Dancerpades Part 1 - Judicious Misgivings
From the desk of Machiam Malu, shamefaced alter-ego of Manamakan
Singapore, 3 June 2006
I spy … with two cameras, two notepads, one accomplice and a whole lot of balls.
The so-called Singaporean leg of the so-called international dance contest commenced today. Such excitement! Such colours! Such noise! Such a lot of fun, happy people!
Actually I am not so sure about fun, happy people since a lot of peeps looked really glum and nervous when I greeted them today. I would be offended if I did not have such a healthy self-esteem … I might think they are actually displeased to see me! I am such a sensitive creature … *sniffs delicately* …
Unfortunately, I had a prior engagement which made me 15 minutes late and I was scuttling as fast as I could towards the National Museum entrance when I heard the tell-tale sound of rollers on concrete. All dancers know that sound.
It is the sound of our roll-on bags filled of costumes, make-up, jewellery, music and what-not that we cart around performance to performance. Trolley dollies have nothing on us dancers – we can cart double our body weight in those things.
Rolling, rolling, rolling … Raks Sharqi!
Turning back, I spied another dancer, Rani, who was obviously dressed for performance.
Hey, Rani! Long time no see! You in the competition?
Yeah! Are you performing?
Hell no! Are you in the solo or troupe segment?
Eeks, you do know that started 15 minutes ago, right? Hurry! And good luck – will root for you!
Thanks! See you later!
We both dashed off in separate directions and I was lucky that I had collected my press pass the day before so I did not have to deal with the inevitable hassle of dealing with clueless door bitches.
3A Gurl was already seated in a fairly prime position and had saved me a seat. Good woman! Fortunately, or unfortunately, the event featured the world’s most loquacious and annoying MC so the contest had not began yet as everyone suffered through the inane ramblings of the empty vessel holding the mike hostage.
I will now go into a many-part account, play-by-play of today’s dancerpades. First up …
At first I had a little difficulty understanding the man’s heavily-accented English but I did catch his announcement that all the judges were from China and Taiwan. That caused some misgivings in me, which I later realised was a sentiment shared by a number of other dancers who attended the event today.
Let me explain why. Firstly, this competition raised a great many questions just by its name. Someone please explain to me what Asia Global means. Despite many requests for clarifications, the organiser muttered that it was a global contest that only involves the Asian countries. Ah, I see … I get it!
Asian Global = Oxymoron! *Beaming proudly now and patting self on back*
Which leads to the second question I asked. If it is meant for Asian countries, why is Japan not participating since they have the largest dance community in Asia? The organisers never quite got back to me on that.
I also asked why our nearest and dearest cousins across the Causeway were not invited. In fact, when we found out about the competition in early May, we sent emails to some friends in Malaysia to check on their participation and no one had heard about it. Till late May, they did not receive a notification or invitation … and by the time they did, they did not have enough time to form a contingent to represent Malaysia.
The one question I posed which was answered succinctly was the query as to why the second largest and most established group was not invited – the Australians. Apparently, I was naft as Asia does not include Australia since they fall into the Asia-Pacific category. I fully concede the point and also the point that the Australians would have beaten our hip scarves off as they have so many years of experience and performances over us. Still, I strongly believe they should have been included as the Australians have much to offer the community and would have speared us to strive for greater excellence.
Where is Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, India and quite importantly … Hong Kong? Is Asia much smaller and more Chinese than I thought?
The only foreign participation it seems is from China and Taiwan. You see the problem now, don’t you? How can you invite judges from these two countries to officiate over the Singapore contest? Surely this will raise disquiet about conflicts of interests and bias?
Unfortunately, this line up of the panel of judges was never revealed to the local community beforehand.
The fact that the judges were the respective teachers/dancers of the winning Taiwanese and Chinese contingents competing tomorrow was another real concern. Another worrisome thought was that having a completely Chinese panel will not yield balanced evaluations. Without besmirching the knowledge, experience, integrity, professionalism and savvy of these esteemed teachers/dancers, these issues should have been considered and addressed and the opinions of completely objective members of the dance community sought beforehand.
Surely it would have been fairer and less controversial to invite judges from non-participating countries such as Egypt, Australia, the US, the UK, Timbuktu, East-Bum-Feck ... look, any country which is not participating in the contest would have been a better choice.
And yes, the organisers originally planned on inviting local judges who are not from the dance scene but that raised questions about their suitability and qualifications. The organisers had pleaded a lack of funds impeding the invitation of judges from Egypt - the most logical choice. When we suggested Australia, since air tickets are much more affordable, they claimed financial constraints and extreme hardship. Last I checked, China is more expensive.
But perhaps the fact that the Chinese and Taiwanese judges were flying down here anyway to compete was a mitigating reason for their selection as judges. Obviously, economic sense overcame common sense.
As it was, the judgments meted out later in the day appeared to justify our concerns and validate our fears. Which leads us to Part II, coming up shortly.