Valentine’s

Everything’s moving quite darkly this week — there’s a kind of tacit acknowledgement the virus will spread to the community — and you can count the numbers and sort of draw a graph in your head.

Here’s a new ongoing drama from Vasantham, entitled “Romeo and Juliet” – I caught an enticing snippet last night where the two betrothed (are they R&J? I don’t know) try to persuade their parents that they don’t love each other; but the one whom Juliet loves, she fears, has had his heart turned by his dance partner, for all around them say that they have such chemistry. Mmmm.

Here’s my song of the moment from Youtube – it has English subtitles. The link to the actual youtube page is here. It expresses some of my feelings inasmuch as I am feeling a number of things at the moment; and yet I can only keep my thoughts in my heart. Not love, of course not – I love Netflix; “she said she loved him, as she said she loved onions”, there’s a quote along those lines in Anne of the Island (I think) — wherein someone is questioning the depth of young people’s love.

 

Here, have a chirpier song from the Thai drama “My Ambulance” (a sometimes slow-moving, slightly dramatic and rather addictive Thai drama that has good character development and observations, and turns some Korean drama cliches upside down; the non-singers in the MV are actors). We wanted to watch “Happy Old Year” with Aokbab Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying (“Bad Genius”) and Sunny Suwanmethanont (“My Ambulance”, “Brother of the Year”), and Apasiri Nitibhon (everybody’s favourite mistress/ wife/ mother from “Hormones” and “In Family We Trust”). But not right now. The female singer is from “Hormones” – I feel old now.

Swan Lake 2019 – Singapore Dance Theatre

Swan Lake cover

Official photographs are up!

Here’s a review from 2015 that makes our lives significantly easier – we don’t even need to highlight all the music all over again. We even have a 2019 review of the Black Swan and White Swan pas de deux from Ballet Under the Stars. Is my arm hurting from patting myself on the back? No, I am really late with this review so we are ashamed, should we reach for the sackcloth instead.

The pamphlet below shows Minegishi Kana and Nakamura Kenya and Yorozu “Rothbart Extraordinaire” Kensuke.

Swan Lake Synopsis

Swan Lake cast

The curtain and the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra:

(01) Swan Lake Curtain

(01a) MFO 1(01b) MFO 2(01c) MFO 3(01d) MFO 4

Just listen to the lone plaintive notes opening the show, with a few quiet instruments marking accompaniment at points – and then 0:31, when the music grows richer, grows in depth, as if painting the backdrop of a picture for you – Let me tell you a story, says the music. Listen to 0:54, the solemn grandeur; I like the little understated notes in 1:11 that are so vital and striking and actually taking you by the hand and leading you to the next scene change. Live music is like wine (I don’t drink, but). Listen to those same notes grow in urgency (1:28), and the lively strings picking up the restless spirit and then suddenly the brass instruments sound and there’s a clash of cymbals, and you are on thin ice. Then 2:00 brings you to the terrible plaintive heartbreaking moments that will resound when you watch the most dreadful scenes of Rothbart breaking Odette’s heart; and then it mellows into a balm that only makes you even sadder, before fading softly in a hopeful twilight…so that we have the lovely royal-sounding trumpety music to bring us into Act 1.

Act I

I’m 100% sure an earlier post will tell you that Act 1 sees the 101 royal couples, girls entering light-of-foot and fresh as daisies; delighted young men whirling their girls about or lifting them. Festivities, good cheer and garlands.

We’re not here to be any bit more hardworking than we usually are; we’ve slaved over previous posts. We want you to know, as we must – that we love the Waltz, the music of which may be enjoyed here; the light elastic spring in the step of the dancers bringing out the joy. A Waltz is in beats of three, says a book we will discuss at the very end of this post, a book I purposely reserved at the library and which arrived a good three days before Swan Lake aired. Was there any greater triumph in any music than at 0:51 and what follows? Is there any more stirring music than at 3:25 –  sweet rosebuds in the sunlight;  or anything that suits the heart pining as much as 4:35? – or anything as touching and dramatic as at 5:05? It wrings the heart with its beauty – and at 6:02 there are drums and in the forest of drums you can still hear the heart of the triangle, when you listen to the live version, and you can barely sit still for excitement.

Dancing! Benno leads the cavalry of men – they are sunshine on water, and Etienne (in Kenya-Kana shows) as Benno is always light as a feather; Huo Liang (in Satoru-Min Yi shows) leads the enlivened troops as their first violin.

Little moments stir the heart: dancers in two diagonal lines and the gentlemen lift the ladies inwards (ladies’ arms lifted) to meet and outwards again, producing visually the effect of the folds of a silk fan, of garlands and so much tulle; dancers moving in concentric circles, clockwise to anti-clockwise, gentlemen and gentlewomen turning so their shoulders are almost touching, back-to-back, as they whirl in circles. These are the nobles of the court, and there is a convivial glow upon all.

This is a kingdom that loves dancing (is there ever one that is not), and here’s our Prince who summons all to dance: Prince Kenya who, with one single bold airborne leap in the air, makes his mark immediately – light as cream, with such grace and artistry; Prince Satoru who floats like a butterfly, stings like a  – and you know the rest.

Right after the dancing, the Prince (Kenya) chills with his friends and rolls his eyes at his tutor’s reminders that he should be more serious; there is a distinct sense that Huo Liang’s Benno is inviting Prince (Satoru) to the club down the road to hang out with the pas de trois girls. If you read the other review – we all know Benno is sent forth in place of the Prince when the Queen arrives, and he rushes down in a hurry (It’s really the Queen, what do you expect me to do?) – Etienne is a hoot in a corner as he primps his buttons, gives a little shiver of anticipation and tries to be right and proper. Entrez the Queen (Evangelyn Wong), a full impression of a stately Korean drama-style mother – a stately pleasure-dome decree comes to mind, especially when she imposes her will upon her son, obviously not anticipating rebellion or disagreement: marry a beautiful princess.

You can see that Prince Kenya, who originally had a Your request is my command! expression is now looking at the end of his freedom, the demise of his youthful carefree ways, and he is one long, downcast sigh. Prince Satoru is cheerful one moment (don’t take it too hard, he says to Huo Liang’s Benno, who, despite smoothing down his hair and trying to look smart, is faced with the Queen’s version of ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much‘ as she checks the guest list to see who this youth is) and obdurate the next – a thundercloud descends when the Queen says he is to marry (I ain’t marryin’ nobody, says he, turning his back) – but he is completely blown away and distracted by the superb gift of a bow.

Nothing cheers the Prince up more, then, than the departure of his mother and making Benno and co. dance a pas de trois. Etienne, Elaine and Akira float on mellow clouds and ribbons of music. We write a love note here to the flautist and the conductor, who must hold the last trilling notes for the very end of the opening of the pas de trois. Elaine’s dancing is light and breezy, and as always, all the foot work is beautifully accentuated – feet caressing the air as she skims across the breadth of the stage. Etienne, as Benno, is a master of unparalleled airborne grace, and the conductor watches with care so that there are dramatic bursts of music punctuating Etienne-Benno’s juicy, punchy leaps, emphasising his poise and height. Akira is delightfully speedy – feet punching the stage like a needle, gauzy leaps, whip-sharp spins all the way to the end, light as perfectly whipped cream.

For Satoru-Min Yi’s show, the pas de trois trots onwards enjoyably – light, lithe, limbre May Yen Cheah displays control, the eye tracing the delicate arc formed by the raised hand and finishing cleanly with a resounding BRAVO from someone deep in the audience. At one show, if you looked, you could see the conductor nod at her before bringing down the baton to whip the coda into action, which was so very important – the communication that made the performance seamless. Chua Bi Ru is sure and bright, her delivery bold and charismatic as always – it brings a smile to the face, makes you sit up, and lingers engraved in the memory. Huo Liang is a picture of determined energy and elevation, unleashing a jaw-dropping number of spins – is there no limit to his energy? – he seems intent on saying No – and also intent on killing us all with his impressive elevation in his leaps.

