Dirty Dancer @ Singapore Night Festival
By Richard Seah
23 Jul 2010
Dirty dancer is NOT what the term usually suggests.
If you are hoping to see something obscene, vulgar or naughty, sorry, you will be disappointed. Sexy? Arguably she is. But not in the usual "dirty" way.
In this case, the dancer is literally dirty. Covered with dirt. Because it had rained and she was performing outdoors. And by the way, we, the photographers, too, were dirty. We were standing in the mud as we photographed her.
Well, actually not many photographers were interested in photographing her. The majority were using wide - and super wide - angle lenses to photograph as much as possible of the entire scene, which stretched across the facade of the Singapore National Museum. From what I see of photographs of the event posted on the local photography forum, only a few focused on her. And even these were mainly whole body shots with ample background. I am probably the only one who zoomed in so close, shooting from right up front with my 'poison' 80-400 mm lens.
It might seem that I was missing the forest for the trees. After all, the performance - the highlight of Singapore Night Festival 2010 - was titled Paraboles and the "stars" of the show were a series of gigantic satellite dishes spread across the museum grounds. To the accompaniment of avant garde music, spirals, waveforms, colored lights and even images of sperm were projected onto these circular screens. Against the backdrop of the museum's British colonial architecture, it was quite a sight.
But heck. One set of paraboles look just like the other. I did not even bother to shoot them. I was more interested in the solo dancer below one of the paraboles (as well as the equally expressive conductor and some of the musicians.)
I had barely caught her on the first night. I had gone for coffee and, because the service was slow, the show had started by the time I finished. I found myself in the middle of the field across the road, with a sea of people ahead of me. The performance was at least 80 metres away. I barely managed some shots above the people's heads.
Then on the second night, shucks, the two performances were scheduled for midnight and 1 am. This was, after all, the NIGHT festival. My photo buddies had all decided to call it quits. I, too, was tired from shooting other festival performances since 8 pm. At the last minute, I decided to stay.
By the time the midnight show ended, I was glad I did. It was, for me, a amazing act. I had some pretty good pictures. Should I be satisfied and make my way home?
A voice in me told me to stay on, no matter how tired I was. For the show would never be repeated. And as there were fewer people left, I could shoot from different angles.
Then it started to drizzle. The musical instruments were all covered with plastic sheets. At 1.15 am, it still wasn't clear if the performance would proceed.
It finally did. The drizzle subsided and I took out my camera again. And this was when the dancer got dirty.
That night, I reached home at 3am and did not sleep till 4. I was too anxious about the pictures that I had taken. Forget about the other performances earlier that evening. I wanted, more than anything else, to view and evaluate my pictures of the Singapore MIDnight Festival, especially of that final performance.
Only then did I realise how dirty she was.