Singapore Ballet Festival 2021 by Singapore Dance Theater – Singapore Ballet

At the opening of this Festival, it was announced that Singapore Dance Theatre would be changing its name to “Singapore Ballet”. Think we had heard before the original intent of SDT had been to celebrate dance and not simply ballet as ballet, but given that there is classical, contemporary, (?neo-classical?) ballet and that ballet companies do perform contemporary works too, perhaps a sweet-smelling rose and so on. There was a very good explanation in the booklet for SBF that I liked – see below. Reassuringly, this name change does not change the repertoire.

The cover of the booklet for Singapore Ballet Festival, which was a tribute to the Singaporean choreographer Choo-San Goh. I like how they used/ repurposed the Nutcracker background. I’m easily pleased, am I? Haha. It just has a nice mysterious look to it. On another note, I’m happy to see the One@The Ballet dates are up on the website.

1. Variations Sérieuses

This work calls for a piano and a pianist to be onstage with the dancers. The pianist faces to the right and it’s a remarkable work of coordination to get everyone going at the same time. I just read a nice paragraph in Dance Europe – “…a knowledgeable ballet audience needs to see choreographic craftsmanship to enjoy a fulfilling experience, and the art form of ballet won’t be enriched without thoughtfully constructed sequences of steps, technique and artistry” (that’s from a review of Wayne McGregor’s The Dante Project with the Royal Ballet, also Edward Watson’s last performance, I think). I’m not a KBA (Knowledgeable Ballet Audience) but this articulates what we mean when we say works like Unexpected B are intricate. And this is what Variations Sérieuses (henceforth called “Variations”) is. Unfolding petals of patterns peeling themselves off one another, a tight teamwork like pressed lines on origami, a lithe steely pas de deux by Uchida Chihiro and Nakamura Kenya; that moment of silence like a petal slowly floating down and settling on water, with brief almost-moment of eye-contact between Chihiro and the pianist, before the music begins in tandem with her dancing; that understanding of where everyone is and must be. There’s just a little jazzy snazzy moment between the choreographer and the audience, when a couple or so of the girls pose right by the piano as you know they must, because it is a piano that is being played, and at that moment it comes back into the picture like a smile at the audience breaking the fourth wall.

Do I know much about Variations? No. Do I understand it? I fear (and confess) – not terribly. But is it a good work? Yes, it is. I think it bears watching again and again. When you see a piano do you think of Balanchine’s Black and White works, the one with the piano? I don’t know.. perhaps I do.. I watched one once, and jet lag made me drowsy. But this is very different. What’s striking as you move through the works in the evening is that every work is crafted very tightly and every work looks and feels different.

Pictures, because we have them.

(L – R – I think) Chihiro, Ma Ni, Yeo Chan Yee, Watanabe Tamana, Minegishi Kana, Kwok Min Yi, Chua Bi Ru, grand piano, Elaine Heng.

Here we see the men – Huo Liang, Kenya, Jason Carter, Timothy Ng. In the foreground, the pianist Gabriel Hoe, rightly applauded. Brilliant.

Thank you, all.

As always, names are mentioned because one day maybe someone will google. And then they will know they were not just ships passing in the night, unnamed and unseen.

2. Double Contrasts

Is there a work we’ve watched and loved through the ages as much as this? It took time for me to grasp and appreciate it when I first saw it, and now it’s something we welcome when we see it on the list. We’ve watched this cast in it before too, and it has grown nicely along with them. Every moment is sharp, thrilling.

There is a contrast between the groups of dancers, says the write-up – but there is a shared joy in their dancing that strikes a chord with us. We see the dancers in their glittering black outfits – sophisticated, and also lively; there are moments familiar to us – we know that with a clash of the keys, the dancers in white soar in, and they also have wings on their feet. Jessica Garside makes for a good addition to the group, bringing a positive energy with her dancing. I felt like I’d seen Henriette Garcia (always dependably strong) in this before though I can’t find a review of it between 2018’s 30th Anniversary Gala and now.

Elaine Heng and Yorozu Kensuke’s duet is elegant, smooth as always, and it also crackles with a warmth and life. Kwok Min Yi and Etienne Ferrère sparkle and their energy stretches out across through the darkness of the theatre to the audience. In particular, it was good to see Elaine and Min Yi’s versions of black / white – classy and passionate; vivid and charismatic. I liked that. We weren’t seated terribly near the front, and yet their emotion flowed right across to us and warmed our hearts.

(Just personally, for me, having the heart warmed does not seem an obvious outcome of Double Contrasts. In a way, when I see Double Contrasts, I see a lot of angles and shapes and sharp points of feet and arms and elbows. The pas de deux are more lush (especially Black) but there are repeated patterns like crystalline structures. And yet when you read the past reviews you’ll see that somehow, Double Contrasts always moves me in some way… I suppose – that it has its contrasts in its own way.)
At first, when I was looking through the images, I thought the screen was dirty. Those are just stars hanging in the sky above the stars.

L-R: Beatrice Castañeda, Suzuki Mai, Shan Del Vecchio, Tamana Nanase, Henriette Garcia, Miura Takeaki, Yeo Chan Yee, Jessica Garside

Second verse, same as the first. A little bit louder and*… the picture’s clearer, though. (*Henry the VII by Herman’s Hermits, for the curious)
Now we also have Kensuke and Elaine, Min Yi and Etienne in this pic.

And this one, because why not.

3. Configurations pas de deux

Here’s an earlier version; the height of tension, of a youthful relationship, of anger and turmoil, of yearning.

This is my current favourite of all the Chihiro and Kenya pas de deux I’ve seen recently. I do like everything I’ve seen, but the music for this one just eats your soul quietly; and there is a fluidity and ease in their performance that eases it into the palette gently.

I think I saw on Instagram, something like (Chihiro?) mentioning the selfishness or self-centredness of two people – with the sense of how this means the longing between them will never result in a fully-realised relationship. Did this affect our viewing? Sure it did; when watched through this lens, it made the story new and utterly enjoyable. Here they are tangling and disentangling, each an individual atom to themselves and yet each wanting to be together, and (again) yet gently navel-gazing. Where each of them tugs at the other for attention and love, they are like arrows that miss their mark – the affections meet, then part, they are fleeting and yet lasting; they want to be together but they somehow cannot find their paths to be the same. It’s an enveloping passion that they have, that devours their hearts, but because they are so locked in what they want, they cannot see past themselves and find a shared goal.

And because Chihiro and Kenya are such experienced dancers, and they have developed their own language for how they convey contemporary ballet, the dance has matured with them over time. Though I suppose the story is about a kind of immature relationship, their experience makes it a beautiful piece to watch – the story is uncomfortable, but they make it shine.

Kazaam, the music.

