Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).


Lim Fei Shen

Singapore's modern dance pioneer


Published: 23 Nov 2021

Time taken : >15mins

I am a fighter. I cannot leave myself in peace.

Lim Fei Shen is a Singapore modern dance pioneer. Trained at Folkwang Hochschule in Germany and New York University’s Tisch School of Arts, the renowned choreographer and arts educator served as artistic director of the People’s Assocation Dance Company from 1984 to 1991. Throughout her artistic journey, Lim explores various notions of identity with dance and has interwoven Eastern and Western influences in technique, content and aesthetics. She is also known for incorporating interdisciplinary approaches to her work. In 1988, she received the Cultural Medallion for her contributions to dance in Singapore.

Born in 1945 in Singapore, Lim Fei Shen received her formal dance education at the Folkwang Hochschule (now Folkwang University of the Arts) in Essen, Germany under the direction of Kurt Jooss, one of the pioneer German dance theatre practitioners and founder of Tanztheater (dance theatre). Jooss also trained dance legend Pina Bausch.

When Lim graduated in 1969, she was invited by the Hong Kong Television Broadcasting Corporation to be a guest choreographer for a popular programme known as Enjoy Yourself Tonight. She then became a choreographer and dance instructor at the National Theatre Dance Company in 1980 before taking on the role of artistic director of the People's Association (PA) Dance Company in 1984.

During her time with People's Association, one of Lim's responsibilities was to choreograph a series of dance performances to complement the organisation's community events including road shows and at public appearances of government officials. Working on her creations helped broaden her horizons. In pieces such as Xi Fangping (1987) and A Glimpse (1988), based on a short story by Tan Swie Hian, where she collaborated with composer Phoon Yew Tien and then People's Association Chinese Orchestra (Singapore Chinese Orchestra today), she displayed the ability to seamlessly fuse various forms of both technique and content. She was thus able to independently progress, craft and present a unique cultural identity that is an amalgam of the diverse traditions from around the world.

After spending six years with the company, Lim decided to further develop her craft. She pursued her postgraduate training in dance at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts from 1992 to 1994 and attained a Masters in Fine Arts (Dance). It was a significant period for Lim who was able to immerse herself in groundbreaking minimalist art there as minimalism was a movement that emerged strongly in American visual arts.

At the same time, she continued to create works and perform solo. At New York's La Mama Theatre—well-known for presenting experimental works—she performed The Eddies (1992) and A Dance Through Fire (1993) to acclaim. She was also invited by Canadian multimedia arts company L'Ecran Humain in 1993 to collaborate on a piece known as The Garden of Earthly Delight. Based on a Flemish painting, it was presented that same year in Montreal, Canada. The exposure energised her and strengthened her resolve to develop further as a dance artist.

When Lim returned to Singapore, the first new work she created and performed was Homecoming: A Journey into the Space Within (1994), a solo, minimalist and site-specific performance strikingly set in the atmospheric Tan Swie Hian Museum. It was lauded “a resounding success” by The Straits Times. My Body, My Choice (1996), commissioned by the National Arts Council, was a collaboration with composer John Sharpley for the Singapore Arts Festival. It demonstrated Lim’s new stripped-down dance vocabulary that focused on the essence of dance.

Lim is known for participating in various interdisciplinary collaborations with other artists. These have been diverse in content and form. There was The Window Project in 2001; a collaboration with Canadian dance artist Maxine Heppner and Indonesian visual artist Muhamad Hanafi that explored the window as a metaphor. Another example of Lim’s predilection for quality collaborations is Toccata (2011), a performance in which Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts students explored the long fingernail dance movements from the Northern Thai dance Fon Lep. She worked with composer John Sharpley on that piece.

She has also contributed her expertise to several organisations and educational institutes including The Necessary Stage as a member of its artistic advisory panel in 2000. The lifelong arts educator has taught classes in Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore, the Theatre and Dance Departments of LASALLE College of the Arts and the Performing Arts Division of the National Institute of Education.

In 1988, Lim received the Cultural Medallion for her contributions to dance in Singapore.