The coda to the pas de trois is a race towards tragedy – are not the notes jolly? you ask yourself; but I think there are notes running under the tune, descending in a markedly dark manner. To this day when I hear the music, I feel transported back in time to my seat, feeling the dread of the impending potential tragedy creep up from under my skin – and yet I remember that at that moment, watching both pas de trois, I felt something akin to true happiness – music that is manna and live dancing – a potent combination.

The Prince now having properly cheered up, he decides to close the day with the Waltz of the Goblets, also known as the Polonaise (up to 2:12). – Courtly and regal, and well-executed by all the couples. Such glowing grandeur, such pomp and splendour in the music. The triangle! I did notice it until now, and it has a magical effect – the contrast between the brass and the little triangle – it is the white pen in an illustration of an eye, adding the glimpses of light and reflection that make the eyeball alive.

Now the party has ended, and the Prince pleads with them to stay, asks if they will just hang around a little longer – but they all must depart in pairs like the lovebirds they are (giggles from the audience when Mizuno Reo’s character heads off in the wrong direction and Tanaka Nanase’s character drags him back to the left of the audience).

The Prince most gracefully mourns the non-existence of his love life as he embraces the empty air and circles the stage so beautifully the heart breaks (Kenya as the Prince bidding farewell to his youth is especially striking) – and then out flies Benno, practically throwing himself right out into the sky like a great harbinger of doom, a foreshadowing of Rothbart – but wait! Is not Benno the hero of our story? If not for Benno, Prince Siegfried would never have found the love of his life and (in this case) rescued her and lived happily ever after. He’s a matchmaker (if an unwitting one) if we ever saw one. Applause for Benno, underrated character of the year.

Let’s take this baby for a ride, says Prince SatoruSiegfried, of his bow, and off the young fellows go, leaving the nonplussed bemused tutor in their wake.

Act II

The opening of Act 2 is desolate, haunting – it is the forest on the wings of the night, the quiet of soul. Tchaikovsky agrees. See his expression below.

 

55:39 of the video with the full-length music above – marks the entry of the Prince and his men, such sleek confident dancers. They fan out to fill the forest by vanishing into the wings offstage; this is my catchment area, says the Prince, and Benno dutifully runs off. Is not the composer the master of emotions – he makes you think Hark! there is danger! – but no, 56:20 is still pleasantries; is 56:40 the thrumming of wings on high? we make this up but 56:54 brings us slowly to the swans gently folding inwards to the land, their wings like huge snowy blankets and 56:58 – 57:02 brings us to Odette landing and the Prince having a near heart-attack when the swan’s feet touch the ground and she turns into the most wondrously beautiful girl he has ever beheld.

You know the story, and we plunge into it. It goes without saying that both pairs danced well.

The Kana-Kenya performance

Kana is the lightest of snowflakes of swans; and Kenya’s Prince, with his hands reaching out to touch her, is saying – dance with me – and she will not look at him, after years of not having looked at a human man straight in the eye – but when oops, she does – you know that she will fall in love with him, and he is such a boyish Prince still, with quiet hearts for eyes, saying that he has found an angel by the lake that scarce he expected to see. Kensuke is our solid slick Rothbart, a thunderbolt from Hell, with an impressive goatee and a glowering countenance to match.

1:01:20 is one of my favourite moments in the music – the swans dancing out, Suzuki Mai gracefully leading the charge of the light brigade for Kana’s show. Played live, you can hear the soft undertones of the music – you can hear and see how they were ladies once, and now they are freed. I’ve said it before – the swans are really a large part of the heart of the show, and with a live orchestra you can see why – they feather the nest, so to speak…

Kana’s pas de deux with Kenya, we have discussed in an entry on Ballet Under the Stars. Nothing can stop us now from continuing the discussion. Kana is exquisite grace, every last limb and phalange a paean to her flickering filigree grace, latticework lace. She is a swan maiden encountering a love that she has never known, and her hand lingers in the Prince’s just a little longer. Somehow, in the middle of the dance, you know that she knows that he is the One for her – and it is a brave choice she makes, to choose him as her Pokemon, but honestly, you can see from this Prince that he has shown her nothing but endless persistent attention, love and determination. He is almost already a man now, ready to face down the enemy for her. When he holds her hands, when he turns her, holds her, you know he is saying that he will stand by her.

The Min Yi-Satoru performance

Again, we have written about their pas de deux before. In this version, we see how Prince Satoru is trying to catch her – Just take my hand, he says, and the music is the hammering of his heartbeat, filled with wondering at her mysterious beauty, and anticipation. No, she says each time – leave me alone, says she, choosing to dance away; and look at her bourres as she floats away from him – so tight and neat are the stitches that her feet make, that it seems as if her skirt is made of feathers.

When Etienne Ferrere (formerly Benno in Kenya’s show) bursts upon the scene as the imposing impressive Rothbart, his is a sinister evil rising like poisonous fumes that claw at your face. A side note here that we dig his absolutely show-stopping and wildly appropriate makeup – dead white face and a dark green and black eye-shadow band about his eyes that is half-BlackSwan (movie) and half-MatthewBourne-esque.

We are left with a baffled Prince surrounded by swans who are not his beloved. He does eventually reunite with her – when she leaves the stage later in a dignified hurry, you note it is the Big Swans and the Cygnets who are her main bodyguards, her coterie, and they take her away to safety.

In their pas de deux, Min Yi’s Odette carries a quiet longing of the heart in her lines and clean superb execution, in the refreshing clarity of her steps. She is talking to him: hello, she says, peaceably, do you even know me? And that is their dance – the dance of getting to know you – through every single step, every walk they take together. They are conversing, the long conversation a couple must have before concluding that they know and trust each other. They are growing up, in the little space of time that they have. At last, when he wanders away to reflect on this new sensation awakened in his heart, she decides to trust him and throw her lot in with him, the whole kit and caboodle. Later we will discuss the closing solo by each White Swan and what it means to us. When I went home on Saturday night I was thinking: a White Swan making an intelligent considered decision?

Oh! we need to talk about Satoru – more than one human commented that there was an increased incredible crispness in his dancing – a friend likened it to how every shape he made was so crisp you could run a pencil along his silhouette to create an illustration of the moment.

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Right, on to our Cygnets. The Kana-Kenya performance’s Cygnets were Tanaka Nanase, Yatsushiro Marina, Nakahama Akira, and Ma Ni – utterly on the mark with the perfect feathering and fluttering of the feet, skating slickly across the stage, feet zipping together and apart sleekly. We are 100% pleased that Ma Ni’s debuting as a Cygnet  – there is an expressive grace about her dancing – every move is enriched by her gracefulness. Pictured below, left to right: Akira, Ma Ni, Marina, Nanase. The first picture is really a very cygnety picture.

The Min Yi-Satoru performance’s Cygnets consisted of an entire batch of debuts: congratulations, and kudos to them for pulling off a very difficult debut with a thousand little details – Suzuki Mai, Watanabe Tamana, Beatrice Castañeda (displaying very fine feathery footwork), Henriette Garcia. They are intense, charismatic, energetic. The 8th shot of this set below shows (left to right) – Tamana, Henriette, Beatrice, Mai in another very cygnety moment.

Have more pictures from both shows. We will risk the big empty spaces.

Big Swans see more debuts (Elaine Heng being the only one who’s done this before). Chua Bi Ru is a swan with pronounced emotions – there is full angst and beauty (without going over-the-top) as she crosses her arms before her, her hands folding as expressively as a fallen handkerchief or flower petal; a friend remarked (paraphrased) that it made one think of a Lady who fully knew she was trapped as a bird in the daytime. Elaine is heart-rending control and dignity.

Yeo Chan Yee and May Yen Cheah are our other set of new Big Swans – characteristic perfectly-formed dancing from Chan Yee, and May Yen with her dancing that speaks to the heart. Their Big Swans are memorable again in Act 4 – we will talk about that then.

Here’s a note to say it’s good to see newcomer Stephanie Joe as a graceful new addition amidst the swans; and Esen Thang and Akira stand out a fair bit amongst them.

All right, on to my new favourite part of Swan Lake. See below, up to 1:59. This music, it destroys the heart, it utterly consumes you. It is wonderful, what the dancing does to this part of the story – when you see the swans progressing across the stage, in perfect synchronous motion, the contrast between their faces lowered as if their hearts are breaking, their hands and faces angled to the light as if welcoming, savouring that one last moment of freedom. And then BOOM! out arrives their Princess. The music when she reappears, I don’t recall it being that much slower but I definitely know it was significantly more majestic – as if another instrument was heralding her arrival.

