IN the dance Deproduction, Japanese dancer Airi Suzuki demonstrates to the audience the differences between a "sexy walk" in France and Japan.
She first mimics a French woman: She keeps her head up, her shoulders back, and struts confidently with her hips swivelling from side to side. Her look is a come-hither one.
She then mimics a Japanese woman, walking with her legs curled inwards and her chin down. She giggles like a schoolgirl and makes "V" signs with her fingers, exuding shyness and innocence.
Sexual naif or sex bomb? Whether a woman is perceived as one or the other boils down to a simple matter of geography, it would seem.
Geography, in fact, is a crucial question in the two upcoming arts events organised by two leading Singapore theatre groups. Is geography fast becoming irrelevant in this so-called rapidly borderless world? Or does it remain a sticking point in the way we manufacture our identities?
With the Singapore Arts Festival unceremoniously going on hiatus this year, the Flying Circus Project by TheatreWorks and the M1 Fringe Festival by The Necessary Stage have taken on greater relevance in exploring the differences between cultures, identities and art practices.
In the next two weeks, the M1 Fringe Festival is showcasing 15 works - including Deproduction - hailing from 10 countries. From plays to photography, many offer insights into the psyche of peoples navigating the realities of a globalised world with all its cultural sensitivities and collisions.
Meanwhile, for the Flying Circus Project, TheatreWorks has gathered 35 talented artists from around the world in the newly awakened Myanmar for an arts workshop to create a deeper understanding of cultures and art practices. The project will move to Singapore next week for a free presentation-cum-performance.
TheatreWorks' Flying Circus Project is especially significant this year because of its engagement with Myanmar, a country undergoing massive transition.
Government reforms since 2010 have led to the release of hundreds of political prisoners and measures to open the economy. The election of democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi has brought waves of change across the country - with US President Barack Obama's November visit marking the sea transformation.
Though decades of military rule and reclusion have made the country free of Western influences, they also make Myanmar - with its diverse art forms - an ideal location for the eighth edition of TheatreWorks' Flying Circus Project.
Speaking from Yangon where the 35 artists are currently engaged in a show-and-tell of their practices, TheatreWorks' creative director Ong Keng Sen says, "I've wanted to conduct the project in Myanmar since 2004, but it proved impossible before. It was only now that we found a trustworthy partner in Myanmar so we were able to do this."
Twenty of the artists come from as far away as Helsinki and Cape Town, while the remaining 15 are Myanmarese. The latter include famous comedian Zarganar who was imprisoned for poking fun at Myanmar's military rulers, cartoonist Aw Pi Kyeh (APK) whose works were banned when he supported the monks of the Saffron Revolution, as well as journalist Ju whose frequently censored feminist writings call for more protection for women.
Speaking from Yangon, Ms Ju says her maiden talk in Singapore next week will be about why she believes in art as a medium for social change: "Through art, we can create mobilisation among the experts like scientists, advocates, educators and social workers. Art shapes us to be civilised, our hearts to be soft and filled with compassion and courage."
Mr Ong says that the non-local artists are finding parallels between the Myanmar experience and that of their own country: "Australian artist Rachel Swaine compares it to the Aboriginal situation in her country, and Sri Lankan artist Sanathanan Thamotharampillai sees striking similarities with the conflicts in his home in Jaffna."
Mr Ong calls the project a chance for "greater planetary consciousness". When it runs in Singapore from Jan 16 to 20, admission to all talks and performances by the artists will be free.
Who are we, really?
Meanwhile, the works showcased in M1 Fringe Festival by The Necessary Stage continue to examine the issue of identity in an increasingly borderless world.
The acclaimed Japanese play Going On The Way To Getting Lost by writer-director Shiro Maeda depicts a Tokyo urbanite who loses her sense of self and place, and becomes a stranger in her own city.
Mr Maeda describes the surreal work as "exploring and getting lost in your memory and reality, being alive and being dead, and those in between."
Drawing inspiration from a changing Tokyo, he says: "I was born and grew up in Tokyo. Most of the people who are drastically changing Tokyo are not originally from Tokyo. I feel sad watching these outsiders change the city because I still cherish my memory of the old Tokyo. I think that Tokyo is turning into one of those ordinary cities where many people want to come to and live, but it will eventually become unattractive."
Closer to home, the local play Best Of stars rising actress Siti Khalijah Zainal and also centres on a woman trying to locate her voice in society.
Siti explains, "As a young Malay-Muslim woman, there are many things for me to work out, from the way I am viewed, as well as my community, my own connection to my culture and religion and how to negotiate them with modern influences, and also how I fit in as a Singaporean."
Director Alvin Tan explains that Siti is Everywoman because she "has to find (her voice and identity) in whatever small space she has."
Mr Tan, who is the artistic director of The Necessary Stage, is co-organising the festival. He says: "If you notice, many works in the festival deal with the notion of finding your identity in a fast-changing world.
"Because of travel, technology and other factors, you find that your identity is constantly in flux, and you are always asking yourself: Who am I, first and foremost? But even after you answer that question, your answer may change again when you find yourself in a different situation because the world is shrinking and expanding so fast.
"Who you think you are today may no longer be true tomorrow."