4. Fives

We saw it twice before in BUTS 2018, and here in Masterpiece in Motion 2019. I think we can’t ever tire of this. The triumphant dramatic third movement has always been my favourite, but the whole work is quite extraordinary, especially when you consider everything that’s gone before it. We’ve seen precision, contrasting moods, extreme moods, and then now this – steps in silence, a burst of music, a modern slash of scarlet to the eye. There were changes in some of the couples, I think. Everyone did give it their very best – it was the last in a long programme and for them to unflaggingly pull off the entire piece was impressive.

Fives is jagged – the music tugs on the corners of your brain, the moves are angular and it’s sparse, sparing, clean. There are dances that are like scalpels carving fruit sculptures, there are dances that are like soft cloth and light falling over faces; and then there’s Fives, which makes you think of something avant-garde (whatever that might mean to you) and is unabashedly, unafraidly modern – and it looks you in the eye to tell you that, right up there with its bright red unitards and the glowing red “V” in the background, which I think I only just realised when I was watching this show, stands for the roman numeral for 5, and is not just a decorative light-board. When there is silence at the opening, it is just pure movement stripped bare to its essence – “here we are, at the barre, reflections of one another”. It is not mystical. It just exists.

Though we didn’t catch the other performance with the other dances (sob), here we have the pictures of the booklet.

Ah, so many debuts for Schubert Symphony, plus enter a new dancer who has just joined, Kevin Zong. Would that we could have seen it. And the fantastic Momentum, of course.

And there we have it! The last show of Singapore Dance Theatre before – 2022 – Singapore Ballet, as it is now. Here’s the picture for 2022 that was at the back of the booklet.

Pictured above: May Yen Cheah, Timothy Ng, Kwok Min Yi, Ivan Koh

We will update on Hellos, Goodbyes and Promotions.

Singapore Dance Theatre’s Passages (Contemporary Season) 2021 – Meditation; Zer0; Unexpected B; Zin!

We’ll review this in a jiffy, but look, I’ve misplaced the booklet so there are no pictures. I shall update in due course. 5 to 7 November 2021. O and happy new year!

Update: I have found the booklet. Much elation, followed by some self-reflection (only ten seconds). The booklet is half the size of the usual.

1. Meditation by Janek Schergen

Uchida Chihiro and Elaine Heng alternate in the roles. We only managed to watch one show (would have liked to see two as in pre-COVID times) – saw Chihiro’s show, with the cellist Liu Jiaqi. We reviewed this when it aired during SIFA, and I wondered what it would look like live, and here it is. (First thing you notice, without meaning to be facetious – is that there’s a spangled glittery design on the back of Chihiro’s white dress.) Up close in real life, everything is a little deeper, a little more emotional, a little more complicated – there’s a shade more angst and a touch of desperation in parts; movements always delicate and intricate, as always. (Update: If we could have seen Elaine in it, I think that might have completed the experience – probably a kind of quiet dignity in her interpretation, we cannot surmise so we must imagine with the assistance of the photo below.)

2. zer0 by Rachel Lum

Reviewed earlier in the year here. This is a pattern that the lazybear in us likes.

We only watched it twice, but in the two times we saw it, there was never a dull moment. From the opening, which brings to mind trailing feet in the sand to draw patterns (actually, slow deliberate movements and a sense of a hot slow afternoon like frogs in the mud), to the bibs and bobs of the little group, to the arching tilted hips and leg stretches on the ground – to the big black skirts and everyone bounding about. Zero is what Justin Zee (if I recall correctly) shouts before the earlier leaping around in skirts in a maniacal but sometimes orderly fashion (triangles of dancers rushing forward) breaks out and resets into the final run of chaos.

It is a work that works because you are drawn in by the energy of the dancers; a work of play that is opens in a quiet fashion but leaps into irrepressible mischief – where we once thought the numbers were random because there were simply so many numbers – honestly of course they are not, and we apologise unreservedly cos on reflection, it sounds rude to suggest! of course they are not random and everyone remembers them and it is not play at all – but you don’t know that, watching – it’s always fun when you see the dancers who seem to understand it’s a wink and a nudge, it’s all a bit of a crazy zany fest that they’re in on with us – hold on to your hairnets and leap into the carriage, folk, because we’re zipping off into the sunrise. (Zany: the word they made you learn in school that you didn’t think you’d ever really use much in real life.)

3. Unexpected B by Shimazaki Toru

Seen in 2017 here – I honestly feel like I’ve watched it again since then, but I can’t locate the review. Was it only introduced in 2017? Did it not enter the books in 2015? Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana (attributed to Groucho Marx but apparently possibly not actually said by him).

It’s still exactly as we saw and remember it – little pattering pretty feet as the ladies lean upon the men’s backs and the men turn in a part-circle; dual couples in duel dancing – a very intensely detailed work. There’s one part where everything grows quiet and dancers stagger out slowly across the stage in a daze. Once, on youtube, I found and lost a video showing the choreographer suggesting (if I recall correctly) that the dancers cross the stage as if they are from another era and have just arrived in this time and age. This explains the sort of dazed backward sense from the dancers; they move as if they are crawling on their feet through the ether. It makes you wish you knew more about what choreographers suggest to the dancers to bring out the exact quality they are looking for. Just saw in a comment to the Royal Ballet rehearsal of Giselle, that “panther feet” was used.

The lovely thing about rewatching is when you suddenly remember past dancers (Ruth Austin in Unexpected B, for one) and moments (Jeremie Gan in the line-up where the dancers couple up and break out of the line for their moment in the light, Huo Liang creeping out in a daze, Minegishi Kana’s pattering feet); when you see Shan Del Vecchio and Yeo Chan Yee, you remember Yes, this is the pas de deux – where they kind of gave off a humorous vibe, and you hear their voice in the dancing, which is always a pleasant moment.

Then Chua Bi Ru and Reece Hudson dance, unforgettably. I remember when I first saw it, it engulfed me with its passion and emotion; and this time it is a little more muted (has it matured?), but also very organic – by this I mean not chickens, but lived behaviour: you almost forget you are watching ‘dance’ – you are watching life – for a very strange, wonderful moment, as you watch Bi Ru standing in front of Reece, and a spark of a smile crosses Bi Ru’s face as their arms flicker outwards – it has a quality reminiscent of something from NDT (Nederlands Dans Theater) – I can’t put my finger on it – something haunting, some complicated emotion. Whatever it is, this is not a box of scent you can walk into a shop to purchase off a shelf. It is a moment you savour.