Kana, as the Princess here, seems to be saying: I made my choice and I hope it is right. You can feel, in the dancing of the other Swans, that they all share this hope. She is dancing a lone dance of bravery and exquisite grace, as if sending a prayer to the heavens – she has waited, she has waited for so very long – and you feel everyone’s hearts all go out to her. And ooh, when the Prince arrives and catches her with all the love in the world and sweeps her up, and she is poised so magnificently above him like a crystal sculpture, with her back to us, and he turns round and round – that is a stunning tableau from an old gold-trimmed book with Gothic font.

For Min Yi’s show, I suddenly felt I could see how very brave all the swans were, as they advanced upon the stage. They have had years in this – they have seen, and they have borne their burden and this is their dance, their moment. Min Yi arrives with a kind of dignity – cemented in your mind very clearly as their Princess. You can tell that they genuflect to her and she is their pride and joy, which is what their dance is saying – they enter before her to herald her appearance. Min Yi dances as a Princess who knows full well exactly what she has done, and the full consequences, and she says with her dancing – this is what I want. She is a Princess whose strength and determination sets her apart from the others. She is an emotionally mature and emotionally intelligent Swan Princess Odette who has made her decision knowingly – and though (with apologies to the choreographer and composer) I never knew it possible to cry in Act II, I found myself crying…

Satoru lifts her high as a thing of beauty and a joy forever, his to love and hold forever; and when she says to him – don’t vow eternal love to me (for if he breaks his vow, she is Rothbart’s forever) – she says it as a lover would, and rests her head upon his shoulder. You can see (as never before…) that they are actually leaning in for a kiss when Rothbart appears.

Etienne-Rothbart makes a wall of the Princess’ frame to shield himself; he holds her wrists and waltzes her from left to right in a mocking mimicry of a pas de deux, as if to say I too have control over her soul – and Min Yi wraps herself over the point of Prince Satoru’s bow, and then her head jerks back sharply at a gesture from Etienne-Rothbart’s.

For both the Princesses, you can see that the Princess halts briefly for a second before she goes into the curtains, as if she is resisting Rothbart’s spell to send her away, in a note of defiance.

 

Act III

Prince’s birthday party, a time of great fun and laughter. Or not.

The nobles roll in with the music (1:26:01 in the long video above). Listen to the background slow notes blasting away the tune of doom (from 1:26:05 onwards you hear exactly one per second before they speed up) – you can hear them exceptionally well live, and they keep repeating, getting even more bombastic as our guests enter, down a magnificent staircase (1:26:46, I love that music – is it Spanish? 1:27:27 is gentle and meek, and should be the 6 Princesses)… wonderful music that makes you feel exactly like you are at the party, with the glow of the golden lights upon your face. More guests sweep in, and the Queen herself at last (attired in glamorous black and gold, like an old-time Empress Dowager), accompanied by the tutor and her son.

The Czardas are first up (2:02:15). Slow, lustrous music and proud, deliberate dancing. Extending a hand in gracious welcome and sliding across the stage in perfect rhythm, heads held high and hands behind their heads so their elbows are out like the points of arrows – unafraid, bold, warriors in scarlet caps and high boots; knocking their knees, pointing their toes out – fire concealed in polite company. Steel encased in silk; and a hidden danger. Just listen to it through until it speeds up and then the audience sits up to 2:04:47 which is simply lovely – everyone’s smiling and tapping their toes and kicking and stamping their feet with gusto on stage.

Tarantella is next (2:13:21).  Wiki tells us that “the Neapolitan tarantella is a courtship dance performed by couples whose ‘rhythms, melodies, gestures, and accompanying songs are quite distinct’  featuring faster more cheerful music”. Discreet steps from May Yen Cheah, who is gentlewomanly but who breaks out the speed – see the pretty lilt of the head, and the little tilt of the shoulders that brings out the character of the dance, and look how she soars through the dance – and drifts noiselessly, elegantly, backwards into Huo Liang’s arms. Huo Liang is deft as always, on his feet and in partnering, confident and fearless. Elaine Heng and Miura Takeaki have  lovely lines, and are a delightfully reliable couple with joyous, genteel dancing. Both couples pull off the deliciously neat move of essentially turning and waltzing back-to-back, wherein the lady must have complete control to continue balancing atop her toe. This is an engagement party and they are here to give their blessings.

What’s an engagement party without our Spanish (2:10:28)! The life of the party, in smart emerald green bodices, black velvet, and ladies with peacock-eye gold skirts that float marvellously about their calves and whisper in silken voices. Jason Carter and Etienne “Benno-Rothbart” are proud Spanish, appearing to issue a challenge to each other at the start of the dance. There is a fabulous chemistry and infectious glee within and between the JasonCarter-ChuaBiRu and EtienneElaine couples. They move as one unit – there is a glint in their collective eye, quicksilver in their veins, a proud fire in the stretch of their necks and the flourish in their high kicks, a zing in the wide sweeping steps that the ladies take – and oh, that splendid finish where the ladies flick out their legs in an arc so their skirts swing the full circle, and the ladies lean back sensuously upon the gentlemen, feet off the ground.

Spanish for Min Yi-Satoru’s show sees Valerie Yeo as a smouldering Spanish, one of her most major roles to-date, if I am correct (demi-soloist role?) – her arms and legs are filled with an uncommon powerful grace; Timothy Ng is her valiant Spanish. Nanase is a cheerful, vibrant Spanish matched by the lively Yorozu “Rothbart” Kensuke. Passion and temper. This is always extremely popular with the audience.

The dance with the Six Princesses follows next (at 3:05). Kenya is the dutiful Prince who is sad because his love, and hence his heart, resides far away by a lonely lake, and, ever-loyal to Odette, he tries to walk away from the Princesses, but they surround him, led smilingly by a charming Akira. Dutifully he whirls each partner, and stands amidst them politely trying to look interested. Kenya dances with such light-footedness and ease – a fine wine settling into our bones. The dance ends with the Princesses on one knee and beaming up at him hopefully, in a — I can’t avoid mentioning this handphone game — distinctly Notice me, senpai fashion.

Satoru’s Prince, consistent with Act I, remains slightly stubborn about the whole affair, with an expression of one with a stomachache, who bows unsmilingly to the Queen because she is The Royal Mother (a professional relationship). The music is the sound of his heart – he can hardly move for missing Odette. His is a Prince that has been a little tempestuous, not quite totally impetuous but quite definitely one of evident emotion – but he manages to smile politely at all the Princesses who clearly appear equally uninteresting to him. The Princesses are dancing their hearts out on Saturday night, they are absolutely on point – sustained arabesques and all in love. Akira and Ma Ni stand out especially.

What follows is one of my favourite pieces of interlude music ever (1:39:16 – 1:40:07). It manages to carry the scene and make you feel so sorry for the Prince, who is presented with a bouquet and required to select his fiancee-to-be. It is light without being jolly because we know of the tragedy to come, and it layers the instruments as if it were a proper dance interlude instead of just passing emotions – and it ends with the trumpets sounding the triumphant arrival of Rothbart and Daughter.

Prince Kenya is parked desolately in one sad corner, hanging his head – the trumpets bring him to his senses, so he is absolutely in time to see the new guests – and he is immediately elated, as if electricity is running through from his heels to his crown, and he darts over to his mother – “That’s her, that’s her”, and the Queen is pleasantly pleased and relieved; taken aback by the sight of Rothbart, yet reluctantly relieved to find that her retirement as a grand old dame is in sight at last (it’s so tiring running a country). Prince Satoru is busy muttering no, no, none of the Princesses to himself and does not notice the trumpet until the very last moment when he jerks to life and turns around and is filled with surprised delight and overjoyed astonishment – how come she’s here!

The Kana-Kenya performance

Kensuke and Kana are of the Rothbart Family. Kana’s Odile is Rothbart’s prized daughter. She is the flesh of Kensuke’s Rothbart – she is stunning, look at that glittering snake-like smile upon her face – and he delights in and is so proud of her glorious beauty, her outstanding talent, her immense and unmatched charm. It is as his daughter that Kana’s Odile shares in his malice, and does his bidding with joy.

