban xian dai jue shi ba lei wu ke cheng qing Lin Fei Xian zhu chi]. (1980, March 17). 新洲日报 [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Woman behind Cimo-Cimo. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. 黄玉云 [Huang, Y. Y.]. (1988, June 7). 喝采声中舞出一个春天来 [He cai sheng zhong wu chu yi ge chun tian lai]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
A choreographer’s not a know-all. (1985, October 24). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, S. T. (1985, October 24). Artists hope dance will be breakthrough. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 吴启基 [Wu, Q. J.]. (1985, October 14). 舞之飨宴 [Wu zhi xiang yan]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
22.
Wong, P. S. (1996, September 20). Dance pioneer simplifies her steps to draw in her audience. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
24. Tan, J. (1988, October 20). Swing to the beat of cimo-cimo. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25.
黄玉云 [Huang, Y. Y.]. (1988, June 7). 喝采声中舞出一个春天来 [He cai sheng zhong wu chu yi ge chun tian lai]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26.
霍月伟 [Huo, Y. W.]. (1989, November 21). 以形出发以意归结 [Yi xing chu fa yi yi gui jie]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 307. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
28.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
29.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR); Wong, P. S. (1996, September 20). Dance pioneer simplifies her steps to draw in her audience. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30.
Wong, P. S. (1996, September 20). Dance pioneer simplifies her steps to draw in her audience. The Straits Times, p. 18; 本著名舞蹈家林飞仙探讨人体的美 [Ben di zhu ming wu dao jia Lin Fei Xian tan tao ren ti de mei]. (1996, May 27). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31.
陈传成 & 林弘谕 [Chen, C. C. & Lin, H. Y.]. (1994, September 4). 足尖下的世界 [Zu jian xia de shi jie]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32.
National Arts Council Singapore. (2012). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Dance. Retrieved from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/dance/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-dance
33.
Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts. (2011). Performing artist – Lim Fei Shen. Retrieved from http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/artist_biography.aspx?id=47
34.
Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts. (2011). Performing artist – Lim Fei Shen. Retrieved from http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/artist_biography.aspx?id=47



The information in this article is valid as at 18 February 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Personalities
Arts