4. ZIN!

Remains one of my favourites. Would have loved to have seen both casts as I always enjoy watching the original plus would have enjoyed seeing Kwok Min Yi in it – for one, she always communicates true enjoyment when she dances; and for another, she has a naturally charismatic breakdancer-ish way of dancing non-classical dance (and it would have been particularly interesting to see this in a quirky dance like Zin!), something that actually is unique to her in the company. But! I’m glad I caught the new 2nd cast in it — it is a crazy jolly work and the new folk are joyously bright in it. We have been told at One @ The Ballet that there are two parts to it, using the exact same piece of music, with differences in the actual construction. Can I tell? No. I’m just enjoying myself. Everyone is dressed like a referee and has a whistle round their necks. How is no one deafened?

My favourite parts include the caterpillar march: the men forming caterpillar legs, the ladies in between “seated” in mid air with their legs straight out and tucked under the men’s arms – and one girl at the front facing the caterpillar and marching backwards as it marches forward, and when the girl nods, the others throw their heads back. This is a vigorous work that makes good use of interlocking arms, patterns and alternating movements. The moves are instantly recognisable to kids – Watanabe Tamana and Timothy Ng marching up and down the breadth of the stage making motions with their arms; dancers waving like referees; dancers in a row rolling over one by one and sitting up, getting to their feet.

In between the two segments of music, the dancers lie spread-eagled on the floor like kids at a playground, before one of them (I think Jason Carter in Cast 1) sits up and starts summoning everyone by blowing on his whistle: phee, phee, phee-phee-phee-phee. And then another sits up, and another. And off we go again!

At the end, the dancers form a cross shape with one dancer aloft as seen in the picture above – and then as the light and sound fade out, the dancers lift off in this most marvellous construction so that the girls are practically flying, very slowly, to the faint sounds of whistling, a train pulling out of the station, as it were.

There we are.

The last review for 2021 that’s due is the Singapore Ballet Festival. Let me go and mail myself the pictures. For this, I missed Momentum and o sadness, Schubert Symphony with Chihiro in her debut; you know what a delight it would have been to see her! Sheer magic!

Have a very good 2022.

Forces of Dance 2021 – Piano Concerto (Shostakovich), Sticks and Stones, The Third Reset

This was good. I may have said already that Masterpiece in Motion was good; and this one was really fun, which made it very good for the audience. Just a very different energy – there was a kind of buzz and vitality, and the programme trotted along beautifully. Perhaps because it was held at the open stage on a thankfully clear day, with the Singapore River behind the performers, and the very occasional bumboat; the city lights to the right with the moon a tiny spot-lantern in the sky.

The programme was available by download – a QR code – I had a screenshot but we will type the information here. Right now we have also already watched Passages 2021 for which I think we will have a far shorter review.

Offhand, there were a couple of planets in the sky that night, visible from the Esplanade. Planets, someone told me, are those stars that don’t blink (twinkle). Venus was WSW with the moon; Uranus was at ENE (according to the internet, which also explained what was visible to the naked eye). But then it’s very hard to say because they do say you need very dark skies to see them.

1. Piano Concerto no. 2, Opus 102, aka “Shostakovich”

Choreographer – Edmund Stripe

Performed by: Yeo Chan Yee, Timothy Ng, Beatrice Castañeda, Chua Bi Ru, Elaine Heng, May Yen Cheah, Yatsushiro Marina, Tanaka Nanase, Etienne Ferrère, Huo Liang, Jason Carter, Yorozu Kensuke, Shan Del Vecchio

This has followed us a long way, from the time we started watching properly at One @ the Ballet in 2014, until now (when we are trying to see the shows but perhaps we can’t follow as closely because of the epidemic).

Throw away everything you’ve watched of it before. It is fresh, and refreshing, and every single one of the dancers looks bright and fills the dance with life; their limbs lively, the steps and feet sharp as new pins. Everything is bright, everyone is fresh as a daisy. I felt like I was watching it anew, every petal unfurling in the river breeze. Chua Bi Ru and Etienne Ferrère together they are an pleasant, very well-matched pair – hands gracefully eloquently unfurling like petals – dancing to the tips of their fingers and feet, paintbrushes on a canvas. I’d forgotten the little things that jump out at one, the humour in the piece, the little twitches in the hips, the marching with flat raised hands, swirling arms sweeping before the face like giant cartwheels; the delightful pairs quickly etching out shapes like friezes, dropping into poses one after another like little dominoes. It was all very new and delightful to see it all over again. Also a little bit of nostalgia – watching dancers from a long time back – Huo Liang, Yatsushiro Marina, light-footed and quick; Yorozu Kensuke – strong, confident, engaged in this dance. The dancers all, together onstage, right to the end, are joy – this dance is joyful, and it is a good opening to the show.

Beatrice dances the Tinkerbell solo – efficiently racing across the stage with impossible speed that leaves you breathless, tiny pinprick movements and huge sweeping gestures and arabesques in a very fast speedy flight. I did like her first time doing it then, and this time, she just fills the stage with a kind of heft and breadth; and Tinkerbell is a slight dancer role and she fills the stage with her dancing.

Ah! Andante, the beloved pas de deux. I think this is honestly the first dance where I’ve noticed the roles are for certain types of dancers – slight for the Tinkerbell solo, and long-limbed /tall for the pas de deux. Timothy Ng and Yeo Chan Yee have practised this for a long time and we have watched it from One @ The Ballet where they and the Artistic Director graciously allowed us to watch a fraction of it being rehearsed, learnt, from the basics – where to you cast your eyes, et cetera. It’s lovely to see it all come to fruition onstage (and we have not even seen a fraction of their work on it). (The watching of rehearsals, we love it, we watch the Royal Ballet ones sometimes.) More below the video.

Past reviews for 2015, some videos, and 2016.

Very calm, very staid, very mature – this is how they quietly play it. It goes well in the night. It’s like that saying about true love being hard work. Their hard work has paid off; they represent the stability and calm of a relationship; he lifts her ably and she rests her weight in his hands so she may unfurl a leg above delicately; he swings her round and she slides her leg round quickly so that he can set her foot down on the ground; they take the work through its pieces and paces. Then quite suddenly boom – two-thirds through, at the part where the girl must look up and sweep her arms open – Chan Yee flings her head up and throws her arms open in an electrifying explosion of emotion that pierces the gut. This marks the turning point in the relationship in the story and in the music, where the hard work reaps its blossoming reward, and there is a peace and sweetness in the ending as they walk offstage together, arms around each other.

2. Sticks and Stones

Choreographer: Kinsun Chan

Performed by: Nakamura Kenya, Etienne Ferrère, Huo Liang, Jason Carter, Jeremie Gan, John De Dios, Justin Zee, Yorozu Kensuke, Reece Hudson, Agetsuma Satoru, Shan Del Vecchio, Miura Takeaki

This had been shown in the studio for One @ the Ballet now and then; but seeing it in the studio with full lights is always going to be different from seeing it on the darkened stage with orange lights making the sticks look like fluorescent orange Pocky sticks. In the silence, while we wait for the show to start, a bike goes by behind the audience, blasting tech boppy music.

