Arnaud Bouvier

“Learning”: Memory, Precision, Uncertainty in a 5-hour Durational Performance at National Gallery Singapore

By Jocelyn Chng

(440 words, three-minute read)

Part of National Gallery Singapore’s special programme Performing Spaces that explores how space can be a “living organism” facilitating encounters between performers and audiences, Learning takes place over two weekends in March 2019.

Learning is choreographed by Liz Santoro and Pierre Godard, co-founders of French dance company Le Principe d’incertitude, and will be performed here together with the T.H.E. Second Company. This performance marks the first time Learning is created with a new company of dancers in collaboration with Santoro and Godard. Over the 5-hour duration of the work, National Gallery’s public spaces will be taken over by the dancers, and audiences are invited to witness the dancers’ processes of learning and memory, an experience unique to each performance. In line with the idea of exploring space, each performance will be influenced by the specific spaces that the dancers find themselves in. Part of the challenge will be for the dancers to negotiate and adapt their movements to the spaces that they occupy.


“Learning”, choreographed by Liz Santoro and Pierre Godard, Photo: Arnaud Bouvier.


“Learning”, choreographed by Liz Santoro and Pierre Godard, Photo: Arnaud Bouvier.


Learning is based on a work titled For Claude Shannon, originally created in 2016, by Santoro and Godard. Santoro is an American dancer and choreographer, one of whose current interests lies in the concept of spectatorship. She earlier pursued neuroscience at Harvard University, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology. Godard, who has a Master’s degree in applied mathematics, works across varied fields, from stage design and production, to mathematics and language processing. Santoro and Godard have been collaborators since 2009, and their works have been presented at several venues in New York and Paris.


Goh Shu Yi will be one of the dancers from T.H.E. Second Company performing “Learning” at National Gallery Singapore. Goh is pictured here in a performance at the M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival 2018. Choreography by Goh Shou Yi and Mai Kubota. Photo by Bernie Ng.


Elaine Chai (left) will be one of the dancers from T.H.E. Second Company performing in “Learning” at National Gallery Singapore. Chai is pictured here as part of a performance at LITHE 2018 by T.H.E. Second Company, “This is how we’ll meet/part” choreographed by Marcus Foo with music collaborator Venetia Lim. Photo by Kuang Jingkai.


The 2016 piece was inspired by the work of mathematician Claude Elwood Shannon in numerical logic and communication. Santoro and Godard devised a structure in which specific movements for arms and legs could be combined in any number of possibilities that cannot be fully rehearsed. The dancers in the piece are therefore required to learn a specific combination of movements for each performance, drawing from their intimacy with the piece’s movement language, and with each other.

For Claude Shannon was reworked into Learning, first performed in 2018 at contemporary art museum the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Learning takes place at National Gallery Singapore on 16 – 17 March and 23-24 March 2019, 2pm – 7pm at various locations. Admission is free; find out more information here.

Santoro and Godard will also be sharing their experience of redesigning a dance work for a gallery space, in an Artist Talk entitled “From Black Box to White Cube.” The talk takes place on 13 March, 7pm – 9pm, at National Gallery; more information and registration here.

Learning is made possible by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and the Tote Board Group which comprises the Tote Board, Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club. Find out more here.

This article is sponsored by National Gallery Singapore.

Guest Contributor Jocelyn Chng holds a double Masters in Theatre Studies/Research. She is currently building her portfolio career as an educator and practitioner in dance and theatre, while pursuing an MA in Education (Dance Teaching). She is a founding member of the Song and Dance (SoDa) Players – a registered musical theatre society in Singapore, with whom she does choreography/movement training and production work. Jocelyn also writes for Centre 42’s Citizen Reviewers programme. Her reviews can be found here.

About the author(s)

Jocelyn Chng (Singapore) is a freelance educator, practitioner and writer in dance and theatre. She has written for various platforms since 2013, including The Flying Inkpot, Centre 42 and The Straits Times. She holds a double Masters in Theatre Studies/Research, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Dance Teaching). At the heart of her practice, both teaching and personal, lies a curiosity about personal and cultural histories; writing about performance allows her to engage with this curiosity. She sees performance criticism as crucial to the development of the performance landscape in Singapore, and a valuable opportunity to contribute to ongoing discussions about performance and society.

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