Now begins the process of showing her to the court. Watch her draw out the notes as she remains firmly en pointe for as long as she likes, very deliberately holding her poses securely. I can stand on my own two feet, thank you, she says, proud as the sun rising, born to be the new Queen of their hapless court. She slides under Prince Kenya-Siegfried’s doubting arm like a knife into his rib cage, she is the dagger thrust into Siegfried’s heart; and as she plays the false version of the innocent Odette, we hear the violin – O sweet violin of the Odette (White Swan) pas de deux who now thrills our heart by accompanying the false Odette, who are you? the music is half the deception.

Kenya’s dancing is a treat for the eyes, the icing on it all, with his corkscrew turns and the rip-roaring leg that zips out cleanly after an uncountable number of turns, with perfect control. Kana’s Odile is alive, glittering; she is an Odile in control of the stage and the audience. She knows what the court wants and she gives it, in spades. The crowd knows a star when they see one. Do you think – Odile is jealous of Odette and wants to control and destroy this Prince? Perhaps in her heart somewhere, she wants the Prince for herself..or not.

The finale is always a blast – Kenya launches straight into the air, perfectly composed with wonderful form; the live music is suitably glorious. The Saturday matinee crowd is always slow to warm up but for Kana’s fouettes, by the 27th they are awake – they start to cheer. But that’s not the end of the show, because she is still playing the shy Odette – not yet, she says, I am not yours – and the entire crowd is eating out of her hand as she darts towards him and then starts dancing backwards, luring him away – if you know the dance, she repeatedly lowers her arm and bows her head as she moves backwards (one version is seen here, slightly different), and there is something so falsely demure in how Kana’s Odile does it, as if she is hiding a little smile even as she looks gentle and meek.

 

The Min Yi-Satoru Performance

Woooo, Min Yi’s Odile is evil, and Etienne-Rothbart is hot evil, and together they are here to set the stage ablaze. They are having so much fun together that it is practically their party. They arrive in triumph, crackling with excitement and electricity, with joie de vivre. They race in, blazing with glee. They can barely wait to get this party started, they have been high-fiving their way all the way in their carriage ride to the castle. There’s no shame in being evil, Min Yi’s Odile will let you know. It’s not by Rothbart’s bidding that she does this – evil gives her life.

Prince Satoru seizes her hands with a fervour – is this she? yes, it is his love at last; come on in, says the spider to the fly. Min Yi’s Odile does not draw out the notes – she chooses an intense vibrant speed to drive home the point of her stake in the game, into Satoru’s heart. When she looks over at her father, you can see their shared agreement that the Prince is their victim. Wicked, that’s what she is, as she glows with the knowledge of a hand well played, lifted high above the unsuspecting crowd’s heads, flicking her hand with imperious evil. She pulls her hand away from the prince coquettishly, she luxuriates in the manipulation and she uses her expressive limbs and hands and feet to full effect to lure him (I love you, her intoxicating gestures say) while communicating to all of us with the flaunting wrists and eyes that she is Odile; don’t you want me, she says, with a sidelong glance over her shoulder, while retaining the innocent downcast eyes of Odette. This is what you came for, as Rihanna sings. Odile enjoys being Odile, and we enjoy being Odile with her.

Prince Satoru is all joy and delight (my beloved, at last), and turns in an impeccable showing as always. The finale is always the favourite for all, and it’s hard to drop off when it’s going at such a dizzying pace – the leaps, the fouettes that thrill the crowd, that final triumph of Min Yi’s Odile throwing her head back with such delight and Satoru’s Siegfried pressing a cheek to her hand with equal happiness.

 

The rest of the story follows as we know it – the Queen very proudly takes Odile for one tour round the court to show her off so they can all see how beautiful and talented she is (in your face!). But the marriage-to-be is interrupted by Rothbart (Kensuke makes for a spectacularly scary Rothbart declaring – “how do I know that he loves my daughter?” – ain’t nobody questioning that he looks right about the most frightening father-in-law to have?) — and Rothbart tears away the white cloth that is about to bind the two in holy matrimony – thusly cleverly manipulating the gullible Prince Kenya and slightly more emotional Prince Satoru into declaring their eternal infinite love for the wrong Princess. Lo and behold, the Rothbarts have won and who is the dancer who plays the White Swan trapped, that is the Question of the Year.

I don’t think there is any person happier in the whole of Swan Lake now than Etienne-Rothbart and Min Yi-Odile – the latter has been watching with undisguised anticipation as the White Swan is revealed – she can’t wait for the Big Reveal, and such great mocking laughter from Odile I’ve not seen before. They dash off, victorious.

The Prince runs off after the Rothbarts – Prince Kenya with his heart torn out of his chest, Prince Satoru is all omg omg what have I done, and the court must hurry out of his long-legged way so he does not trip over them on his way out of the court while similarly, Tarantella man must declare the Prince gone, in time for the Queen to faint spectacularly, surrounded by the court, in colours as richly rendered as an oil painting.

 

Act IV

This is the story of Odette knowing that she has been betrayed, and of the forgiveness.

It is also the story of the Swans (2:23:30), who are already onstage when the curtain rises, amidst blue fog. Was there any more ladylike, delicate music than this, butterflies’ wings on harp strings. Briefly, their swans’ skirts catch the light, tears on feathers. There is a dance they call the Bluette Dance, of the swans. It is just another night by the lake for them, and this is their sorrow. We marvel at the stamina of the swans to the pining yearning music. It is pretty, it is gentle – it is moving. Listen to the music. Leane Lim is light and graceful; kudos to Valerie Yeo for holding up on the day that the shoe dies – it must be painful and shocking but she carries on beautifully (and this was in the Chinese papers in another of those unmentioned interviews) and reappears at the right point later with a live shoe.

This is the song in Act IV that I love – 2:28:50 above. The Big Swans reappear in this and I like Chan Yee and May Yen’s version for this particularly – there is a soulful harmony that they share, as if they are swept up in the music and it is almost as if this dance is to remind you that though the Big Swans are birds by day, they are women, alive, full of human feeling, in the night. This song is tears in the soul – swans in circles, eyes lifted heavenwards and arabesques as if in a prayer. 2:30:24 marks someone with a woodwind  –  imagine the recorded version as a soulful woodwind that is fresh and sweet and light; 2:30:56 gives us the orchestra quietly supporting this lone voice, giving it heart, and the swans in their multitudes rise to the occasion, carry you away with their dancing. There is more – there is 2:31:27 – the faultless patience of these ladies. On Sunday night, they are dancing their hearts out, they are dancing with an outpouring of the music.

 

Odette plunges onstage. Princess Kana-Odette is in terrible heartbreaking desperation – you can see it in her skittering steps, in the fluttering of her wings – where shall she go, where can she hide now – her arms sweeping down like her tears cascading. You are looking not only at a girl who has lost her lover, but a girl who is to lose her entire life and youth for all eternity, you are looking at despair; and its urgency that cuts into your heart and you simply cannot stop weeping. Her 6 closest friends (big swans and cygnets) surround her and comfort her. In her dancing it is as if she is reliving Act 2 with all its steps and how she is now alone. Rothbart captures her again and lifts her high above all in a dreadful mockery of the end of Act 2, but the major swans fend him off eventually. Prince Kenya, when at last he is reunited with her, is a heartsick man who has had his heart ripped from his breast and he will visit her every day by the lake, a broken man, for the rest of his life, if he must.

Min Yi’s Odette is emotionally mature – it is not the betrayal that carries her and makes this scene refreshing, but that she must manfully bear onwards, that she must reconcile it with the choice she has made; and in this moment, it is this emotion that makes her Odette pure and sweet – she has already understood, and forgiven, but she will not see her Prince again. It is over, with a terrible finality; she covers her face as if she never ever wants to look up again. The greatest pain is knowing you have made your choice and must live with it – the heart is lonesome, and must build itself up again, and it breaks our hearts when Rothbart captures her and destroys her defences. There are chills down the spine when Prince Satoru arrives on the scene, riven with heartbreak and regrets made alive by the music; when he dances with her again, you can tell he is re-acquainting himself with the correct Odette, making up for the time lost at the ball. The music sings.

