Words Are More Universal Than Food


I say hi to Marissa during her interclass dash to the restroom, and the queue in front of me tease me (“Wehh Fredd”) about her effusive greeting. My first Entity class is Partnering by Will and Marissa, a series of progressive, confidence-building exercises, throughout which we constantly switch partners. I partner young Annabelle for the initial mirroring exercise, then Lani (or Lonnie, as my head initially spelt it) for improv across the floor, after she grabs me like a suitcase off a conveyor belt of passing bodies. I offer my sweaty palms to Poca for the pushing and leaning resistance exercise and my tentative guidance to Yan Ee for the initiation exercise. Finally, I am paired with Diana for the concluding cypher, where we’re meant to apply any and all of the techniques we’ve learnt. (Over the next few days, she would at various times interact with me in playful jest, which I awkwardly and without fail fail to reciprocate. This appalls Chris, but, unlike him, I am not versed in Californian ways!)

I unhelpfully tag along to a meal at Aroy Dee, where I am caught up on Marissa’s life (in essence a shift in direction towards becoming an actual Mom) and where Will surprises me with his serious, thinker side (all I knew of him before was through others describing him with such epithets as “blur” and “puppy dog”). He is very curious about our country. Some things I don’t get to say are: “We are essentially a one-party state.” “Army is rarely real ops and is made all the more meaningless by initiatives cooked up to keep itself busy.” “Nah, broken English (or Chinese) ain’t sexy.”

Karen’s class to Objects Objects by Deptford Goth (1:10-1:46) is a joy. She serves up personal feedback in an open-faced sandwich that is shared with the entire class. Her movement is partially familiar to me, a small rare sense of home. It strikes me how individual movement can be, and that it’s high time I explored and embraced the way I move, rather than endlessly emulating the movement of others while mistaking myself for the most versatile chameleon.

I take a long walk, passing by The Float, onto Helix Bridge, and through Gardens by the Bay all for the first time. The scale of the Gardens is impressive, but most of it feels sanitized and artificial (probably the same reasons why I dislike zoos and theme parks), though I would like to visit them in the day sometime. While Entity are in da club atop MBS, I have dragged Chris down to watch with me Brian Gothong Tan’s Tropical Traumas, which utilizes Ron Arad’s 720° installation for surround visuals. The show isn’t great. Perhaps a great many elements were flung at the canvas in hopes that something would stick. It makes me realize that acting largely comes down to line delivery; over and above facial expression or body language, it is the sound of a line that marks the highest actor and reveals the lowest. It isn’t a surprise to see David’s name in the programme, but remarkably he is listed as costumier. I wonder if he is lurking in the dressing room but leave without finding out. Later that night, he DMs me upon seeing the Instagram story (my first) that I recorded at the show.


I buy mooncakes for Entity from DJ Bakery then darnit Jack tells me on my trek to Merely that they days ago ooh-ed at those very mooncakes and raided the bakery but it was unclear if their loot included mooncakes. In any case, they aren’t received well, I don’t think, though they do serve as props in a short video shoot. (I’m not sure how much they enjoyed Merely Ice Cream either but I very happily scarf down a Salted Butterscotch the next day.) Grayson is absent from these proceedings because he has bellyflopped onto the beanbag at Danz People, recharging before his class. I signed up the day before upon some prodding from Aru, among other reasons. He uses the Sia portion of Wolves by Kanye West, a song of heavy bass and moody swagger.


The National Library plaza is surprisingly cool even on a hot afternoon, although reclining, conscious or not, is sadly forbidden. While eating my ice cream at a corner of Sunshine Plaza, I am approached by a trio of students to fill out a simple survey and, bafflingly, have my photo taken with every one of them.

Marissa seems to have a tendency of turning me into a soaked sponge that threatens to flood at the slightest squeeze. Two years ago, when she first blessed this island with her divine presence, her pep talk before our first show triggered something in me, and during the performance I felt submerged in and saturated with emotion. Afterwards, I didn’t return to the holding room but sat in the left wing, steeping.

I am a soaked sponge again at her class this year, though this time the trigger is Fiona. My heart breaks after she gives up her spot to Andrew and I quickly realize how very Fiona the choreo is. I turn and see her wistfully looking in. (At the end of class, she is at the door red-eyed and beyond moved.) Then, in the middle of class, Marissa plays the music (the Stripped version of Colors by Halsey, 1:43-2:20) for the first time and does an absolutely stirring demo that brought me to bursting point. I think the beauty of her work lies in the intersection of genius choreography and honest, polished movement, both of which amplify the emotion in the music. At the end, Marissa doesn’t dance a solo but calls upon Will and Tess to perform a duet. It is a masterclass in raw and creative improv.


After lunch with three ex-classmates (one is fending off Zika in Aljunied to protect his unborn child, one has just begun a Master’s in Intellectual Property Management, one is returning with wife from Mountain View at the end of the year) and some reading, I make my way down to Yong Siak Street. BooksActually Kenny tells me there is no stock of Drewscape’s Sketchbook. Two doors down I pick out eight Plain Vanilla cupcakes for Entity.

I enter the performance space at Aliwal and retreat into the nearest corner of the inexplicably named Multi-Purpose Hall. The dancers are warming up for a walkthrough but from the music and their movement my brain gathers that they must be deep in the middle of something. Thankfully Will sees me and tells me it’s safe to approach. Outside, I settle into a wooden chair in the courtyard then dangit Poca appears carrying a pink box of Twelve Cupcakes. What is the penance for all this food waste I’ve generated, I wonder? I finish Gilly Hopkins and a young woman sits down and ruins the quiet and my remaining spongy feelings with her bleeping phone, so I up and look for Jack at Artistry Cafe, breaking up the conversation with her cool JC friend. We proceed to The Beast, where the servers wear plaid in American colours and both beer and food are exceedingly yummy.

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By the time I reenter Aliwal, it has almost filled up. I end up sitting in the furthest corner, pressed up against the pillar. The show is magnificent. The tight space and clinking glassware create a very tense setup. Miraculously, the dancers negotiate the narrow confines with nary a hitch, never compromising the fullness of their movement. Some questions in my head are: Do none of them have sweaty palms? (Or are their hands drier than mine are just from watching?) How are their bodies not showing signs of fatigue? (They took all 12 classes on top of rehearsing and performing this insanely physical hour-long show.) What would it take for them to be a part of da:ns festival? (They deserve a wider audience and would blow most acts out of the water.)

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Late that night, I decide to seize the occasion and post a tribute to Entity on Instagram. Because of the glacial pace at which I write, I end up wording it sprawled in bed while fading in and out of sleep. To my surprise, Marissa sees the post right away, and she approves, woohoo!


A small group of us send the group off at the airport at noon. Tess is the first to finish checking in. She plops down among us and tells us about her well-worn leather shoes that belonged to her mum in the 70s and that were lovingly resoled for her. Will asks if anybody wants to share their favourite moment from the past week…. Between this and Marissa eliciting responses to Will and Tess’s duet and our audience behaviour at the performance, the company has probably come to the inescapable conclusion that Asians are an uptight, unforthcoming bunch.

Even after Entity has taken to the air, I continue to stalk them on Instagram. I try but fail to save one of Grayson’s absurdly funny Instagram stories, which is shot through the airplane window and accompanied by a rudimentary illustration and an anxious voiceover: “There’s a colonial woman on the wing of the airplane. She’s churning butter in traditional garb. There’s something they’re not telling us!”

— What is your name?
— My name is Entity, for we are one.

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