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'Sentience' performed at SMU Arts Festival 2021. [Photo: Zhou Jinquan, SMUSAIC]
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Transformative Education

A futuristic frisson at SMU Arts Festival 2021

Published on 21 February 2022

The highly anticipated SMU Arts Festival 2021 brought the year to a close with a month-long, multisensorial showcase themed 2GETHER AS 1.

It was a celebration of sound and light, and the desire for a better future, as the SMU community joined 2GETHER AS 1 to celebrate and reflect on the year 2021. Held between 30 November and 30 December 2021, the festival also served as a platform to bridge the world of art with the public, as local and international audiences were invited to experience a diverse range of art, made possible through collaboration and integration.

Comprising theatrical, dance and musical performances, and visual works of art, SMU Art Festival 2021 was a virtual affair for the second year running. Nearly 300 SMU students from 15 co-curricular arts groups worked with 13 artistic partners in creating veritable feasts for the senses.

"It was an intentional effort to involve talents from diverse student clubs in various works of intersections, as well as bring different communities and disciplines together," says Festival director Seah Wee Thye, who heads the Office of Student Life's Arts, and Creative Experiences & Partnerships.

"We also expanded our collaborative worlds and invited leading Singapore artists to mentor and co-create with our students." Theatre practitioner Tan Shou Chen, Dr Zechariah Goh and Evan Low (co-writers of last year's National Day song), street dance duo ScRach MarcS, film director Jasmine Teh, choreographers Andy Benjamin Cai and Gin Lam, concert maestro Adrian Chiang, and music arrangers Chok Kerong and Jordan Wei were among the illustrious team of collaborators.

The line-up of events also took inspiration from the celebration of the University's 21st year by referencing the numbers 2 and 1 in the theme, and in adopting a coming-of-age style, which included two or more unexpected aspects in each program to form an extravaganza of larger-scale and emotional-impacting works. Each of the 6 productions explored the meaning of togetherness in the post-pandemic era.

Due to Covid-19 safe distancing restrictions, students from SMU Samba Masala, SMU Chamber Choir, SMU Malay Language and Cultural Club, SMU Chinese Orchestra and SMU VOIX’s beatboxers experimented with innovative production and presentation methods, including the use of Green Screen technology to engage with various Asian percussionists on a single screen with the production of Rhythmology (2GETHER AS 1 in Beat). This musical study sits at the intersection of tradition and innovation, tradition and modernity, culture and trends, and incorporated cultural beats and rhymes composed specifically for the festival by the seasoned musician Dr Goh, with choreography by Mr Cai.

While live audiences were not permitted at theatre performances, the performance of award-winning play On North Diversion Road (2GETHER AS 1 in Love) made up for it through audience interactivity by recording the performance of the all-SMU ensemble with three cameras; viewers could tailor their perspectives and reflect on the different emotions experienced by each character by toggling the cameras.

A first-ever inter-university collaboration between dancers and machines, Sentience was an anthology film of five dance performances that delved into the co-dependence of humankind and machines. In collaboration with NUS Advanced Robotics Centre, SMU dancers performed alongside robotic partners in a sequence choreographed by the award-winning ScRach MarcS.

SMU students also worked with teenage dancers with Down Syndrome from Diverse Abilities Dance Collective in an outdoor dance presentation meditating on the intricate interconnectedness between mankind and nature.

And while the world has begun to reopen its borders gradually, SMU alumna, filmmaker and photographer Jasmine Teh mentored our students from SMUSAIC to present a film and photography showcase Home ∙ Work (2GETHER AS 1 in Solidarity). The hybrid exhibition followed the lives of 10 Asians who have decided to reside in Singapore following the start of the pandemic. Shot through SMU students' lenses, the project examined the realities of working from home, far away from home, and adapting to the disruption that hit the entire world.

See also 2GETHER AS 1, for SMU Arts.

Related Topics:  Engaged City University  Students 
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