Now let’s just jump to 2:37:45 and listen for a bit; and there! did you jump out of your skin? Here is the greatest marriage of music and dance you will ever witness. If, for some reason, before this, you did not realise you were listening to live music, you will now know the difference. I cannot imagine for the life of me how it is done, but it is perfect, the thunder, the cymbals, married with the Prince’s agonised rolling on the ground (Satoru and Etienne having a great tussle-fest), Kensuke as Rothbart whirling through the air like a massive magnificent hurricane as he battles Kenya. There is this grand pause for air as Prince and Rothbart both pose before launching into their final showdown, and the timing is so organic and note-perfect it is as if the dancers are conducting the music. We applaud the conductor because it is the conductor whose eye and baton make it safe for the dancers to simply charge forward into the battle of the century. The other swans act as a diversion for the Prince as he reaches for his bow, thus teaching us that despite his undoubted good looks, he is also all about brains over brawn.

You have your heart in your throat with the clash of these titans coupled with that roaring music…

..and at the same time, you must know, the audience loves and laughs at Rothbart. If there were a poll like Shonen Jump’s for popularity or Valentine’s Day chocolates for the characters in its serialized mangas (I tried googling this and somehow only the Prince of Tennis manga turned up, though), Rothbart might well top it. Such magnificent straight teeth on Kensuke’s Rothbart as he throws his head back and laughs; and always, always, when Rothbart dies, someone will guffaw (and that’s part of the fun) – whether it’s because of Kensuke laughing maniacally before suddenly dropping off into nothingness, or Etienne holding up a bit in the silence before popping backwards exactly like he’s taken an arrow to the gut, to a ripple of stunned laughter.

I write this so I won’t forget: on Sunday night, I forgot everything except how magnificently perfect the Rothbart scene was, how perfectly-timed it was, Kensuke and Kenya primed to attack – I didn’t know I was actually sick but I had been feeling a bit out of sorts, and the emptiness in my soul (and gut) was filled instantaneously with incredible soaring music and dancing.

The end! Reconciled up on the stony precipice, one a loving couple matchmade in Heaven (with Benno’s help), the other a couple who have met their soulmates. The closing music, starting with those soaring strings, is itself an art in manipulation and how to write a great tune. (It’s good to start with 2:38:53 – but it begins at 2:39:00, if you want to hear the tune.) It is the sound of catharsis, of water and sunlight in the dawn of hope (okay, or tragedy depending on which Swan Lake you watch).

 

Photographs, and we will close with intriguing quotes from a book on conducting music that I borrowed to help me understand the live music for Swan Lake.

Two-second musings: A friend or two asked me which of the two Swan Lakes I preferred. I mention this solely because I’ve always wanted someone to ask me this so I can make a reference to “I’ll Never Tell” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (nothing to see, moving along, my lips are sealed, I’ll never tell). I’ve learnt that different people favour different things. I have never (I hope) expressed preferences here. I enjoy everything for different reasons. I am also unable to tell if something is “better” than another. I am sometimes effusive because I would rather be positive than not.

Photographs!

Swans and Czardas and Royals. As mentioned before, this is for the “X woz here” effect.

Back row: Shan Del Vecchio, Justin Zee, Jeremie Gan, Miura Takeaki, Timothy Ng, Reece Hudson; (Spanish) Etienne, Jason Carter; Mizuno Reo, Ivan Koh, Erivan Garioli (a noble with a very broad smile!), and Jasper Arran

Swans: Watanabe Tamana, Felicia Er, Valerie Yeo, Yayoi Matches, Jessica Garside, Ma Xiaoyu, Yamauchi Sayaka, Stephanie Joe, Leane Lim, Henriette Garcia, Suzuki Mai, Beatrice Castañeda

(01) Swans

This shot also has our Cygnets and Big Swans. Swans, left to right: Tamana, Nakahama Akira (in front as Cygnet), Felicia, Ma Ni (Cygnet), Valerie Yeo, Yatsushiro Marina (Cygnet), Yayoi, Tanaka Nanase (Cygnet), Jessica (hidden), Xiao Yu; Sayaka, Elaine Heng (in front as Big Swan), Stephanie, Bi Ru (Big Swan), Leane, Henriette, Mai, Beatrice.

In front we have Evangelyn Wong as the Queen and Mohd Noor Sarman as Tutor, and a blur of Rothbart by Yorozu Kensuke.

(02) Queen

Yorozu Kensuke again as Rothbart.

(03) Rothbart Kensuke

Big Swans – Elaine Heng and Chua Bi Ru!

(13) Big Swans A 1

(14) Big Swans A 2

Cygnets! Akira, Ma Ni, Marina, Nanase.

(15) Little Swans A

Minegishi Kana and Nakamura Kenya! 🙂

(4) Kana Kenya 1

The cast for the Kana-Kenya show. Cygnets to the left, Big Swans to the right and Kana with Kenya stuck in the middle with Rothbart 🙂

(05) Kana Kenya cast

I have more pictures for the Satoru show, I don’t know why. I think at one performance, a kid behind me said I thought no pictures [allowed] so I gave up.

Terrible photo of Men for that show: Reece, Justin, Jeremie, Huo Liang, Jason Carter, Shan, Timothy, Kensuke, Miura Takeaki as Tarantella, Mizuno Reo, Ivan, Erivan, Jasper. We are too lazy to type most surnames at this stage.

(12) Men

Cygnets in the front, left to right: Henriette Garcia, Beatrice, Suzuki Mai…oh no, I’m missing Tamana! Must be cos of someone’s head that I cropped out – but I’ve Cygnets below. Front and centre are May Yen Cheah and Yeo Chan Yee as our Big Swans.

(06) May Yen Chan Yee Big Swans

Sooo graceful.

(07) May Yen Chan Yee Big Swans 2

Ok Cygnets get their own pictures.

Tamana, Henriette, Beatrice, Mai. If feet are cropped there must be rows of heads, that’s why.

(08) Little Swans B 1

(09) Little Swans B 2

Agetsuma Satoru and Kwok Min Yi. Etienne is Rothbart to our right. You can see Timothy Ng and Kensuke as Spanish too.

(10) Min Yi Satoru 1

(11) Min Yi Satoru 2

(16) MYS 1

(17) MYS 2

(18) MYS 3

The Conductor, Joshua Tan

(19) w Conductor Joshua Tan

Massive applause for our orchestra.

(20) w conductor Joshua Tan

Quotes now, worth a read:

“Anyone brave enough to conduct dance is also a hero, made even more so because so little is understood of everyone’s willingness to create the grand illusion of human beings defying gravity through movement and precisely synchronized sound. Few in the audience have a clue as to how incredibly difficult it is, and when the result is good, it is the dancers who are the center of admiration, affection, and indeed, adulation. The conductor, always looking uncomfortably inelegant, coming onstage at the end and surrounded by the physical beauty of these superb athlete-artists, usually takes a sweaty bow while pointing into the orchestra pit, as the musicians are packing up their instruments or just walking out. [pg 125]

“..When a critic writes something negative — “too fast,” “too slow,” “too free,” “too rigid” — it comes as a real intrusion, of course, because how can they know better than we do? As individual members of the audience they are as important to us as any other member of the audience. However, they have something the other audience members do not have: a buly pulpit. No one tells a conductor when he begins to study that our work — should we be blessed with the ability and opportunity to perform– will be judged by a stranger who generally knows significantly less than we do and whose words will be read by far more people than attended the concert. [pg 135]..

“…Tchaikovsky absolutely hated what was done to his score for Swan Lake — cuts, abrupt tempo changes to fit the steps – by its original choreographer, Julius Reisinger. [pg 164]”

Maestros and Their Music: The Art and Alchemy of Conducting by John Mauceri (First Vintage Books Edition, 2018)

 

With this, we close our review of Swan Lake 2019, at last.

News now

Just hearing all the news about Wuhan – it’s all terribly heartbreaking and tragic. It’s all terrible.

