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The migrant community in Singapore is oftentimes as distant from the public eye as the workers are from their families, friends and cultures. From the strict movement protocols that they follow to their living conditions and mental health, the events that transpired this past year have surfaced a different experience of the pandemic for them.
Their conversations and stories are shared in and so we dance, a work commissioned by Esplanade's da:ns festival in 2021. This social project wove their life experiences and stories into a devised performance using dance as a medium, revealing their strengths, vulnerabilities and hopes for the future. At times reflective, emotional and playful, and so we dance was created in collaboration with dance choreographer Dapheny Chen and community theatre practitioner Serena Ho, shedding light on the lives of the people behind Singapore’s largely invisible workforce, who are part of our community.
This featurette brings us through this journey, documenting their resilience and dedication.
This piece is a patchwork of lived experiences—a celebration of universal moments that provide us with intersections, and an investigation of the idiosyncratic that makes us unique and human.
See Joo Teng (JOOTZ), Documentary Filmmaker
Jootz’s foray into photography and filmmaking was kindled during his days as a street dance performer and educator. His ability to adapt the lens from the performing arts to the visual arts has equipped him with a unique skill set to approach his craft through different perspectives. Intrigued by the art of storytelling, he constantly experiments with different mechanisms to reinforce the building blocks of his practice. Jootz’s works are shaped by the stories he encountered over the years through connecting and engaging with people from different walks of life. His films seek to not only exhibit realism but also provide the space for imagination and reflection. Most recently, he has worked with the Esplanade team for da:ns festival 2020 – Open Call, Moonfest – A Mid-Autumn Celebration 2020 and Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2021.
Dapheny Chen, Choreographer / Co-Director
Dapheny Chen is an independent dance artist who negotiates between the roles of a choreographer, performer, educator and manager.She is concerned about the provocations, connections and criticality that arise from making and viewing dance. Breaking away from her conventional dance training, she examines socio-political ideologies to navigate the possibilities of contemporary dance, while seeking to create alternative nodes of experience and entry points as conversations for change and knowledge. Her practice embraces the multiple facets of choreography and dance that change with time and state. While acknowledging the agile and transient nature of processes involved in creation, she breaks down previous definitions of the form to reform new experiences. Dapheny graduated from LASALLE College of the Arts. She has since danced with Ah Hock and Peng Yu (2004), L.A. Dance Connection (2003–2008), Frontier Danceland (2010–2011) and Re:Dance Theatre (2012–2015). She is trained in contemporary dance, ballet, jazz, hip hop and salsa.
Serena Ho, Dramaturg / Co-Director
Serena Ho is a director and facilitator. She started her career as an actor and has since worked at many schools and theatre companies. She is also a teacher at School of the Arts (SOTA). She derives joy from collaborating with various communities. She enjoys work that is based on real life experiences and aims to realise new forms of empowerment through process work in classrooms and rehearsals.
My name is Arlene Cyril J. Cabelin, and I was born on 8 November 1971 in Manila, the Philippines. I currently reside in Singapore, working as a domestic worker. When I was living in the Philippines, I attended the Central Colleges of the Philippines, where I attended high school and eventually attained a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I like biking, dancing and swimming, and I try to participate in these activities while in Singapore. I also try to improve and upgrade myself by attending courses at Aidha, a non-profit organisation that provides financial literacy and self-development programmes for foreign domestic workers. I plan to continue improving her skills and expanding my knowledge while in Singapore, so that I can start a business of my own when I return home.
I’m Jocelyn Mompal and I was born in the Philippines. I have been working in Singapore for nearly 20 years. I came to Singapore to work as I wanted to achieve my goal of providing a better future for my three children. I like both dance and drama. I have attended financial literacy and computer skills classes with non-profit organisation Aidha and graduated from their programme in 2009. In 2014, I was chosen by the organisation as their Deputy Campus Manager to help run their education centre. Now, I am undergoing leadership training to increase my confidence. I feel that my 20 years of working has been worth it as I have achieved my goal. I have built my own house and my children have completed their studies. I look forward to returning to the Philippines to reunite with my family and to work on my business there.
