SoftMachine is a multimedia project investigating the contemporary status of dance in Asia. Using research, live performance, photography, and video, it offers an insight into the rich landscape of independent dance makers defining this art form today. Prompted by the first "Out of Asia season" programmed by Sadler’s Wells London in 2011, Singaporean artist and performance maker Choy Ka Fai decided the picture of contemporary dance in Asia needed further scrutiny. Ka Fai then embarked on a three-year research project traveling to 13 cities in five countries to meet and interview over 88 contemporary dance makers, dancers, and curators. SoftMachine is the result of this journey.

The project unfolds in two parts. The first is an exhibition of video interviews and dance documentaries that map dance-makers in China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, and Japan. The second part is a series of documentary performance portraits, of choreographers whose poetics and biography mark them as different from their peers. In each country, a documentary film was also made as part of the research process, in close collaboration with the selected choreographers who reflected on his/her choreographic practices.


SoftMachine: Expedition is an installation of video documentaries and contemporary dance archives, capturing 88 choreographic encounters collected over a three-year journey across the dance landscapes of Asia. This collection of images and interviews is not an exhaustive survey of dance made today but an attempt to map, make visible, and give a voice to the realities, ideas, and dance languages of dance makers in the region.

SoftMachine: Yuya

Yuya Tsukahara is the founding member and leader of contact Gonzo, a contemporary dance group based in Osaka, Japan. contact Gonzo composes a unique dance form in which dancers strike one another while keeping their movements aligned with their partners. Their performances experiment with the possibility of sharing conflicting and controversial feelings at the same time, such as love and pain, instinct and temperance, and violence and dance. The documentary performance attempts to decode the often-mystified logics of contact Gonzo and to experience the process of becoming one of them.

SoftMachine: XiaoKe x ZiHan

XiaoKe and ZiHan make collaborative works exploring the body in its extremity of expressions, reflecting on the social and political context of China. XiaoKe was trained as a classical Chinese folk dancer from a very young age and later on develops her own creations in contemporary dance. ZiHan started as a photographer and has since developed multiple strands of work in the audio visual field of contemporary art in China. The documentary performance with XiaoKe and ZiHan explores the short history of contemporary dance in China and traces the generation gaps before and after the decade-long Cultural Revolution in China. The performance experiments with the symbolic tendencies of Chinese dance-makers, exploring its limitations and imitations of contemporary dance.

SoftMachine: Surjit

Surjit Nongmeikapam is a young contemporary dancer from Manipur, India, who has learned various forms of classical Indian dance and martial arts. He is one of the first few dancers in Manipur to engage with contemporary dance forms and seeks to promote its development beyond the traditional conservative Manipuri cultures. The documentary performance will present the process of creating a new dance performance for the consumption of the European audience, revealing the artistic strategies, marketing ideologies, and precarious attempt at exoticizing oneself.

SoftMachine: Rianto

Rianto is a dancer from Banyumas, Indonesia, who specializes in the traditional erotic dance of Lengger while being equally versatile in other Javanese traditional dance forms. He mastered the cross-gender dance repertoire at a very young age and continues to enchant male spectators with his seductive female impersonation. Rianto also performs and collaborates with many contemporary choreographers. Since moving to Tokyo in 2003, he has developed different choreographic practices, deriving and departing from his traditional beginning. The documentary performance explores the tensions between choreographic practices of the traditional and contemporary, masculine and feminine, and urbanist and ruralist.

SoftMachine: Interview

SoftMachine Interviews are selected conversations from the 88 choreographic encounters collected over a three-year journey across the dance landscapes of Asia. There are five research strands, each associating with a group of dance makers based on their location of culture.

India_The Persistence of Exoticism  

China_ Notion of Contemporary Dance

Japan_The Anxiety of Influence

Singapore_ Our Glorious Future 

Indonesia_The Spirits of Contemporary