A welcome to the audience

by Balbir Singh

In these strange times, it is wonderful to be connecting the work with audiences again after so many months. I always start any new creation thinking about the journey of the audience through the work, what is in it for them, how they can leave the performance with something new to think about and see the world differently.

These two painters certainly provided a lot of source material with how, as humans, we make sense of our own identity, the use of technology and the modern equivalent of the self-portrait – the selfie – the colours that surround us and how they change through the seasons. In these times of lockdown, in particular, green spaces and nature have been important, and featured strongly in both artists' work. The challenges on their journeys through life, a sense of urgency with the short-lived lives they had, yet the prolific output they produced linked to a sense of heritage, identity and a rainbow of emotions.

Ultimately it is a journey they were on to discover themselves, to grow as artists, their relationship with colour through the years, perception of the world and how they translated that in a way that was magical onto the canvas.

The challenge while developing the work was how to reference their beautiful paintings for an outdoor performance.

As a child, I loved the Rubik's Cube. This inspired me to transform their work onto nine squares on a cube, initially with solid cubes so each side had an image. Then we tried structures with four sides with space to see through, as this seemed to work better and allowed the images to breathe a bit more and not overwhelm.

Early on, we worked with the cubes with nothing on them and architecturally that worked well in the performance space. We then brought in the two self-portraits front and back, nine cubes each gave us 18 other images to select. This was about presenting a balance of work from both painters to allow the performers to reference the art in different ways during the show. The brain likes puzzles and jigsaws. We have moments of creating jigsaws with the audience, figuring out as the dancers do, the images coming together as individual portraits and trying to combine the two.

Our performers have loved the challenge of using the source material and the cube set. They have used it to their advantage, enhancing their creative art form, to make sense of and find a deeper connection to the painters.

We hope you leave the performance with a warm glow, having a shared emotional experience viewing art as a gathering of strangers. See the world anew as we take small steps into the sunlight in present times with a fresh outlook on how we fit within it all after months of a world in isolation with our own self-portraits.


Balbir Singh studied contemporary dance at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD). Trained and immersed entirely in the Western contemporary canon, it was only after graduating from NSDC that Balbir encountered traditional Indian dance forms. Read more...

Erica Mulkern in rehearsal for The Two Fridas

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