Ruby Jayaseelan is a movement artist and her work is equal parts beautiful and fascinating. “I was moved the first time I saw Ruby perform during an audition for one of The Necessary Stage’s interdisciplinary productions. She’s one of those rare artists adept at both traditional and contemporary dance, and her performances often incorporate these elements beautifully. She continues to go from strength to strength as an artist and a creative collaborator,” says playwright Haresh Sharma.
While Ruby Jayaseelan’s background may be in Bharatanatyam (an Indian classical dance combining footwork with complex sign vocabulary, using the hands, eyes and face), her personal movement methodology “uses Eastern philosophies and practices, and Western experimental and somatic thinking”.
This has manifested in performances like Move Along, a collaboration with Australian artists for Singapore Design Week 2019, where participants walked through underutilised spaces in Bugis, wearing headphones playing soundtracks formed using sounds in Singapore. “It gave them new perspectives of places they had encountered multiple times before,” she says.
Ruby Jayaseelan recommends…
A creative day out in Singapore
“The vibe of Gillman Barracks is different depending on the time of the day you visit. By night, it’s a lively space for performances and installations, as well as a top haunt for local art enthusiasts. But it’s also a great daytime spot, especially if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. There are over 10 art galleries here, most of which have rotating exhibitions showcasing the work of local, regional and international artists.”
“Arab Street is a feast for the senses with its many textile stores, colourful murals covering the walls, and the sound of azan (Islamic call to prayer) punctuating the air several times a day. Aliwal Arts Centre is also worth a visit as there are often performances taking place in and around the building. I also like the art park next to Malay Heritage Centre for its old-school swings and avant-garde installations.”
“From Arab Street, it’s a 10-minute walk to Golden Mile Tower, home to indie cinema The Projector, where you can catch arthouse films that aren’t screened at mainstream cinemas. In 2017, I was a part of Aimless, a pop-up performance at Golden Mile Tower’s open-air carpark where audience members could take in views of the Singapore city centre while experiencing subtle sound, movement and imagery.”
The Projector is Singapore’s only indie cinema
“Ride the MRT two stops from Nicoll Highway station to Esplanade station. There are often performances happening along Esplanade’s waterfront. The venue is inspired: close to a body of water with a view of the skyline. Some of the performances held here are part of themed festivals. My favourite has to be A Tapestry of Sacred Music (usually held in April), which celebrates spiritual music and movement from around the world.”
By the numbers: Quick facts about the Esplanade
The year Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay officially opened
Number of performances it presents yearly
Number of people Esplanade’s mid-sized Waterfront Theatre will be able to seat when it opens in 2021
Approximate number of people who have visited Esplanade since its opening
Other traditional dances in Singapore
This routine – where two performers in a lion’s costume dance and perform acrobatic tricks to drums and cymbals – is usually performed during major Chinese festivals to usher in good fortune. You’re sure to catch a performance in Chinatown during Chinese New Year.
Both a music and dance form, joget is commonly performed at Malay weddings. The dance – which was developed across colonial Malaya during the early 20th century – is performed by couples as an expression of courtship. You might catch it at Esplanade’s annual Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts.
Love dance? Esplanade’s da:ns festival takes place every October, and boasts a lineup of contemporary and traditional dance performances.