It seems such a long time ago… but it was only two years when, at the official opening of the East Campus, the newly formed Samba Band clattered their way brilliantly through their first public performance. A few minutes later, the Epic Arts dancers took to the same stage, dancing with grace, beauty and significance.
The idea to bring the groups together to create meaningful art was born then, and has developed significantly since. We knew right away that both the UWCSEA learning community and the Epic Arts learning community would benefit greatly from the flow between the two organisations. Creating art in a collaborative manner brings people together to create meaningful and deep connections, that go way beyond the art itself.
So when Epic Arts left that year, we knew that we wanted to compose and perform the music for their dance work the following year. To do that, Pablo Calzado and the Samba Band composed, developed and rehearsed a new piece of work and sent it to Cambodia for the Epic dancers to work from. The dancers worked for some weeks choreographing and rehearsing ready for the collaborative week. This was then performed at school and at the opening ceremony of the Global Issues Network conference at Singapore American School.
Which brings us to 2013. In June, I travelled to Kampot to begin the preparations for this year’s collaborative work. I spent two days observing, participating and planning with Sockny, Laura, Ant, Becky and the dancers. We decided to prepare three pieces for this year’s tour. I saw an early version of 'Sit with Me,' and we talked through the ideas for two other pieces - the ones that became 'Moto Moto' and 'Nhema Musasa.'
Back in Singapore, the ensembles chosen for the work began rehearsing. In Kampot, the dancers were rehearsing the new pieces and taking Moto Moto out on the road to educate Cambodians about road safety.
Next, Lindsey Stirrat visited Kampot during the family service trip in October 2013. This gave her the perfect platform to cement her understanding of Epic Arts and experience their work in practice. She took rough demos of the music, and worked alongside students from the Music Department and the Epic Arts team to develop the Moto Moto music.
By the time Epic Arts visited East in November, there was a really special buzz around school. There were numerous daily workshops with Primary and Middle School classes and intense rehearsals with the three school ensembles lucky enough to perform - Chiongotere Mbira, Chimanga Marimba and the Samba drummers and Winded group that became United Batucada. So many smiles, so much fun, so much learning on all sides. In the sold out show on Friday, 15 November, which concluded the visit, there were spectacular performances of elaborate and detailed music, accompanying the elegant, physically pulsating movement of the Epic Encounters dance troupe.
The week provided everyone involved with days of wonderful learning. It culminated in performances of integrity and beauty, and celebrated how wonderful it is to be human and to share creativity and art. It was a week that lived our mission, values and principles. Can’t wait for 2014.
Head of Music
To learn more about Epic Arts, please visit: http://www.epicarts.org.uk/
Student reflections on their time with Epic Arts
Marla Rinck, Grade 7
I have had the pleasure to engage and interact with some of the most inspiring and amazing people on this earth: Epic Arts. I met the Epic Arts staff four years ago, and since then they have been coming to East, and we have visited them in Cambodia.
Epic Arts is an organisation based in Cambodia. It is an inclusive arts organization that brings together people with and without disabilities. Epic Arts works in the UK and internationally across all art forms. In all the countries they work and use the arts as a form of expression and empowerment, to create a dialogue within those specific cultures around disability issues. Epic Arts has a saying that “every person counts.”
Epic Arts has held workshops, and performed shows, that engaged and moved audiences. UWC students have also had the fantastic opportunity to visit Epic Arts on one of the “Colors Of Cambodia” trips in October. I have been on this trip twice, and within both experiences, I have witnessed something different. Epic Arts is able to perform and interact with students in the most unique and special ways. Epic Art’s workshops are the most moving and eye opening experiences. If you get the chance, take it!
During our workshop with Epic Arts we were able to engage and communicate using different types of art performances (no sounds). We (as students) also had the fantastic opportunity to learn around 10 sign language words.
After their demonstrations, we were able to get into small groups and use our own imagination to create something magical. Marie (an epic arts performer) helped our group originate ideas. After we received her help, I thought to myself, that this idea would have never come across my mind. It was extremely hard to remember all the moves and gestures, but by the end of the day it was great fun!
Working with them was beyond the most amazing and life changing thing that has happened to myself and any other UWC students.
Nishant, Grade 7
November 12th seemed like an ordinary Tuesday morning. Instead, I was momentarily startled when I saw five strangers standing with my teacher, Ms Cupitt. They were all wearing t-shirts saying 'Epic Arts.' I tried recollecting what I knew about Epic Arts. All I could remember was that it was a GC in Cambodia that helped deaf and disabled people. They were probably visiting the school.
We were told that for the next two drama lessons, the Epic Arts visitors were going to be running some drama workshops. Although I was a bit skeptical, I was still excited. We started by learning some basic words in sign language, the language that deaf people use. All the visitors spoke sign language, and one of them also spoke English. We learnt words like 'clear', 'rest' and 'water'. After practising for a while, we started on our first activity.
The activities we did over the two sessions included experiences such as working in groups to preparing short skits based around a moment of conflict or the desire to sit on a chair to perform. For example, our first activity was to get into groups of five and prepare a scene where we all sat on a bench for different reasons. Eventually the people already sitting on the bench would leave for their own reasons, and a new person would enter and sit on the bench. Another activity involved creating a series of sitting positions and performing them in synchronization or contrasting sequence until it became like a dance.
From the workshops with Epic Arts we learnt how to be better communicators, as we had to make decisions with the rest of the group. We became more resilient, because if there was a problem with our scene, we had to quickly solve it and move on. We also became more creative, as we were challenged to create original and interesting scenarios. I enjoyed the happy and good-natured visitors from Epic Arts immensely.
I will never forget this amazing experience.
Riya, Grade 5
I felt absolutely thrilled to be working with Epic Arts. Sure, everyone feels a bit nervous at first, but they are absolutely amazing and awesome. When I first met them, I was like “Okay, this looks hard” as I wasn’t sure how to communicate, and I was a little unsure about working with someone in a wheelchair.
We did music workshops, we had a lunchtime activity, and we had a class workshop. During music, we had a drama workshop with them and it was fun performing it in front of everyone.
On Wednesday, during the lunchtime activity, we were put into groups with one Epic Arts member each. We were given a problem that we had to enact out. With our whole class, we were in groups of 3 or 4 and we had to think of five sitting positions and do them in different orders, together with all that, we put together a dance routine, it was amazing.
I think, that working with Epic Arts is an honour that everyone must have cherished, I know that I have loved it, it is one of my most favorite memories of G5. I love Epic Arts!
Jacob, Grade 5
First, as I went to the workshop, I didn’t know what would happen or what Epic Arts is like. I felt nervous of course but after a while, I thought that they were amazing people. They had disabilities but could still communicate with us which was fascinating, and when we had workshops with them, they knew what was happening even if they didn’t really understand what we were saying.
We had music workshops with them, a lunchtime activity and a class workshop. In the music workshop, everyone was put in groups with one of the members in Epic Arts, with around 3-4 people in each group. We were told to show five ways of sitting positions each and then a way to leave, when we were done, we had to chose one of those positions and then perform.
I was afraid at first but when we started, I was excited and wanted to do my part immediately.