Similar to the first work, it was curiously refreshing – dynamic, vigorous, alive. It was the right work to follow something as cheerful as Shostakovich. The audience’s attention was captured the moment the seemingly-luminous sticks started swaying hypnotically; at the men huddling in a corner, climbing atop backs to peer into the darkness, across the horizon – hunters, a battalion, the thrill of the jungle.

The Artistic Director Mr Schergen has said before that the choreographer had originally wanted to do a work about officer-workers marching around with suitcases or the like; and he had said No, no. And I say that was fortunate, because Shakespeare in the Park’s Merchant of Venice many years back had that – which was quite impressive, by the way – folk in business suits marching around (2014 – the incredible Mr Remesh Panicker as Shylock, who spoke the words like they were real words of today and yet also poetry and music in the ear). But you will see a shadow of that in the men marching a way on their tippy-toes, half-crouched over – I wonder if the choreographer got away with a bit of what he wanted.

Every man dances as if he is possessed with a new energy. Every solo is burning. In this it is evident that Nakamura Kenya has found his language for contemporary dance, a dry humour, a quiet comprehension of what it means and what he intends to do with it. Justin Zee is passionate, energetic, determined; Jeremie Gan has firecrackers at the ends of his hands, a live wire; John De Dios is compact, and in perfect form – we really hope to see more of him next year; Jason Carter displays subtle control; Reece Hudson is expressive without going overboard. The dance rolls on to ravenous drumbeats and it only gets better as it progresses. It unpacks itself like a Faberge egg, a bento box – one layer of dancers unfolding and slapping the ground with a stone in hand, then another layer of dancers joining them, and another, and another. It envelops one in a monsoon of energy. Thunderous applause for this, for good reason.

There are little sleight-of-hand moments I sometimes like to look out for, when I remember to – Kenya passing his stick to Kensuke so that he can drop down empty-handed in the centre of the group, as seen above; that moment when the men, at the back of the stage, bend down to pick up the stones on their stick-holders, while you are distracted by a few chaps in the front; that moment when those men without stones must dash back in a few seconds and grab their own stones and hurtle to the front again.

3. The Third Reset

Choreographer: Christina Chan

Performed by: Minegishi Kana, Ma Ni, May Yen Cheah, Watanabe Tamana, Valerie Yeo, Yeo Chan Yee, Ivan Koh, Jasper Arran, Agetsuma Satoru, Shan Del Vecchio, Timothy Ng

Reviewed it earlier this year. Was delighted to see it on the programme list.

If we think there are 3 parts to this, then the first is a frenzied delirious ecstasy – memorably, Watanabe Tamana with her infectious bright smile and jigging feet. Is it true joy? If we doubt it, perhaps it’s because of the office-wear – perhaps it stretches logic and the pragmatic imagination to even think that any group of office workers would be so happy. Maybe everyone is locked in a kind of imaginary belief they are perfectly happy, in a swinging hand-holding group, cloistered and clustered together in one hectic body – always that bit comes to mind of Shan Del Vecchio trying to squeeze himself into the group in one long FOMO. Moments of all falling upon one another in a sleepy part-circle that’s unexpected and actually cute, then waking up for just another day at the hamster race and the daily coffee grind – I mean, the happy dance.

It’s always open to your interpretation, anyway, and we need to emphasise that it never comes across as the obvious message or as being preachy – perhaps because of little cute moments like the sleeping dancers collapsing upon one another, and perhaps because of genuine smiles from some of the folk. And because, simply, it’s sublime. You can really just enjoy yourself and not bother about whether there are any subliminal messages. What you take away from the above speaks more of the viewer overthinking. These could really just be very happy people at a G2000 advert launch.

The second part is the submersion in a dreamy, dream-like sequence of bodies in the afterlife what lies beneath; a quiet tangling of limbs and people, of real emotions beneath the faces and a lingering longing. No one needs to look happy. There’s no particular urgency, only a drowsy quiet – sometimes a melancholy; sometimes a tangled romance. Just dancing, and people, emotions – fleeting, or real, or imagined. Valerie Yeo weaving her way amidst a knot of bodies at the back of the stage and untangling them, with a little lonesomeness that makes the heart ache. And the central pas de deux between Satoru and Tamana always adds a welcome touch of sweetness. (And here is a quiet shout-out to Ma Ni, whom we enjoyed watching in this piece – the emotions she portrayed and her beautiful dancing.)

The final reset is a hurrah of relief, of true emotion – is it in this one that the long line of dancers swings round and about the stage and someone reels to the back (Jasper Arran, I think?) so rapidly as a top spun off the string that it appears he may well slide off the stage, and the audience holds its breath – but he manages not to drop away into the darkness – later we are relieved to find that the stage does not (of course not) drop off into a cliff-face. And the third part has the closing dance with Jasper and Ivan Koh that is set to a very famous tune – and their movements are very light, and though choreographed, look natural and improvised, and the dance tumbles its way into the audience’s hearts. It’s pretty much my favourite moment- of – the – night. You can’t see the brain behind it thinking, so it feels like real life and free will. Yes, I don’t like to say what my fave moment of anything is sometimes, and I will say Forces of Dance 2021 was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve seen, from beginning to end.

Can I embed this video of an interview conducted by Elaine Heng with the choreographer Christina Chan? No, I cannot. It’s a very good interview – enhanced by their long friendship. 11:05 to 11:19 is the final pas de deux. 9:06 to 9:26 is the second part (marvellously – you see May Yen Cheah and Timothy Ng, Minegishi Kana and Jasper – yes, here there is the stillness of the wandering heart. Here there are forlorn, lonely ships crossing in the night). I like this interview. I don’t know what being a choreographer is like; so it’s nice to hear from one.

***

So much time has passed. “I’ll finish this,” I said each time.

And then suddenly Singapore Ballet Festival has come and gone, and Singapore Dance Theatre is to be renamed Singapore Ballet. We are reassured that the repertoire and choices of dance will not change; I think there was a comment once that it was to be dance and not just ballet that it represented, but apparently this name change also sees some changes in the winds of fortune in other companies – anyway the Royal Ballet and so on do perform contemporary dance works and so the name change is a rose that smells as sweet. I did have my first immediate thoughts, but while SDT / SB is gold to me, I am not a speculator. And then Huo Liang is leaving the company. I need to digest this – his leaving leaves quite a pair of shoes to be filled…we wish him well.

Back up next with Passages, which was at SOTA, land of the creepy washroom with the very large trees outside 🙂

Masterpiece in Motion 2021 – Momentum, Swipe, Jabula

First, the trailer.

I thought I’d go on semi-hiatus, the morning of the show. But then we made it to the theatre in time for the matinee.

