Stories > Vive La Singapore!

2015 • Issue 1

Vive La Singapore!

Frontier Danceland, a contemporary dance company collaborates with French Laotian choreographer Ole Khamchanla to present Akalika 7 that explores human psychology.

Singapore arts is on its way to making a splash in France with Singapour En France – Le Festival (Singapore Festival in France), a showcase of cross-cultural exchange and collaboration at its very best.

By Jane Lee



oon, the French will be able to feast on a spread of Singapore arts in a tie-up between the two countries. Singapour En France – Le Festival (Singapore Festival in France), a three-month festival presented upon invitation by France, aims to showcase the best of Singapore contemporary arts, culture and heritage in France. The event will present a smorgasbord of arts performances, ranging from art installations and visual arts to theatre and dance, which will take place from March 26 to June 30, 2015 in four French cities — Paris, Lyon, Lille and Nantes — at cultural institutions like Théâtre de la Ville, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord and Palais de Tokyo.

In choosing the local acts to be presented at the festival, Tan Boon Hui, Artistic Director for Singapour En France said: “I was looking for work that had the courage to embrace the immediacy of our present time by transcending the limits of local culture and context, but which at the same time, acknowledges its cultural roots.

Tan who is also the Group Director (Programmes) of Singapore’s National Heritage Board (NHB), adds: “The unique ability of Singapore’s artists to find that delicate balance is a strong feature of our creative scene. We look forward to capturing the imagination of the French with Singapour En France.”


This bilateral arts and cultural project is one of the major outcomes of the cultural Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Singapore and
France in 2009 which has helped facilitate cultural exchanges between both countries, such as sending NHB staff to France for learning exchanges at
renowned institutions and inviting French experts in the heritage and culture sectors to conduct workshops in Singapore.

The arts festival also marks 50 years of diplomatic ties between both countries as well as Singapore’s jubilee year.

It is co-organised by Singapore’s NHB, the National Arts Council, and France’s Institut Français, France’s agency for international arts and cultural projects, and supported by Singapore’s Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Elaine Ng, member of the festival’s Programme Committee and the Director for Sector Development (Traditional Arts & Dance), said the team is very heartened to have several supportive French partners presenting a wide range of works by Singapore artists.

“This festival serves as an excellent platform for the creative communities of both countries to work and explore new shores, further strengthening cultural ties between France and Singapore,” she said.

Darrell Ang, a Singaporean conductor will conduct at a classical concert featuring the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.


“You need to develop friendships with people through open conversations about life and the world, your passions, your country’s food, its art, its way of life. Only then will this seamless exchange connect and shine through.”

— Ong Keng Sen, Festival Director, Singapore International Festival of Arts



The festival will open to the French public on 26 March with an art exhibition Secret Archipelago, which explores contemporary art by artists from the Southeast Asian region, as well as a new theatre production, The Incredible Adventures of Border Crossers, directed by Singapore theatre doyen Ong Keng Sen. It tells of an inter-cultural exchange—of non-Singaporeans choosing to live in Singapore and vice versa, inspired by today’s interconnected global community where friendships and bonds override physical borders, ethnicity and race.

The interactive six-hour theatre piece, which will be performed throughout the night, will star a mixture of actors and non-actors who will mingle with the audience, and will also feature archival materials of videos and photos, art installations and a fashion show.

Ong said that this project is different from his other works as the performers are mostly non-actors and the stories drawn from real life. “That makes this project very challenging because I needed to find people who not only had a story to tell but who were genuine in sharing their stories,” he added.

Festival director and theatre veteran Ong Keng Sen says that this collaborative effort between Singapore and France reflects the new confidence of Singapore theatre.

Open Sea by artist Charles Lim, who explores the contemporary psyche, aesthetics and inter-connectivity of Southeast Asia through a collection of 30 existing and new artworks.

The performance will take place at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Europe’s largest contemporary art centre.

Also showcased is another play directed by Ong, Lear Dreaming, which is based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. This inter-cultural exchange play, which mixes Western theatre with Asian conventions, will be performed by artists from Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Indonesia, speaking in their own languages, and whose dialogue will be tied together with French subtitles. This play will be performed at Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, one of the most prestigious arts centres in France, from 10 to 13 June, 2015.

Musical performances in the festival include a classical music concert, Est/Ouest – Nord/Sud, at La Philharmonie of Cité de la Musique in Paris on 29 March, featuring a Singapore Chinese Orchestra pipa soloist on the four-stringed Chinese musical instrument as well as Singapore conductor Darrell Ang helming the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne playing music from all over the world.


spirit of inter-cultural collaborations by presenting acts that are a result of partnership between Singaporean artists and the French. One act is Akalika 7, a dance performance by Singapore’s Frontier Danceland and France’s performing arts company KHAM Compagnie, with footwork by the French company’s Laotian choreographer Olé Khamchanla.

The piece arose from an exchange residency which took place in both Singapore and France. KHAM Compagnie is well-known for its collaborative works with a majority of its artists recruited outside of France while retaining French as its first language.

Said NHB’s Tan: “Culture is what defines the human experience and I hope that our guests will also find things in common, bridges between our cultures that could connect us in the longer term.”


Singaporeans who will not be in France during the Singapour En France – Le Festival need not worry about missing out. The exhibitions and performances are slated to be showcased in arts venues in Singapore from 2015 to 2016.

On top of that, arts audiences have another Singapore-French joint project to look forward to. The French embassy in Singapore, Institute Francais (Singapore) and Alliance Francais are working together to present a French arts and culture festival here in Singapore, which will be happening later this year. Both festivals will serve as a bridge to strengthen friendship and understanding between people in both countries.

Says Director Ong: “You need to develop friendships with people through open conversations about life and the world, your passions, your country’s food, its art, its way of life. Only then will this seamless exchange connect and shine through.”


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