All the news about the coronavirus in general…it’s a little frightening because there’s no cure and because we can’t say for sure yet why some folk survive and others don’t (availability of care not being discussed for now) — immunity, but then young folk — ? Drink your vitamin c, d and zinc concoctions, perhaps?

This country is so small that there is a somewhat high chance that you know (even if not exactly personally) somebody who knows somebody (who knows somebody?) who was in contact with someone who did have it or was in the area. It is like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon – I know someone who met Matthew Perry of FRIENDS once, and so by reading this blog, perhaps you already qualify for the 6 degrees.

There’s a fair bit of panic buying right now – I popped by the nearby supermarket and saw shelves emptied of toilet paper and queues stretching into the aisles. We did already suspect things would be bad earlier, but I’m afraid that, being the kind of person we are, we purchased Magnum ice cream.

That is the news for now.

In the meantime, I get no commission from anything I do, so here are two songs by a homegrown singer-songwriter-busker because they are beautiful, and I don’t have another post for this right now, and because I don’t necessarily want to end this post on a sad note.

 

 

Promotions (2020)

Congratulations to folk promoted for 2020!

This was announced a long time back but we always pause to appreciate the dancers and to talk about each of them through our own eyes and what, to us, stands out when we watch them, and why we love watching them.

First, we must explain that “First Artist” has been re-designated as “Soloist”, and there’s a new rank before Soloist, which is “Demi Soloist”. Having a Demi Solist rank is great because there are so many folk who deserve a kind of distinction — in other companies there are so many possible titles, coryphee, sujet, first soloist, étoile (described somewhere in this article as follows: “An étoile isn’t a good dancer. He or she is someone who transcends technique, who has charisma… someone who has an indefinable quality that makes you unable to take your eyes off him or her. There aren’t many“).

Do take the time to read the interesting little write-up in each instagram post 🙂

Demi Soloist

The following is in order of announcement on the Singapore Dance Theatre instagram page. These are the folk whom we’ve seen time and again in major soloist or semi-soloist roles, and just to say this perfectly bluntly, this is incredibly well-deserved because these are the folk who are given such strong roles in the repertoire, and they grab the roles by the balls of their feet and just deliver, time and time and time again. Yeah. We love watching them. These are our powerhouses, these ladies – they are incredible. Massive congratulations.

 

Here’s Beatrice Castañeda, in a gorgeous picture that brings to mind the essence of her dancing – the fine hands and feet, the elegant precision of her movements; the tenacity and speed, the spirit that adapts itself to each dance. Beautiful. We cannot emphasise enough that we are always excited whenever we see her name for any role. You know we’ve been delighted in 2019 to see her as Princess Florine and Cupid, roles that we felt she could simply blaze through and that she devoured completely and made her own. Look at Midnight Voices, where she had an uncanny interpretation that spoke to us and touched us unexpectedly – somehow her dancing translated a spiritual, philosophical reading; yet the next moment she’s rolling on in good humour and high spirits in the delightful zinger of Swipe; and in Malaysia, a sober old soul in Triptych. What a blast.

 

Tanaka Nanase – insanely well-deserved. At long long last. Anyone who can power through those fiendish energy-sapping roles of Lady Bluebird (I mean, Princess Florine) and Dewdrop, who is always the first up for padding the roles in any work, classical or contemporary (you scroll your eyes down the line of credits and she’s right there in any major supporting role) – and has such incredible energy, poise, class, and an uncanny knack for carrying the voice and spirit of the music and character of the piece – look at her bridesmaid in Unknown Territory, or at her clear steely solo in Fives. This has been a long time coming.  I have a soft spot for all the dancers, but I’ll admit I’ve a soft spot for Nanase’s dancing because of Chant – right there in the studio for One @ The Ballet years ago, when she opened the segment with the gamelans – her dancing took me right into the very soul of the piece. I had never seen contemporary / neoclassical ballet before that day, but in that moment, I was completely hooked.

 

Minegishi Kana, an unstoppable force as Kitri and Odette/Odile, who is grace personified – incredible sheer grace, an inimitable ease of movement; a flickering of fingers and arms can communicate a full range of emotions and build an entire story and character. We’ve also watched her hold her own in the contemporary repertoire, in the likes of Four Temperaments and SYNC – and each time our eye is on her, you can see a unique contemporary voice that stands out, and that we’d love to see more of. I don’t know if I’ve got it right, but in episode 1 of this fascinating documentary called “Cheer” (about cheerleading in the USA), there’s a mention of how a chin pop can make the difference – ? There’s that, a little difference in Kana’s artistry in how she lifts her face, and her arms, and her hands, that lends a special look to her dancing in both classical and contemporary. This picture captures that effortless beauty of movement and perfect elegance that has jaws dropping.

 

Yeo Chan Yee, always a solid indefatigable presence onstage. It is not everyone who can step up to centre stage to take on the role in Linea Adora, and there are no nerves. The poise, the voice that we’ve been watching emerge over the last year or so – it’s worth watching out for. It’s a different look and sound, this quiet lady-like elegance, this quirky comical side-eye humour in Unexpected B that went to Malaysia that delights in and appreciates the music. We live for these moments that give meaning to the dance. Where the other dancers above have been in demi-soloist and solos for quite a while, she’s had more opportunities this last year especially, and the promotion seems to be an indication of her ability and her potential, and we look forward to seeing more of her dancing. This picture! It says everything, that bliss and strength that we cannot underestimate, and the lines.

 

Soloist (formerly First Artist)

Agetsuma Satoru has skipped the ranks straight from Artist to Soloist. Watch him. That’s what we want to say, to shout from the rooftops. Watch him. Since the moment he appeared here, he’s been one to watch, and at each new performance you can see that he improves with leaps and bounds. Packed to bursting with energy, charisma, zing — and a flair for dramatic roles which enhances his classical dancing. Fives, Midnight Voices and stepping up for that non-stop bonanza that is Swipe – powered by lightning, powerful as a cannon shot, an eagle soaring straight home to the target. There is uncanny precision, terrific control, strength, iron determination – and humility. Humility, if you read the articles – I didn’t translate this in the last interview we put up, but he said that he’s slow at picking up things, and he really appreciates how patient Min Yi is with him; and in another recent article he said he has something to learn from everyone because there’s so much he still needs to learn. And when he learns it, it will be so worth it. You have to be there for the journey. Satoru, at this stage, is already something anyone can only dream of – dancers and audience alike.

 

Principal Artist

Congratulations to Kwok Min Yi for becoming Principal, and our first Singaporean female Principal Artist! There is not a single moment that we have not been wowed by Min Yi’s momentous capacity and ability. Kitri comes up and she takes it and more than delivers, she delivers with a punch, a stellar smile, and a stunning confidence – each move is clean and has a sharp finish; while Chihiro was pregnant, Min Yi took to so many of Chihiro’s major roles from SYNC to Linea Adora and danced them with such panache; Theme and Variations turns up and Min Yi demolishes the moves with her trademark calm, and an incredible accomplished polish that makes every step, every limb, sparkle. We have watched her in Swan Lake’s Garland Dance as one of the Garland girls, then as every little girl’s ballerina Snowflake Queen and the hilarious scaredy-cat friend of Coppelia’s, all the way up to now, and it is incredible that she has done everything from being a stable part of the frame and flesh of SDT to carrying a work forward as principal. She does not let the dance overwhelm her, and always, she exudes a complete completeness and togetherness. Simply put, it is a joy watching her dance, and we know it is incredible hard work that allows us this joy. If you read (another article we have not talked about) – she simply wants to dance – it is not about achieving this status or that role by this time that delights her, but simply the passion and desire to dance, and we see this radiating from her in every single performance, which makes each dance so very accessible, and so exhilarating to watch. I can’t say this enough – she brings a story to life. That is an incredible ability to nurture and have. Hurray, and well done!

Seeing the mention of bubble tea above — I must say that I used to be a Koi person, and then I savoured R&B’s unique tea cream, and I do like Xing Fu Tang’s cactus pink pearls in their matcha latte, but now that I’ve drunk Chi Cha San Che (the queue at Ang Mo Kio moves fast and isn’t as long as that at Somerset), I have to say that it’s just the best (to me, for now).  It needs to stay, hence this semi-advert for it. The tea is freshly-brewed and hence it is smooth and leaves no sour puckering notes on the palate. I love osmanthus oolong, and even if you have osmanthus oolong with mango juice (highly recommend 50%, not 0% as the tea will have what I assume is a natural sourness still), it leaves a subtle fragrance at the very end of each sip; and the cream froth with the osmanthus oolong is delicious, and even the cassia tea, which I’ve only sampled and never drunk, is sweet.