You are coldly aware that you live in two worlds in the theatre seats, in a time like this; one where you remember squeezing yourself past knees and bags, and where the pre-show moments are filled with rustlings and coughs; and one now in the 20% capacity theatre (or less, on a Sat matinee) with a little less movement. I appreciated the efforts to ensure that the show would go on. Alternate rows of two- and single-seats, with about three seats on either side of each filled pocket. (Coldly aware – because we spent all our energy on getting to the matinee.)

I am endlessly grateful that I saw two casts – bought a matinee ticket, spurred on by a friend’s messages from IG story: This is from May Yen’s IG, showing me a matinee cast for Jabula. And yes, I wanted to see the matinee cast for Momentum as well, because.

I still think I may go on semi-hiatus. We shall see.

But first, let’s see some photographs from the matinee cast. I added a hyperlink in case the stuff below breaks, but suspect one may need to log in anyway.

And the evening cast.

1. Momentum

What’s momentum, but always moving forward, never stopping? A core of dancers in the heart of the stage like a flower bud, unfurling into blossoming petals in the breeze and a dancer springing high in the sparkling light in the hands of her partner.

Momentum is stunning from every angle – you turn it to the light and it reflects a sharp sparkle back at you; and it is said to be difficult, but the dancers make it look easy. Racing trios of couples, ladies lifted high as they swiftly cross the back of the stage, look like silver triangles on a zipline. The daunting pairwork between Beatrice Castenada and Yoruzu Kensuke (matinee) / Minegishi Kana and Jason Carter (evening) which seemed a thoroughly exhausting adrenaline run up-close with the pace of the music crushing the veins, breezes past seemingly effortlessly.

The work is silver and sleek, and it is alive. The dancers do it justice, and I would have liked to see the matinee cast in their second run of it. In their hands, Momentum was fresh and new, with a particular precision and accuracy – a new automobile out for a spin, gears tightened, fresh out of the plastic, bolts shiny. And it made one think, more than once – ah, this is the standard required for and of Momentum, and we wanted to see this for years and they have brought it to us.

The evening cast had the benefit of having been through it once before, and there was a sureness and chemistry, a common spirit as they scattered and burst out onto the stage; almost a shared exhilaration – once more into the light! – did they know, did they feel it too, this certainty and togetherness that flowed out over the stage, where they were more than the sum of their parts? They danced Momentum on the edge of a precipice; as though, if they stopped to know that they were one with one another and the music, it might all fall apart.

A little time to dwell on the main pas de deux section, a little …the evening first – night music; Uchida Chihiro and Nakamura Kenya, their dancing partnership and chemistry so finely-tuned, so finely attuned to each other that they are like silver strings; and there is a poise and refinement, an intrinsic quality in the moves and the poses that allows the audience to appreciate and soak in the delicate steely strength of the dance.

A little time, in the day – and we know it had nothing to do with real-world circumstances because I had almost little to no emotion to being in the theatre again (see ‘coldly aware’) – the pas de deux between Agetsuma Satoru and Kwok Min Yi started out quietly solid, a rejuvenated dance pairing – strong, supple, yet almost understated – and then it grew, and grew, into a yearning, an aching in the throat – a reaching for a brighter light, for the attainable and the unattainable; and then we had tears in our eyes…

…sometimes, a performance gives us a completely unexpected interpretation, and this was the revelation of the day…

(The pas de deux is, by the way, incredible. All of the choreography is remarkable – memorably, 4 men crawling across the stage on their stomachs while led by ladies elegant en pointe, pausing to lean back and pose – but I enjoyed the new twists and the trust-throws – of the lady throwing herself in a running start into the arms of the gentleman – and the difficult high lift – was it above a shoulder? – that segues into a lower lift that appeared obviously technically difficult but which the couples pulled off.)

Did we see something when we were watching this? Represented by both the pas de deux. Yes. Please keep going. The audience is here, and it will keep watching.

Here, have some pas de deux pictures. We are fans and we can’t deny it.

Chihiro and Kenya.

Min Yi and Satoru.

2. Swipe

My past self did this for my future self – the 2019 review – yes, I do mean it (but the youtube links are all broken).

We take our hats off to everyone in the cast, who had at least 2 performances out of the 3 in any show. The ladies are charming and lively – they always hold up their end of the bargain with good cheer and humour, and I remembered my friend being blown away by their live performance in the studio. The men are always popular in their 4-men part – I was suddenly reminded that in the 2019 show, when Satoru suddenly had to stand in for Etienne, at the part where the four men throw their heads back and cross paths in a fast-paced march, Jason Carter reached out to give Satoru an encouraging pat on the shoulder. Etienne’s presence is very concentrated – all energy packed into his self, imprinting his presence on the eyeball; recall Huo Liang in the night performance, as he did his wild, loose-limbed solo in a corner of the stage, giving it all he had – Take this, this is what I’m capable of; take no prisoners, gunpowder in the hold.

Swipe pictures. I wanted to take a photograph of the cast – I had a sudden wish to – but then the camera didn’t work too well…Well, we cannot know what we cannot tell, and we cannot tell what we cannot know. But this we know: If anything, we appreciate always the energy because this is a lengthy, stamina-testing piece, and I think no one can feel that more than the dancers.

3. Jabula

Has it been five years? Here’s our 2016 review of Jabula.

When I look back on both versions of Jabula, it never ceases to amaze and amuse me – well, it has amused me then and it does now – to know that Elaine Heng and May Yen Cheah give such completely different versions each time, and both are incredibly complete, spell-binding performances and each interpretation is perfectly legitimate and every move is so thorough and complete, so replete in the essence of the music and the dance, that it absorbs your attention. Each dancer’s version fitted well into their respective cast’s performance.

The casts are out in full force. These are Jabula to be savoured. Jabula is like a juicy fruit – you watch it and you know you can watch it again happily and enjoy it exactly the same way, but even more so.

Matinee

The matinee cast are humans in a large ceremony who are here in one great massive joyous display of strength, of constant compelling motion to the drumbeats. The opening dances between the couples feel like a story of human bonds, relationships, love and trust. Because this is the first Jabula for most of Cast B, we take our time to look at every single one of them. They are sure-footed, they are in the moment, and their cohesive strength is evident. There are moments that thrill us always -if we don’t recall the moves wrongly- ladies clinging on to the men’s arms to swing almost weightlessly; the ladies swiveling on their knees on the ground, expansive leaps.

Elaine here is the Goddess of the Earth. She is no longer a human dancing in this giant ritual – she is the power, the essence, and the purpose of their dance, and she channels whatever great bond the dancers have with the earth – which you see at the very end as well in their triumphant closing scene, more on that later – and she gives added meaning to their existence and to the ceremony, and there is renewed grace in her dancing. You watch the folk in the background fall back in awe and respectful silence as she becomes one with the Earth and with life itself; every movement has its meaning and it acknowledges the life force of the earth, it draws on the strength of the people and nature – she is a force beyond her existence.

