Arts bridge East and West in Singapore festival

Mon May 18, 2009 1:53pm EDT
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By Candida Ng

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - East is East and West is West? Not at Singapore's annual arts festival, where cross-cultural collaboration is taking center stage.

The month-long event is an initiative aimed at promoting the arts to the increasingly globalised masses, whose appetite for fusion performances is growing.

"The West is recognizing there is a lot of richness in the East. In terms of cultural power, things are now less one-sided," explained Audrey Wong, artistic co-director of The Substation, an independent arts center.

Leading the East-meets-West drive is Sutra, a breathtaking spectacle featuring Shaolin warrior monks choreographed by a Belgian artist.

Combining elements of martial arts and dance, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui created the concept together with the monks during his spiritual retreat to their temple in China two years ago.

"They were very open to expressing their philosophy, their lives in other ways... We tried to be respectful to Shaolin and bring it forward to something contemporary," said Cherkaoui, who is of Flemish-Moroccan descent.

Besides Sutra, art-lovers will be treated to a Chinese reworking of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's classic, "The Cherry Orchard," and a French-choreographed dance inspired by tangram, an ancient Chinese puzzle game, called "Les Sept Planches de la Ruse."

Crossing boundaries of a different sort is Etiquette, where the line between the performers and audience is blurred, or rather does not exist.   Continued...

<p>A member of arts troupe La Compagnie Malabar of France, suspended from a 9m tall replica of an insect, performs during their piece "Helios II" in Singapore May 16, 2009. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash</p>