Festival of Dance

by Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman

The Festival of Dance was first held in 1982 as a platform to showcase dance practitioners and choreographers, and endear Singaporeans to dance as an art form.1 In 1993, the dance festival was subsumed under a bigger performing arts congregation known as the Festival of Asian Performing Arts, which in turn merged with the Singapore Festival of Arts in 1999 to become the Singapore Arts Festival.2

Background
A growing local interest in dance in Singapore led the National Theatre Trust (NTT), with the support of the Ministry of Culture, to propose organising a dance festival in Singapore.3 In 1981, the NTT announced plans for Singapore’s inaugural dance festival to be held in March 1982.4 The event aimed to encourage the creation of new dance forms and to provide a platform for local choreographers, dancers and musicians to stage their new works.5


The first Festival of Dance was held from 20 to 24 March 1982 at the Victoria Theatre.6 The debut festival brought together local dance talent and stimulated interest in dance as an art form in Singapore.7

Description
The types of dance showcased at the inaugural Festival of Dance were dance drama, ethnic dance and ballet (both classical and modern).8 The festival focused on original works9 and did not schedule heats prior to the event nor selected winners during the festival, hence attracting both amateur and professional groups.10 Except for 1982 and 1983 when the Festival of Dance was held in consecutive years, it was held biannually, alternating with the Festival of Arts.11

As the Festival of Dance moved into its subsequent editions, the organisers added an international flavour to the predominantly local acts by inviting foreign troupes. These included Judith Marcuse Dance Company from Canada and John Wey Ling’s Ballet Gala with Han Ballet from Hong Kong. In the fifth edition of the festival in 1989, the organisers – Ministry of Community Development and NTT – attempted to imbue greater professionalism and showcase more polished items by doing away with the previous practice of holding auditions to select performers. Instead, they commissioned local accomplished choreographers and promising dance troupes to create their own works.12

The Festival of Dance made another appearance in 1991 as the Singapore Dance Festival before it was subsumed under the Festival of Asian Performing Arts. The move was made because of the need to streamline arts programmes and activities in Singapore. Spearheaded by the National Arts Council, the Festival of Asian Performing Arts was launched in November 1993 to incorporate the Drama Festival, Singapore Dance Festival, Music Festival and the Traditional Theatre Festival.13

The Festival of Asian Performing Arts aimed to promote ethnic and modern Asian arts with a focus on the art forms of Singapore’s ethnic communities. The festival targeted both local and foreign performing groups, and also welcomed performances that were a fusion of Eastern and Western cultures.14 In 1999, the Festival of Asian Performing Arts and the Singapore Festival of Arts merged to form the Singapore Arts Festival.15



Authors

Nor-Afidah A. Rahman & Nureza Ahmad



References

1. Lim, M. (1982, March 9). Singapore’s first festival of danceThe Straits Times, p. 1De Souza, J. (1982, February 26). Five-day music festival of ethnic and modern danceThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. National Arts Council. (2017, February 16). About us: Milestones. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/aboutus/milestone.html; Oon, C. (2013, November 11). Big names to take stage at revamped arts festivalThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lim, M. (1982, March 9). Singapore’s first festival of danceThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
4. Walker, P. (1981, October 4). A very exciting prospect for both dancers and dance-loversThe Straits Times, p. 3Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Lim, M. (1982, March 9). Singapore’s first festival of danceThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lim, M. (1982, March 9). Singapore’s first festival of danceThe Straits Times, p. 1; De Souza, J. (1982, February 26). Five-day music festival of ethnic and modern danceThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Walker, P. (1981, October 4). A very exciting prospect for both dancers and dance-loversThe Straits Times, p. 3Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Lim, M. (1982, March 9). Singapore’s first festival of danceThe Straits Times, p. 1; De Souza, J. (1982, February 26). Five-day music festival of ethnic and modern danceThe Straits Times, p. 3; Walker, P. (1981, October 4). A very exciting prospect for both dancers and dance-loversThe Straits Times, p. 3Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Lim, M. (1982, March 9). Singapore’s first festival of danceThe Straits Times, p. 1De Souza, J. (1982, February 26). Five-day music festival of ethnic and modern danceThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Walker, P. (1981, October 4). A very exciting prospect for both dancers and dance-loversThe Straits Times, p. 3Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Lui, J. (1993, January 10). Asian performing arts festival to replace four smaller eventsThe Straits Times, p. 24; Bigger and better festival this year. (1983, April 10).  The Straits Times, p. 5; Dance festival starts on fairy-tale note. (1985, December 1). The Straits Times, p. 16; Dance festival to go outdoors this year. (1987, May 11). The Straits Times, p. 1; Tan, C. (1989, November 4). Stage set for modern and ethnic dancersThe Straits Times, p. 30; Khor, C. (1991, December 20). Good stuff all round. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, C. (1989, November 4). Stage set for modern and ethnic dancersThe Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Lui, J. (1993, January 10). Asian performing arts festival to replace four smaller eventsThe Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Lui, J. (1993, January 10). Asian performing arts festival to replace four smaller eventsThe Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. National Arts Council. (2017, February 16). About us: Milestones. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/aboutus/milestone.html



The information in this article is valid as at October 2020 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
Dance festivals--Singapore
Dance
Law and government>>Culture and community>>Arts
Arts>>Dance
National campaigns
Events>>National Campaigns
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Dance