Chua Bi Ru and Timothy Ng take the stage next for the pas de deux. I don’t know if anyone was expecting any particular take on it; I think Bi Ru is an explosive force to be reckoned with on stage, so I was quite objectively curious to see what she would make of it (I forgot the cast before the show started, so I had a surprise when she stepped out from between the long curtains at the back of the stage). And interestingly, when she enters, it is quietly, not a blow of grandeur, but as part of a duo with Timothy Ng, in a strong and effective partnership. They move seamlessly and together, and she is expressive as ever, but in control. They are part of the fabric of the community in Jabula – they are symbolic of the great love and trust between the couples seen earlier, because that is what the choreography demands of them. In their hands, the dance embodies the love, hopes and emotions of the wider populace.

Then we have Shan del Vecchio and Reece Hudson, in their element as a two-man show – no hesitation, just brotherhood – life and fire, spirited; and subsequently, Justin Zee, Shan and Huo Liang in a rigorously athletic showing; with the first two dancers as supports for Huo Liang’s light-footed tumblings. It’s graceful, clean, powerful, strong. It’s great to see more of these dancers, and these combinations of dancers work marvellously.

In the finale, all the couples reappear and this is Jabula as jubilation – a great outpouring of vitality, led by Bi Ru and Timothy – Bi Ru triumphant and joyous, everyone gloriously bright – this is a celebration, and everyone gives themselves in to the dance. At the very end, everyone squats widely and reaches down as if to scoop the earth. We are of the earth, we give thanks to it – it is from the earth that we draw our strength, that allows us to leap freely into the sky and land softly upon it; and then everyone falls away. Bi Ru is left with Timothy, and she holds his arm and turns to gaze up into his face, and there is a calm triumph in her face.

Night

Ah, we simply allow ourselves to be swept away by the nighttime Jabula. As riveting as in the day, in a different way. The matinee version are humans in celebration; the night version are the physical embodiment of the spiritual meaning of the dance. They carry through the rhythm, the music, the swiftness; where the day springs from the earth and draws its energy from the ground up, the night fills the air with song.

There’s something a little mystical, spiritual, about May Yen Cheah’s version of the dance – quietly mesmerising and powerful, the dance becomes larger than the space it occupies; imagine, if you will, soft smoky golden tendrils emanating from the dancer. Five years! We waited five years…I would, if it came back again next year, hope to watch this again in a heartbeat. You have to sit there with the warm orange, pumpkin, glazed bronze costumes and colours, the gold harvest lights, and feel the essence of something greater than us mere mortals…

A quick word on the rest of the show. Yorozu Kensuke and Miura Takeaki in their two-men dance are incredibly light and quick, reassuringly stable; the linchpins of the moment. Etienne Ferrere with Jason Carter and Kensuke – powerful and assured; with all three working smoothly as a unit, time flies by easily.

Chihiro and Kenya are always beautiful to watch; there’s a dedication and sincerity in their dancing – where they can often make a pas de deux look easy, you can see this time that this dance is very much about a little tension, strength, taut movements, lithe energy. There’s also a curiously spiritual feeling, as if there’s something beyond them that they are embodying – the music, the drumbeats, a curiously hypnotic distant wisdom greater than the human self.

They lead the group in a final delighted, delightful dance — the dancers seem almost to be flying with pure freedom — and a peaceful joy fills Chihiro’s face. At the very end, the stage empties. They are left with and to themselves, and the world is massive in that solitude, and yet between them, it is as tiny and concentrated as a heartbeat; and when Chihiro turns on her knees and at the very last, lifts her face to look at Kenya, it is haunting.

aaaaaaaaand we are done with the masterful Masterpiece in Motion.

— and next up is Forces of Dance – SDT at the open-air sheltered stage at the Esplanade for Dans Festival.

SIFA / The Rhythm of Us – Singapore Dance Theatre (Meditation, Variations from a Distance, The Light Behind Us)// Birds of Paradise, Momentum

The Rhythm of Us was performed live on 7 and 8 August, and it had the same works shown online for the Singapore International Festival of Arts, so I held off reviewing, and then days turned into nights, and nights into weeks.

This was a collaboration between the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT). The brochure is currently available online here – scroll to the bottom for what looks like a video.

I didn’t watch the live version – COVID and jab schedules made me a little nervous. Here’s a very brief review 🙂

1. Meditation

Choreographed by SDT’s Artistic Director, Mr Janek Schergen; performed by Uchida Chihiro; music by a solo cellist, Ng Pei-Sian (Principal Cello); Music: William Walton: Passacaglia for Cello

When you google the music , it’s a surprisingly short piece – 6 minutes 23 seconds of a kind of meditative yearning; an afternoon by yourself. A single cellist on stage with Chihiro in a flowing white dress and a loose white open kaftan. It’s quite a subtle work. You have to let go and not think of any story, and just enjoy it as it is.

When you have one dancer onstage, the work rests heavily on the dancer, and you can trust in Chihiro’s innate artistry and richness of expression; every bone articulate, every gesture graceful. Chihiro has done so many contemporary works over time and in each of them there’s a different voice – the otherworldly star from the sky in Evening Voices, the coy bride who is quietly youthfully pleased with the wedding and yet has to carry the weight of the farewell in the final scene of Unknown Territory, etc. She is different in each, and has developed a new voice for each over time.

Sometimes in this dance, there’s a yearning, a soulfulness; sometimes there is a life, vibrating and alive, perhaps there is protest (the throwing off of the kaftan, which hangs suspended briefly in the air) – and then in Chihiro’s dancing, is always a kind of aching understanding of the music. This is difficult; to be a sole vessel for the choreographer, and then yet also retain your own voice. I may not have found a story, but you know that Chihiro has one, in her dancing.

We saw her in Goh Choo-San’s Birds of Paradise at one of the One@ The Ballet showings. I wish they’d bring back Birds of Paradise for the stage. The overwhelming feeling in her pas de deux was simply, “Chihiro knows what it’s about”. There’s an incredible delight and glowing pride, head drawn back and hand trilling back like the frills of a bird’s mane of feathers, as she and Kenya lean back, facing each other, in a heat-of-jungle ritual dance. Yes, she just knows what the music is all about, what this wonder of a performance is; and she can convey it through her dancing, and you can relax and let yourself be taken through the dance.

