At the age of 9, Kai Er joined Chinese Dance as a co-curricular activity, where she had her first dance class. She has been dancing ever since. Later, Kai began to explore a variety of disciplines and performances. A bold performer, Kai is our Associate Artist at TheatreWorks and is set to present her new work, Indulgence this May.
“My idea was that for this project, I would try to enjoy every part of it because I think art-making should be enjoyable.”
– Kai Er, TheatreWorks Associate Artist, Indulgence
Kai Er and her collaborators Bernice and Jereh have been developing the performance at 72-13, where the ample, open space gives them room to explore ideas and indulge in the artistic process. Our Engagement Intern, Yingbi Lee speaks to Kai to find out more. She shares with us what prompted her to initiate the project and what goes on behind the development of Indulgence.
1. How did you begin making performances and performing?
I always liked to choreograph so as a teenager I choreographed short pieces for figure skating, dance and so on, for fun. When I was in university I was in the university’s contemporary dance society and I choreographed dance pieces. At that time I was very interested in choreographing dance for dancers, with music, for stage performances. Later on, I went to graduate school in a small university that did not have a dance club. I took dance class in the evenings, but I was dissatisfied with not being able to choreograph. I started a Choreographers’ Group with the idea that people in the group would choreograph for each other and be each other’s dancers, but people stopped turning up after a while. With no access to dancers, in the end I just decided to make performance projects happen on my own. In 2009 I started to work towards making performances, with only myself or in very small groups. I also started to get interested in all kinds of performances, dance or not dance. I’m still exploring, now.
2. Take us through the artistic process in developing the performance.
Firstly I wanted to work with Bernice and Jereh because I thought they were interesting people.
Secondly I wrote a proposal for TheatreWorks that dealt with enjoyment, pleasure, indulgence. My idea was that for this project, I would try to enjoy every part of it because I think art-making should be enjoyable. When we first arrived in the performance space, it was pretty open – we talked about what we would like to do. It was very collaborative. We brought our own ideas and we also used whatever was available to us in the TheatreWorks space.
One advantage of rehearsing in the same space where we would perform, is that we could explore the space and use that in the actual performance too. So we just went ahead and did a bunch of exercises and explorations in the space. It was relaxed and felt quite playful and free, so I really felt like we were indulging in having a residency space. But later on, we struggled a bit with the idea of “indulgence” because I realised that actually there was nothing much I wanted to indulge in, in terms of all the stereotypical “indulgences” like staying in hotels or eating luxury chocolate or going to the spa… in my real life I don’t think I would enjoy those things, so maybe it’s no surprise that those things somehow never got included in the project, but I still felt bad because it seemed like we had made a project about “indulgence” that had nothing to do with what other people might think indulgence means.
Right now I’m working on how to make it clearer in the project that our theme of indulgence is not about expensive or luxury stuff, but more about subjective ideas of indulgence that can also deal with intimacy, love, relationships between people – the things that came up as natural topics for me to deal with in the project.
3. What are some sources or experiences the performance is based on?
An important source is what the performers want to do. For example Jereh wanted to play piano right from the start of the project, so he plays piano. Bernice wants to sing, and I think she has a beautiful voice, so right now I’m trying to figure out what it is that she could sing in the show that can make it a cohesive show. 🙂 I am not sure what I want. Maybe I want to be some kind of porn star but it has to have its own slow-movie art-house style. Cannot just any kind of porn star!
4. What’s it like working with each other again?
It’s fabulous. I like working with Bernice and Jereh because I think they understood right from the beginning that in this project there will be explorations and all kinds of different stuff. And they are very open and they don’t make me feel stressed. They’ve been very patient with me. Basically they’ve indulged me!
5. What has the experience working on the performance been like so far?
It really worked – I said I wanted to enjoy this project, and I really have less anxiety and less tension and difficulty in this project than previous projects. :p I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I am getting more mature and patient as a person, over time. Or maybe it’s just because I already knew Bernice and Jereh before. Maybe we had some kind of common language already, before we started on this project, that made it easy to communicate.
6. Can you share with us some challenges you face?
Well, there are all kinds of details in the project that drive me mad, but I also like this situation of having to make these decisions, a lot. There are a million decisions to make in this show. But that’s what I like. 🙂
That is a real challenge because I don’t like it so much – maybe that’s just the feeling that I am responsible for this whole thing and apart from living in the world of the performance, I also have to live in the real world and send emails, meet deadlines, etc. But overall it’s ok. It’s still worth it. 🙂
Despite the challenges encountered, Kai is still optimistic. She hopes that by the end of the production, she will be happy with her choices and that Bernice, Jereh and herself would enjoy themselves.
“And I hope that audience who come to see it, will remember it, whether they like it or not. Of course, I hope at least some people will like the show.”
– Kai Er, TheatreWorks Associate Artist, Indulgence
Indulgence will be presented from 20 to 23 May 2015, 8PM at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 6737-7213 to book your tickets now!