I digress.

On to episode 4 of Cheer on Netflix – and Swan Lake.

Passages 2019(3) – Family Reunion

Is this your family, you ask yourself. Stay tuned for the philosophical musings, hold on to your coat tails and hat-tricks. Here we go; do click on the links since they’re more space-friendly than embedding instagram posts! 🙂

(04) Family Reunion

You attend a family gathering, the highlight being festive goodies that you don’t have in your house (and your loved ones, presumably) – and they bring out a new shiny sweet in pink and purple and green foil and you ask, “What is it?” even though it’s already in your mouth as you speak, and it is rock candy that explodes into a thousand flavours and pops and sizzles, like something out of Willy Wonka’s.

Welcome to the reunion; take a seat.

Sit back there in the dark on the benches at the back of the stage, clad in the most outrageous clothes off the rack at a flea market, a guest at the most outlandish costume party of the year. Out of a darkness so deep we can barely see past our eyeballs, we hear Shan Del Vecchio strumming a guitar – how does he know where to start? – and a spotlight falls upon Ivan Koh, in a furry costume of jersey cow-patch pink-and-white topped with a baseball cap and pink sunglasses, providing us with a half-sung, half-flute rendition of Somewhere, over the rainbow, the music falling into the parched darkness, while the audience sits in respectful silence.

Is this your family? While he plays the flute, another spotlight on the other side of the stage reveals Yayoi Matches (this being a mere glimpse of what lies beneath) in a staggeringly marvellous trance – the jerky, stop-and-start, swivel-and-reach rubbery clockwork dance – maybe more than a dance, an entire blissful monologue with herself and in herself. There is something endearingly intimately open and honest about it, an unpretentious ecstasy about it that draws an awkward giggle from someone in the audience; a glimpse of a person caught in a reverie of her own, a fantasy world intimate and real to her; and, amazingly, coupled with the music, there is a kind of hope in it, a wordless joy of movement that you can almost start to sink into…

But don’t get too comfortable, folks, ‘cos Agetsuma Satoru is here to bark you out of any maudlin feelings with A Chorus Line, and Yayoi snaps right out and into traumatised harried dancer mode, and by the time Satoru heads into Let’s do the whole combination, facing away from the mirror territory, there are chortles from the younger audience members, perhaps from a not-so-distant memory.

Your family is — Valerie Yeo and Watanabe Tamana as two iridescent celebratory rainbow slinkies writhing and cavorting and partying their hearts out, hair all over their faces; it is Henriette Garcia and Tamana swivelling and whirling to home-made music which is punctuated towards the end with a chorus of “hees” at appropriate pauses by Stephanie Joe and Yayoi Matches, ticklishly irreverent; it’s Reece Hudson and Jeremie Gan and a batch of them clowning around; Jeremie Gan and Stephanie Joe and Jessica Garside dancing rhythmically, it’s soft bluesy music that’s folksy and stirring; it’s Ivan Koh singing a song that turns out to be one of our many favourites – “Don’t want to leave her now”…; now he’s dancing, or perhaps he’s fake-playing a baseball player to a voice-over by Reece Hudson, or twisting about in a frothy furry riveting solo to Shan’s guitar strumming and when, from the stands, Valerie Yeo whacks open her giant fan and screeches, he falls over and Valerie Yeo cries out, Are you all right? in hoarse Mandarin (which falls on giggling ears for some) as she and Tamana run to his rescue; a mixed bag of colourful tricks as the snippets of action whizz and flash past like confetti on a speed dial; it’s gathering in centre to cold white light and partying before breaking up with snippets of conversation: I want a drink! yells someone.

At some point in time you realise they’re barefoot, exactly like they’re right there in your house with you –

– except that Choreographer Satoru returns with Chorus Line once more, directed at Reece Hudson this time round, and this time when it’s facing the mirror, 5-6-7-8, everyone gets up and then boom, the opening of Swan Lake’s Overture plays, to the most unexpected choreography  – and in that small theatre, it has exactly the grandiose grandeur and overwhelming synchronicity required – they leap up at the right moment to punctuate a breath – and one of the best parts is actually when they just tilt their own heads and swivel on their butts while their feet patter on the ground; it almost takes the mickey out of something so grave, it’s a right proper laugh – but it’s also really an appreciation of the rhythm in the music.

Then we have possibly one of the most popular, stand-out moments of the entire performance –  Jeremie Gan is a hoot, swaying and lip-syncing to Dinah Washington’s Such a Kiss, beaming infectiously from ear to ear, with the air of someone sharing a delightful secret with you – just you! – and basking with gleeful abandon and saucy confidence in the memory of the night (oh what a kiss it was, it really was). There’s not a line in this song that is not milked to perfection with that glint in the eye, and superb comic timing and the savouring of each ravishingly delicious kiss – for the cherry on the pie is that at seemingly-random intervals throughout the song, the other dancers (Tamana, Satoru, Reece, Jessica, etc) break out from the shimmying hordes in the background that are embodiments of the same joy, and they stride right up to Jeremie, and plant solid, cheeky kisses on his cheek, drawing the appropriate blissful reaction from him, and squeals of delight from the audience at one performance especially, and peals of laughter from everyone else. Jeremie is inviting us to share such a night with the gossipy delight of someone sharing the juiciest confession with each of us, and you feel exactly like you’re right under the lamplight in that moment, you can practically see the lamplight and the rain in your head in cinematic fashion, and the audience loves it and laps every last drop of it up – and I don’t think I’ll be able to hear the song again without a smile and the memory of the performance.

 

More than half the heart of Family Reunion goes to Amazing Grace sung live by the late, great Aretha Franklin (the portion below, up to 2:53), rendered live by Yayoi Matches and Shan Del Vecchio.

And such a life it is that they speak of, opening in stops and starts, fits and sputters, a coordinated mess; the story of a couple finding their way, in a slow-motion tussle as they navigate their rocky waters. Warm, raw, unpretentious, imperfect life splayed and spilt across the floor. Sometimes she asserts herself, she steps lightly upon his shoulder like the Queen of the desert upon a pyramid she has conquered, and he tumbles down, and she cartwheels herself over him; she leads him and leads him on authoritatively and he follows at a mere suggestion or tug, and yes they are together, she wants you to know that when she rolls over him – they may be tussling, but he is hers and she is his. He may haul her over, holding her by her ankle, he may yank her in one direction  – never roughly, but definitely firmly – and when he rolls over obligingly, she gathers her skirts together and seats herself like a lady upon his flexed foot, with all the dignity she can muster, as if she is holding herself above the water, high above the fray – proclaiming I have the higher ground in any argument, as if she is that one character in the kitchen in that movie, who is holding the teacup of liquor and is saying Who’s drunk? not me! It is public, and it is physical, but they consume their lives entirely between themselves and no one else may partake of their fraught ties.

This moment is worth the inevitable white spaces – that delicate yearning and openness that you can’t stop watching, like buttered toast falling in slow-motion.

Breaking free, she circles the stage in a deliberate run — watch me, I am free of you — and yet she dashes back to him and leaps up and he catches her, holds her high up to the sun, like an eagle captured in a photograph in mid-flight, an idol on a precipice. Fragments of china in a cupboard in the sunlight, scattered jigsaws one moment, and bold colourful life the next; broken-down mechanical toys reaching for each other, clinging together; a story of a life lived in parts, that wants to be heard and will not be silenced. That one moment where she leans back in his arms in peaceful bliss, and he rests his cheek atop her head, and they have found each other – that is a moment to be savoured, and it is quietly glorious:

We risk a white space for this video – when they jive and waltz invisibly without holding on to each other, yet always, always connected in soul; when Shan holds her back, and leaps into the air and hangs there for one lengthy split-second and brings down the controlled force of his emotion down upon Yayoi and yet sprawls prostrate at her feet in the next breath, and she stumbles away from him in a magnificent montage of movement, yet runs back, with him, to find her space amidst the observers, the family members, the witnesses to their roiling romance, their throes of their troubles, the spin-and-yank, the twist-and-tumble, their lavish, savage duet – and as anyone would, in any book, they turn their faces away – not us, not ours, not watching, unseen; and at last, apocalypse averted, the couple find that the only person they are meant for is the other.