We detour to Birds of Paradise just to talk a little about how thrilling it is. There is no story!again; dancers carried like stiff totems or Egyptian hieroglyphic pieces, hoisted by other dancers, then set down; it’s exciting and rhythmic and has an exotic look of birds of paradise in their ritualistic delightful heat of the summer springing forth into energetic life – the irrepressible fervent bubbling over of action. It’s also good to see the dancers again, and we haven’t seen Kwok Min Yi dancing for a while so it’s nice to see her – the high goddess of a bird of paradise lifted above the palms fronds of men and superbly graceful ladies, in a curiously haunting hypnotic sequence. Over a year away and there’s an additional experience and richness in Min Yi’s dancing, like what we saw in Etienne’s renewed powerful explosive strength. There’s a sort of nice fullness to their dancing.

Actually we pause here to say that we enjoyed watching the entire BoP cast that day, especially since we hadn’t seen them up-close for a while (given COVID restrictions). The cast list in my booklet says: Chihiro, Min Yi, Kenya, Satoru, Watanabe Tamana, Suzuki Mai, Jessica Garside, Valerie Yeo, Esen Thang, Leane Lim, Timothy Ng, John De Dios, Ivan Koh. It was extremely fun.

Since we are on Birds of Paradise, let’s talk about Momentum, another of Goh Choo-San’s pieces that we saw a little of at One @ The Ballet. Mr Janek Schergen said that the dancers were shocked at how difficult it was. And it is (since I was told it’s hard I paid attention to how hard it is – everything is hard, i think). If you just watch Chihiro and Kenya’s pas de deux, it’s a wonder of intricate speed and complexity that is jaw-dropping. We need to talk about Minegeshi Kana, who is the star when she appears – full of character – funny, lively, full of intense energy and perfect lithe grace. Kana has a crazy pas de deux with Jason Carter that can only be described as full marathon on steroids. It’s a mass of massive lifts and twists none of which I remember but all of which registered as they seem to be running throughout the entire piece. It’s almost frighteningly athletic, and it’s beautiful and you truly respect them because it’s so difficult to pull off while looking good. I recall quite a bit of energy is required from all the dancers, actually – briefly in mind, a passing word on Yeo Chan Yee who looks very strong in this, all the energy drawn together into an intensity that flows through the entire body and every fingertip.

Afternote: Was fortunate enough to watch ‘Momentum’ in full onstage during “Masterpiece in Motion”. It was beautiful.

Ending off with another set of pictures on the performance from SIFA.

2. Variations From A Distance

Choreographer: Pam Tanowitz; performed by Uchida Chihiro; Cast: Elaine Heng, May Yen Cheah, Yeo Chan Yee, Etienne Ferrère, Shan Del Vecchio, Timothy Ng; Music: Henry Cowell: Variations on Thirds

To get a sense of this..I think it’s helpful to watch the video below. It gives you an idea of the kind of concentration required from the dancers (and from the audience, to absorb this work). The dancers are dressed in one-shoulder leotards and tights of non-matching colours; the colours match to other dancers’ – someone’s lilac tights might match another’s leotard; there’s a faint blue, there’s pink, there are some punchy shades like the orange, which hits one in the eye. Yet the overall effect brings to mind the colours that Smarties promise you on their tube – more like pastel shades than M&Ms.

This is something that was very different and new to me.

Quick thoughts – this piece works very well visually from afar, especially with the patterns of groups of dancers like little rubber molecules in their own quiet space; or dragonflies to dragonfly-wing music, on the occasion of vibrant music.

Close-up, you learn to appreciate the quietly taxing seemingly-small movements, and it becomes introspective and beautiful in its own way, while from afar you get a sense of the mood with the lighting, and the almost comforting sight of the little figures on the large desolate stage; the kind of feeling you get on a cloudy summer afternoon with a book and a cup of your drink of choice – a little solitude, a little reflectiveness, almost a smidgen of lonesomeness.

Unfortunately, I didn’t watch it live again. I think, as with all live shows, and with live music, it would have communicated a different kind of energy. In some way I felt the distance, in watching it; created over distance, viewed over distance through a screen. Colourful lively figures from a distance, little pebbles in the zen garden. I feel a bit bad saying this but I’m not good at understanding very contemporary works very well at all, so I fear this review may not be helpful. But I could tell it was executed with care, and I appreciated its intensity. Every sustained movement was very open and exposed to the eye, and hence required as much strenuous energy and care as (or maybe more than?) a fast-paced marathon work.

3. The Light Behind Us
Choreographer & Costume Designer: Christina Chan; Cast: Chihiro Uchida, Elaine Heng, Yeo Chan Yee, May Yen Cheah, Timothy Ng, Etienne Ferrère, Shan Del Vecchio, Tamana Watanabe, Satoru Agetsuma, Ivan Koh, Jasper Arran;
Music: Chok Kerong

Enter Ivan in a suit and wearing a white surgical mask, to the sound of a – is it a xylophone?

There’s a long dark wall at the back, with one single narrow lit doorway through which Jasper Arran, masked and suited, then enters. The music is almost fairy-tale music – it conjures up images of something out of Fantasia, the Sorceror’s Apprentice – something with a clean modern edge but a little playfulness. This gives one the impression that the doorway is the entrance of a very large castle out of the Disney opening music.

The music is vast and fills the stage and imagination. And so the choreography takes flight. The chemistry and partnership that we saw of Jasper and Ivan in their duo dance in the choreographer’s previous work bounces back into this, wry and wriggly, slick struggles and fast work, fluid and expressive; but interestingly, there’s something more raw and rough about the edges in this version – hewn widely through the fabric with shears.

The entire opening act makes one think of an animated work – Fantasia, maybe dancing teacups and broomsticks, and bedknobs. There’s a Disney Jungle Book feel to the dancing – humans spilling out to the sound of drumbeats, all in suits and white shirts, and masks; drunken lifts, little droll movements – humorous, dreamy – simians and bears trudging and lolling across the stage – Watanabe Tamana swung and slung into Satoru’s arms; Tamana crawling stumblingly up a little hillocky mountain of the backs of the other dancers, a mountain that appears to roll like a tiny wave under her exploring feet.

Actually, much of it reminds one of animated works – different sorts you might recognise – folk in a line in suits are little matchstick men, animated music notes from an imaginary 1960s black-and-white cartoon; coats taken off become umbrellas in the rain; coatless dancers in the dark in a long line, linked by jackets between hands, become a string of whimsical laundry; silent masses and a latticework of bodies whirling jackets overhead.

Mood – movement – music; a pas de deux between Satoru and Tamana flows easily into the eye with little unexpected lifts and moves – sitting sideways on the shoulder, a smooth one-armed lift, closely-woven emotions.

The end comes as a surprise – dancers in a circle that unwinds, shed a long path of dark blue jackets, dancer after dancer peeling away singly or in pairs to give a gentle long bow before exiting and then you realise it’s the end, oh no it’s the end, you grasp at it – but they’re gone.