Lolita Galon Torayno
My name is Lolita Galon Torayno and I am 36 years old. I am originally from the Philippines and have been in Singapore for seven years. I enjoy working here as I like the culture. In my spare time, I enjoy watching movies, listening to music and going out with friends. I also like trying and experiencing different types of food. I like beaches, I love animals, and I really enjoy traveling and taking photos. I enjoy walking as exercising. I am friendly and family-oriented, and I am the person who always tries to be in good spirits. I consider myself a fun person and different from anyone you know!
Wiwik Susanti Lestari
I am 38 years old and a divorcee with two kids. I have been working in Singapore for roughly ten years. I work here to give my parents and children a better life. I want to provide a better environment for my children to grow up in and to get a good education, so they have a brighter future. I also wish for my parents to be happy for the rest of their lives as they get old. That is my biggest wish: happiness for my family.
Wiwik Tri Winarsih
Wiwi Tri is from Kediri, East Java Indonesia. She has been working in Singapore as a domestic helper since 2004. She developed a passion for theatre and writing since she was very young. She is a member of The Birds Migrant Theatre, a theatre group by migrant workers in Singapore. Beside writing and acting, she wanted to explore more about stage performance. Dance is not new for her, but to dance at her age now is a challenge for her and she believes nothing is impossible in this world as long as one works hard on it.
Sukempi Widya Hastuti
Sukempi Widya is an Indonesian, working in Singapore as a domestic helper. She has a passion for performing stage dramas. She has been performing in choirs and has danced on a few occasions. She is a member of a dance group which was one of the finalists in We Got Talent a competition organised by Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) a few years ago. She has liked to dance and perform since she was young. She loves to read, watch drama, and listen to music.
Deni Apriyani is from Indramayu, Indonesia. She has been working as a domestic worker in Singapore since 2013. Her hobbies include watching comedies, drawing weird characters, as well as writing and reading. She loves being kidnapped by the depths of her mind.
I am from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I have been living in Singapore for more than a decade. I am a Safety Professional.During my free time, I would love to go to the beach and swim, hanging out with friends and family, holding BBQ parties and learning new skills. I also enjoy creative pursuits, volunteering, social activities and traveling. I am grateful and a responsible person. I am good at letting people know they matter. I look for positivity in all things. I treat others the way I want to be treated. I believe in myself and I follow my heart. Dance triggers positive energy in me and brings good vibes. It helps improve my emotional state and reduces my perception of pain. Basically, dance is my cure for sadness.
Sugiarti Mustiarjo is from Central Java, Indonesia. She loves photography and hiking. She has joined the local hiking community and explores Singapore’s wildlife while listening to the history of Singapore. She finds that writing drains her brain from the over flooding of words in her mind. Otherwise, they would be stuck in her mind for days, weeks or months. She loves her dog Rufus to the moon and back.
When I come home from work, I enjoy that time very much. I do a little exercise, and at the same time I cook something to eat. I talk to my family and cook dinner at the same time, and take a bath after. I also like watching movies and dramas. Sometimes, I go around on my bicycle. When I have more time, I like to go outside to eat and travel.
Kader Mohammad Abdul (Zilani)
My name is Kader Mohammad Abdul (AK Zilani) born in Comilla, Bangladesh. I came to Singapore in 2010 when I was 18 years old and worked as a construction worker. In my free time, I love to read and write and I aim to be an inspiring social activist and human rights defender.I like to be alone in my free time. I like to sit by a lake or park and listen to heavy metal on high volume with my headphones.However, sometimes I do expect companionship, meaningful and intelligent companionship. Someone with whom I can sit and talk tirelessly for hours about the life cycle of a dung beetle who lives its entire life in a pile of poop.
Haque Wizamul (Nizam)
I like to spend my free time listening to music and watching dance videos. I also like humanity. In my home country, there were many opportunities and audiences for me. However, in Singapore I have few platforms available and most of my audience are friends on social media. As long as these friends give me good comments about my dance, that is my happiness.