Since 2002, Lim has been teaching dance at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts as a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Dance. She also continues to serve in the Selection Panel of the Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award and in the Arts Advisory Panel (Dance) with the National Arts Council.

Today, she is devoted to educating and mentoring the new generation of young dancers and choreographers. She is passionate about passing on her experiences and knowledge of the craft.



Born in Singapore.

1965 to 1968

Attended Folkwang Hochschule, Germany and graduated with a degree in dance.

1969 to 1970

Choreographer and ballet mistress, Hong Kong Television Broadcasting Corporation.

1971 to 1977

Dancer, National Dance Company, Singapore.

Choreographer and performer, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.


Dancer, National Dance Company, Adelaide Festival, Australia.

1980 to 1981

Guest Choreographer, National Theatre Dance Company, Singapore.

1984 to 1991

Artistic director, People's Association Dance Company, Singapore. A few projects she spearheaded include:

Choreographer, Forms and Norms, People's Association Dance Company, Singapore Dance Festival.

Choreographer and performer, Next Step; The first full length Modern Dance concert ever present by People's Association Dance Company at Victoria Theatre Singapore

Led People's Association Dance Company on tour of Japan, performing at Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama and Chiba on the invitation of the Min-On Music Association of Japan.

Led People's Association Dance Company, performance in The Festival of Dance in France, on the invitation of the Maisons des Cultures de Monde (Paris).

Led People's Association Dance Company as Singapore representatives at the International Universiade Festival in Kobe, Japan.

Attended the 4th ASEAN Festival of Performing Arts, Manila, Philippines.

Danced and conducted the Modern Dance Workshop, 4th ASEAN Festival of Performing Arts, Manila, Philippines.

Choreographer, Cultural Tableaux, National Day Parade, Singapore.

Received Cultural Medallion for contributions to dance in Singapore.

1992 to 1994

Attended Tisch School of Arts, New York University, USA, and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Dance.


Choreographer, Garden of Earthly Delight, Montreal, Canada. By invitation of L’Écran Humain.

Choreographer, A Dance Through the Fire, La Mama Theatre, New York, USA. A restaging of Lim's graduation piece by invitation of the Asian Cultural Association (New York).


Solo performer, Homecoming – A Journey Into the Space Within, Tan Swie Hian Museum, Singapore.


Choreographer and performer, Broken Birds, Theatreworks, Fort Canning Park, Singapore.

1995 to Present

Member, Selection Panel, Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award, National Arts Council, Singapore.

1995 to 2001

Adjunct Lecturer, Theatre Studies, Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore.


Choreographer and performer, Homecoming II, 16th Festival of Asian Arts Hong Kong. In collaboration with composer John Sharpley.

Choreographer, My Body, My Choice, Singapore Arts Festival. Commissioned by the Singapore Arts Festival.


Choreographer, River People, ASEAN Artists Creative Interaction, Jogjakarta, Indonesia.

Head of Singapore Delegation, ASEAN Artists Creative Interaction, Jogjakarta, Indonesia.


Choreographer, Prayer, Got To Go … Play Till Dawn, Theatreworks, Singapore.

Choreographer, StairWaltz, performed by National Institute of Education Movement Studies students, National Institute of Education. In collaboration with faculty members with music by John Howard and Jeff Martin, and visuals by Guy Lapointe.

Artistic advisor, Preparing Cage – A Music, Dance & Art Collaboration, National Institute of Education, Singapore.

1998 to 2002

Lecturer (part-time), Performing Arts Division, National Institute of Education, Singapore.


Choreographer and performer, Earth and Matter, Alliance Francaise de Singapour. In collaboration with artist Baet Yeok Kuan.


Choreographer, Strange Attractor, performed by National Institute of Education Movement Studies students together with National University of Singapore Theatre students. In collaboration with John Matthew.

2000 to 2001

Member, Artistic Advisory Panel, The Necessary Stage, Singapore.


Choreographer and performer, The Window Project, The Sub-Station, Singapore. In collaboration with Canadian dancer Maxine Heppner and Indonesian visual artist Muhamad Hanafi.

2002 to Present

Senior lecturer and then senior teaching fellow, Department of Dance, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.


TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.

In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.

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