Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Waiting"...Terence Then

Throughout history, artists have been the catalysts for social progress. They are the free-thinkers, whose minds are liberated from the box of conformity and limitation. Singaporean choreographer, Terence Then, is a good example of an artist using his craft to initiate change and progress. I had the great pleasure of chatting with Terence about his project "Waiting," which was a collaborative effort with INVADERfilms, a local video production unit. While the narrative structure of this piece is simple and relatable, I found that Terence's artistic goals as a choreographer are broad and expansive. I am anticipating great things from this young talent, who, far from waiting, is actively promoting change through his art.

MUSICALITY: Terence is blessed with a very sensitive ear when it comes to hearing subtle details in a track. Whether its the incidental guitar riff being synthesized into a quick footwork sequence(1:06-1:08) or the kick-drum/high-hat combo accents at(1:27-1:29), Terence has a keen way of translating musical elements into visual lines and movements. When I asked him about his relationship to the music that inspires him, he said, "Most of the time the music inspires me. I will find the music first mainly for in-class choreography. But when it comes to concerts and productions, I will think of the concept that I want to portray first, then find a song that will help portray the concept the way I want it to be. Before I choreograph I would always listen to the song many, many, many times over and get the feeling, the layers, the rhythm, the lyrics and create pictures in my head on how I want to portray it before I actually start on choreographing it." With this in mind, it is really no surprise that Terence's choreography is so intrinsically connected to the beat, melody, and breath of the music.

DANCER SYNC: Terence is a very well respected member of the Singaporean dance community, due in large part to his insistence that the movement fit the dancer, not vice versa. With that being said, I found it interesting when he said, "I feel it is VERY important for a dance to portray EXACTLY what you want it to be as a choreographer. I used to think that a dance must have fancy moves of difficult execution for it to be good. However, over time and experience, I realized that what is the most important, is the portrayal of how the music makes you feel. Therefore, in every piece that I create, it is largely based on how the music makes me (or the dancer) feel, or a message that I wanna bring across, not through words but by my body language." In other words, for Terence, the idea of "dancer sync" is two-fold. Not only does he seek to find movement that fits the dancer physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And to this end, Terence has a very open-minded approach as to the constitution of genre. Instead of excluding movement choices that might be outside the traditional norm of hip hop vocabulary, Terence actively looks to other genres (ie modern, contemporary, tap) for inspiration. He explained, "there isn't any genre of dance better than another. Dance is movement and we should respect all forms of dance. Dance is like Lego, it doesn't matter what color the Lego pieces are, you are still able to build an amazing Lego structure with many many different pieces and colors of Lego blocks."

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: The structure of this piece follows a classical journey of discovery. We see the everyman engaged in the most banal, wasteful gluttony, and then the channel-changer is brought into focus as a symbol of initiating shift in perspective. The choreographed portion of the video then reveals the inner monologue of the central character, as he struggles with the responsibility that social consciousness engenders. The arc of the journey is complete when we see the protagonist's final choice and resolution. When I asked about the film's potential for biographic interpretation, Terence replied, "There will always be stereotypes that will see things the way how the majority sees it. But i can only say that dance changed my life. It changed me into a better person, it gave me purpose, it gave me life, it gave me meaning to why I wake up everyday. I have personally seen dance heal a person's soul, I have seen dance create unbreakable bonds and families. Dance is and will forever be AMAZING to me and I hope the people who think otherwise try harder to understand the art, because dance is so much more than just dance. It's bigger than that." Upon each multiple viewing of Terence's work, I felt increasingly connected to his mission of social change through dance. That his motives are so altruistic and pure, makes him a unique and powerful choreographic voice for the next generation.

KUDOS to Terence applying his gifts and talents to the greater good, he is an excellent role model and sets a stellar example for others to follow.

P.S. Terence also had this special advice for aspiring choreographers, who are looking to make their mark on the dance world..."I've always tried to be myself as much as I can. I believe that is very important as a dancer and choreographer, to be yourself, to have an identity you can call your own. I do not watch alot of YouTube so I would not be influenced in my creation of pieces. I wish through my art, that I get to inspire people to be themselves and not follow in the footsteps of someone else just because the trend is there. I wish I get to share all the knowledge I have as a dancer and as a person to all my students I really hope one day they are able to be a better teacher and dancer than me. I have learnt alot from my teachers when I started dance at 18 and now that I'm a teacher, I would want to give back even MORE than what I have learnt from my amazing teachers."

If you care to watch more of Terence's work, please visit Terence on YouTube.

No comments:

Post a Comment