Fresh from being a mentor to Norhaizad Adam for Sprouts 5th Edition competition, KRC recently caught up with Zaini to get his insights about the local dance scene as well as his work with NUS Dance Ensemble. The following is an email interview.
What is your role as a mentor to Norhaizad for Sprouts?
I feel that it would take much more dialogue to bridge the gap I mentioned above. I’m not sure exactly how or if this can be achieved. I wish that we could address this…find a way to tie together our issues which are universal, urban and modern, with a vocab that is modern and yet retain our traditional souls.
Coming back to my journey with Norhaizad, it was a great experience because we come from different worlds – traditional and contemporary. Perhaps SPROUTS should look at intentionally pairing their choreographers with mentors who provide this sharp contrast. It also helped that we did not know each other prior to SPROUTS. This meant that we didn’t have to hold back from being open, from asking the uncomfortable questions that needed to be asked.
Any advice for anyone who is thinking about a career in dance as well as a choreographer?
Developing your own dance vocab is the third thing you’ll need. It’s not about creating impact. Many dancers/choreographers nowadays are influenced by trendy moves/styles. But this makes them simply followers.
We celebrated our 20th anniversary two years ago by collaborating with two universities in the Philippines. Looking forward, we plan to continue pursuing work with like-minded universities in South-East Asia. I’m confident that we’ve grown up enough to branch out and work with others to create a South-East Asian voice. As I’ve mentioned, Singapore is so unique because it is at the crossroads geographically and culturally. I would like to see Singapore (and Dance Ensemble) become a place of incubation for choreographers intent on pursuing their art.
Zaini Mohammad Tahir is the Founder, Resident Choreographer and Artistic Director of NUS Dance Ensemble since 1992, he has led the company of over 120 dancers to garner acclaim and establish itself as a contemporary dance company with strong Asian roots, whose promise is evident in their annual concerts, Next Wave (1995-2013) and Evocation (2002-2013).
He is also the Associate Artistic Director of The Republic Cultural Centre (TRCC) at the Republic Polytechnic where he oversees the creative development of 24 performing arts groups. He is also the Artistic Director of Republic Polytechnic’s dance festival, Momentum (2008-2013) and Reflections (2008-2013), its annual Community Arts Festival.
The author would like to thank Zaini for his time, NUS Dance Ensemble for providing the photograph taken by Jingkai Kuang and Sirius Art PR for making the necessary arrangements.