I’ve not watched The Jungle Book before, by the way. But a long time ago, I read a book by a famous hand-animation artist – I believe it was “The Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams (still widely available in the library) – and it’s the pictures in it that populate the mind when you watch this – you may flip through the pics in the link above. (“What music should I listen to when I draw?” a young Mr Williams asks of an expert, and the expert barks, cigarette dropping sharply from his mouth, YOU DON’T LISTEN TO MUSIC WHEN YOU DRAW, RICHARD! or summat like that.)

Back to the show. Have a picture? Say no more.

National Day!ish

National Day was on 9 August, the parade was over yesterday, and this is a late update. Singapore Dance Theatre’s Yeo Chan Yee and Timothy Ng dancing to a piece choreographed by the latter, to this year’s National Day song performed on the piano by Gabriel Hoe. Halfway through watching it, I suddenly thought, is this choreographed by Timothy? and it was, and that made sense because he’s a Singaporean dancer and he choreographs, but also because it did look like something he would choreograph – the link is for the line “the choreographer gives you dances to savour”. It’s eminently watchable, it’s enjoyable, and you feel feelings. It’s comforting in a friendly way but still looks new, not familiar. And thank you for letting the high point of the music have a high point in the dance, to sweep us up and away on a wave of emotions. I am always grateful for a good use of good music.

(Upcoming) Watch Singapore Dance Theatre ONLINE – Rhythm of Us – on SIFA Video-on-Demand!

O joy.

You may now purchase tickets at SGD15 to watch SDT’s “Rhythm of Us” from 13 to 20 Jun, here. 12 noon on Sun 13 Jun to 1159 on 20 Sun 20 Jun, to be exact.

You do have to register with an account and the e-ticket will give you a link to a VOD streaming website. Extremely pleased. (You may have realised that if something is on video, i’m probably not going to review it, because all eyeballs can see it. But maybe I will say something cos it’s up for a limited time, and i really want to Remember things.)

Since we can, we have embedded the instagram interview with Christina Chan, who is choreographing one of the pieces, and whose incredible “The Third Reset” was seen at the Made in Singapore choreographic workshop. The thing is, you can see a snippet of it in this video, with Ivan Koh and Jasper Arran – a snippet that is about using music that is already so well-known, and all I can think is that I didn’t at all register that the music was this super well-known and maybe some may say over-used piece (is it?) – all I registered was the dancing, and the choreography, the direction and the emotion. That’s how good it was. Yes. Yeah we piece out our enthusiasm without measure. i like this kind of interview ‘cos I like knowing how a choreographer might view things, and kind of getting an idea of lives like that (it’s nice that she’s interviewed by Elaine Heng who is her friend!). And it was interesting to hear about how she collaborated with Chok Kerong who is composing the music for the SIFA outing; and an idea of a blank sheet, of throwing thoughts together, which I think of as – sometimes you have to trust to kismet that comes out of throwing shapes into clay and clay into shapes; things fall together sometimes.

If you cannot view it here, it is available at this facebook link.

SIFA (was) + catching up, briefly

Singapore International Festival of Arts – Rhythm of Us was supposed to play tonight and last night. I did have a ticket with a friend. I wanted to put up the list so we don’t forget. Taken from the website here.

Meditation
Choreography by Janek Schergen
Music by William Walton
Costume Design by Chloe Hew
Cast: Chihiro Uchida


Variations From A Distance
Choreography by Pam Tanowitz
Music by Henry Cowell
Costume Design by Harriet Jung and Reid Bartelme
Cast: Elaine Heng, Yeo Chan Yee, May Yen Cheah, Timothy Ng, Etienne Ferrère, Shan Del Vecchio


The Light Behind Us
Choreography and Costume Design by Christina Chan
Music by Chok Kerong
Cast: Chihiro Uchida, Elaine Heng, Yeo Chan Yee, May Yen Cheah, Timothy Ng, Etienne Ferrère, Shan Del Vecchio, Tamana Watanabe, Satoru Agetsuma, Ivan Koh, Jasper Arran

I wanted to say – it’s hard to have shows now, but I hope everyone just stays safe.

In the meantime, here’s a very sweet interview with Chihiro! It’s from April 2021, and it brought a smile to my face 😀

Also, as always, there is the monthly serialised column at The Japanese Association, Singapore to catch up on:)

We (the audience) are still here (even if we are very quiet).

Ok, when it’s not so late I will say something about watching One @ The Ballet again (before COVID restrictions set in again) and how good it was – some things that really came to mind, like how Etienne came back with guns blazing – he has a fabulous, unique, characteristic grace when airborne, but there was also an added power, solid focus, absolute maturity and heft and strength in his performance. I never want to forget that moment when I saw him in One @ (after not watching stuff for so long); that incredible feeling.

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Have been savouring this version of R&J, recommended by a friend. I love it. The choreography isn’t pure classical – and it’s just perfect. It eats up the music, this one; it doesn’t waste reams of wonderful stuff. I’m actually more partial to watching rehearsals than full runs on youtube, because I am curious about rehearsals and because I can’t sit still for youtube, but this is different, somehow.

Peter & Blue’s School Holiday + Rhythm of Us (SIFA)

At last!!! We get to watch a ballet by Singapore Dance Theatre on youtube – so pleased – it’s a new one, Peter & Blue’s School Holiday. It’s so good to see a piece up in full, and now we can watch and rewatch it. The cast list is at the end – we’ve a new Peter (Jeremie Gan, taking over Etienne Ferrère), and the usual Blue (Reece Hudson) and Calico the Cat (Tanaka Nanase). If your TV is not a smart TV, you can make it smart by purchasing a Xiaomi stick (or box, depending on how old your TV is; a stick should suffice) …and then you can watch this on your TV 🙂

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Upcoming: The Rhythm of Us, a collaboration between Singapore Dance Theatre and Singapore Symphony Orchestra (and local jazz pianist + composer, Chok Kerong). Three new contemporary works, by Artistic Director Mr Janek Schergen, by Pam Tanowitz, by Christina Chan (whose work we last saw at the Choreographic Workshop). Hurrah. Anticipation!

hello goodbye congratulations

Belatedly, again.

Congratulations to Esen Thang for being promoted from Apprentice to Artist!

Farewell, and our best wishes, to Erivan Garioli, who was an Apprentice with Singapore Dance Theatre – last seen as one of Tybalt’s swaggering, vicious men in last year’s R&J (in a friend’s words, “Wah, he is fiercer than Tybalt…”); a dancer of great grace and charisma. We would have loved to have seen more of his dancing, but then COVID struck…Wherever he is now, we wish him well.

And hello and congratulations to Rosa Park, former principal dancer of SDT (just comb through the archives) – back as the Assistant Ballet Mistress of SDT. We had been wondering about such things for years… anyway, we are quietly pleased from the tips of our toes to the ends of our fingers.