One Small Voice: Ricky Sim

Published on 1 March 2016

Dance is the ability to use movement to express things in a simple way, says RAW Moves founder Ricky Sim.

INTERVIEW BY JO TAN

When RAW Moves did 48:00 — 48 hours of dance — last year, we got very encouraging feedback, but some audiences were also surprised to see the dancers just playing on their mobile phones or folding joss paper. I think it’s always good to go against people’s expectations of dance; just because you are a dancer doesn’t mean you always have to point your feet.

Dance, to me, is simply movement. It’s movement that reflects how we perceive people and the environment around us. This appreciation of the everyday, and the ability to use movement to express things in a simple, everyday way — these are crucial to have before you even start exploring technical forms in dance. In fact, while technical knowledge is good, sometimes I have to un-train and re-train dancers’ bodies because they hide behind flashy technique instead of honestly expressing something.

Simple, honest expression also allows people less fluent in a particular ‘dance-style’ to be able to understand and appreciate dance. If you’re an artist who keeps to yourself and say others don’t understand you, you’ll stay stuck in your own little hole. With RAW Moves, I’ve always aimed to make dance accessible and establish a real connection with audiences.

For this honest connection, RAW Moves generally arranges for dancers to have a certain level of input and ownership over the choreography they perform. It makes their entire delivery more real because they are not showing, they are revealing, they are breathing the character. So it’s often a collaborative process between the dancers and choreographer. The dancers’ input can be very pedestrian or very personal, like in 2014’s Repertory Platform (R.e.P), where dancers shared private information about themselves on screens during the performance. This year’s edition of Repertory Platform is also a close collaborative creation, taking place over six weeks.

Of course, pre-choreographed dances and technically-focused dances have their own value. Every type of art form caters to different kinds of audiences. To say one is better than the other is just compartmentalising and locking down a definition of dance, which is exactly what I’m always fighting against. Recently, we came up with a new, simple vision and mission statement for RAW Moves, made up of just two words: redefining movement. The aim of this whole year is to reflect and explore, rather than forcing things into compartments.

Part of the reason why I wanted to continue working in Singapore, despite having had the opportunity to work in many different parts of the world, is that I like how the country is always changing. In one year, buildings and shops and residents become unrecognisable. It’s a constantly shifting hybrid of nationalities and cultures and tempos, a place I know and don’t know. Similarly, my vision for dance with RAW Moves is that it should never be clearly defined, but always evolving with its environment and constantly challenging the currents, whatever the currents of the moment should be.

RICKY SIM is the artistic director of contemporary dance company RAW Moves, which he founded in 2011. Sim’s dance career (professional dancer, choreographer and dance educator) spans over 20 years. He has worked with The Arts Fission Company and Singapore Dance Theatre as well companies abroad, including Katsura Kan & Saltimbanques (Japan) and Theater Nordhausen (Germany). Sim’s accolades include the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts’ Distinguished Alumni Award and being invited to be artist-in-residence at Thailand’s Thammasat University. Repertory Platform (R.e.P) is on from 17-19 March at Goodman Arts Centre.

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