This solo came from the development of choreography for a quintet called Frequency. Sometimes, as I am creating an ensemble work, I come up with ideas and movement that may seem to need further investigation, but it does not have a place in the work of the moment. I have taken to calling these ‘unused’ sections of movements – “save for later” and I put them aside to re-examine and explore at some later time.
During a residency at Hub 14 on Frequency, I had been given this gift of time to play, examine and explore. It is such a privilege to just go to the studio every day to experiment, to write and move and write and move and sometimes just come up with nothing. I thought I was preparing for an ensemble work and instead, this solo appeared.
Weave…part one braids my mother’s life with my own. My mother was sold/adopted into a Peranakan Chinese family as a baby and at age seven, passed onto her Lau Ye (Grand aunty) for convenience. She was ten when the Japanese invaded Singapore and then at age 19, on the death of the patriarch, she was discarded and all association with the family cut.
Some of the situations I lived through as an immigrant to Canada (physically and sexually abused, homeless, with near death experiences) paralleled my mother’s experience of being forsaken. These experiences and those that were imprinted on me from my mother’s passage have crystalized who I am and how I have made my life as a female immigrant of colour in Canada without family or relatives. Central to this solo is a questioning of the role/value of a woman; whether in Asia or in Canada, whether this century or the last, if anything elemental has really changed.
Peranakan: Descendants of Chinese who migrated to the Malay Archipelago (now called Malaysia and Singapore) between the 10th and 17th centuries. They intermarried with the Malays and with other immigrants living there and formed a new hybrid cultural group. They were usually traders, intermediaries between the British and Chinese and the Malays and fluent in several languages and dialects.
Hokkien & Teochew: two of the many spoken dialects of the Chinese, with Mandarin being the main standard dialect.
Betel nut: The chewing of betel nut /sireh (plant) provides a slight narcotic effect, bitter in taste and stains the mouth a reddish color. It is a Southeast Asian parallel to tobacco chewing.
Photo: Yvonne Ng by David Hou