What a gift it is to be able to have watched Shan Del Vecchio and Yayoi Matches in this knotted net and netted knot of thorns – they are dancers with a unique contemporary dance quality; put together, they are, for want of a better word, a word I lump together with cacao nibs and kombucha – organic, hewn of nature, full of life, and lifelike, and alive. Yayoi Matches has an incredible dance style that we’ve not seen before (perhaps reminiscent of the stop-motion rubber-dance in NDT but much more rubber, less stop-motion crisp animation) – it is vigorous, it writhes, it breathes life into every disjointed joint and it wriggles to the surface and it is beautiful and gorgeous and alive – where that lacy black top and amazing frieze skirt of gradations of grey crepe might have swallowed a dance move alive, her dancing shone right through the costume and even enhanced it – made it look right – it was all right there and part of it; you know for certain that every step must have been choreographed, but she makes it look as real as if it were created at that very moment – the raw finish on a diamond.  Shan Del Vecchio matches measure for measure, breath for breath, with a smooth, flawless delivery as the man with a sustained romance in the heart, unflagging, torn to pieces and yet always there, the anchor, the home base, for their partnership. He is the key to pivoting the part of her life that was the solitary spotlight seen earlier, into passion.

Lest you think we are plunged into ice-cold solemnity after this, we are thrown a basket of fruit: everyone rushing to a corner in mock gravity for that self-explanatory move purportedly known as “tweaking the sun’s nipple“, can-canning to the can-can, throwing their legs in a squat stance, leaping forward, huddling in a group and throwing their heads round and screaming exactly like folk on a roller coaster (which causes a ripple of laughter); flossing(which brings even more laughter); and – one of my personal favourites, the petting zoo, wherein Ivan in his pink bonbon coat rushes around from one end of the stage to the other, one hand extended as if he is petting a very small ostrich, and bending and rising as necessary to follow the height of his imaginary ostrich, and as he passes the others, they collect their own ostriches and soon everyone is petting imaginary ostriches in perfect, ludicrous but completely sincere harmony – this gets a laugh from some small children in the audience who understand, and I love it as it is an extremely true depiction..

Have you seen the club yet? I want a drink, someone declared earlier, and now they’re at the club, prancing and bouncing with hands in the air to an invisible deejay – a wild riot of colours huddled in a corner, a veritable neon acid trip, that’s what it is, and high on that energy, they assist Valerie Yeo to stand astride the backs of her fellow man – and she whacks open her fan again and screams raucous exhortations to the man-made horse all the way to exit, lights out.

What a racket – and what unbridled unadulterated energy, and it all brought the house down.

Is this your family? Family reunion – if family were people stringing it out at a club, high and dry, wild and wet – it’s crazy, and it’s joyous, it’s a mixed bag of extreme highs and crawling lows, and highs again. I asked myself: Is this what family looks like?

But isn’t it? Only that everyone is keeping their selves wrapped up like dumplings; otherwise, we’re all a little mad inside.

Welcome to the family 🙂

The audience loved it – it was a blazing hot favourite, and everyone was excited about it at the end – I think I’ve not heard so many chuckles in an audience in a show.

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Other thoughts

“Which of these would you wear, if you could?” asked a friend, of the costumes. Without a doubt, the sequined tiger(?) jacket of Reece’s – it speaks to me, there is a sequined tiger deep inside my soul. On carefully poring over the pictures and the memory – Stephanie Joe has a spendiferous blue furry Russian-style hat, the lovely silky slinky skirt on Tamana, perhaps that glittery Pepsi shirt on Valerie – oh, but I’m a Coke person.

Here’s the choreographer, Lucas Jervies, on the piece. You can see he genuinely intends to bring to life something that is real and visceral, and interestingly, in its own very expressive way, Family Reunion did that. There was an interview that I can’t find, in which he suggested that after Spartacus he wanted to do something that he felt a kind of connection to. He also said he might make changes along the way so that each show was different; in one performance I attended, some of the girls used their handphones as flashlights and waved them in accompaniment when everyone sang the Kermit rainbow song.

 

 

(200th Post) Singapore Dance Theatre’s Season 2020 – Dare to Dance

Apparently this is the 200th post on this blog that we (the royal, without the lineage) started in 2014…Fitting, then.

Announced a long, long time ago…

This video is immensely fun and beautiful, and I love so many bits of it – from showing all the hard work – to watching Yeo Chan Yee in that dazzlingly long moment en pointe and then throws her into a contemporary pose and turns into her looking right out at the audience and then segues sharply into wings against light (Chua Bi Ru, Elaine Heng, Chan Yee, Timothy Ng, Ivan Koh) – there’s the intriguing bridge scene with May Yen, stunningly lithe and limber in the Bittersweet dress; the energetic Dare to Play moment on the playground with Huo Liang, Reece Hudson, Jeremie Gan and (is that Agetsuma Satoru) and sparklers, all clad in Triptych fatigues; the weirdly thrilling bare-floor scene that is surely not from Lord of the Flies – with Yorozu Kensuke as the heart of a swirling stormy knot of dancers, clad in a costume from.. Jabula? Ma Cong’s Shadow’s Edge? while everyone else (1:01) is in the grey from I can’t figure out where … Henriette Garcia, Justin Zee, Jasper Arran, Suzuki Mai, Leane Lim, Tanaka Nanase, Miura Takeaki, Watanabe Tamana, Ma Ni, Yayoi Matches, Yatsushiro Marina, Mizuno Reo, Shan Del Vecchio, Minegishi Kana; then Kwok Min Yi, Beatrice Castañeda and Valerie Yeo as the spinning snowflakes leaping out at us – very lovely.

But the one moment that is my favourite, that never ever fails to touch some deep part of the soul, is that moment when Ivan Koh runs up the slope and that slips into Etienne Ferrere as Romeo, running up the stairs to Nakahama Akira as his Juliet, who falls into his loving arms – and joyously he lifts her – there is something so heart-stoppingly heartbreakingly gorgeous about that moment.

The making-of / behind the scenes:

Okay, so here’s the line-up for the year:

1. Romeo and Juliet: About time, and live music too, we hope. Etienne and Akira are our coverpeople for this.

2. Peter and Blue’s Birthday Party with Jeremie Gan as Peter now.

3. Masterpiece in Motion (with Beatrice and Timothy Ng): a world premiere by Timothy Rushton (who last gave us the rich, intense, and wildly different Evening Voices), the  company premiere of Ibsen’s House by Val Caniparoli, and hurray, Organ Concerto by Nils Christe. Hurray, I love organ concerto.

On Ibsen’s House, I am excited. It does also bring to mind a Dance Europe review of a recent ballet based on one of Ibsen’s plays, and in the 2nd or 3rd last column of print ,the reviewer said it was beautifully danced, but one must prepare oneself mentally, or else one might as well throw oneself off a building after the show, for it was so depressing (not in those exact terms – it was expressed much more rivetingly and hence hilariously).

4. Ballet Under the Stars has May Yen as the cover girl.

Oh wow, old favourites: Serenade (yes, yes); Theme and Variations (yes, most definitely – will we have one or two casts, we would love to see Chihiro in this too), and Kitri’s wedding scene from Don Quixote (oh, my..!)

For contemporary we have Edmund Stripe’s Piano Concerto No. 2 aka Shostakovich (at last), Nils Christe’s Symphony in Three Movements (oh! very good, with Organ Concerto in the same year, unexpected but yay), and Edwaard Liang’s Opus 25 (I know people who will buy a ticket just for this meringue delight).

5. Passages Are those Jason Carter, Satoru and Kensuke – and a girl whom I can’t really identify because I don’t want to risk it, I’ve been wrong before! New works by Timothy Harbour (lines, light, mathematical alignment and particle choreography, harmony with music), Natalie Weir (emotion and heft and sweeping movements and something delicate tugging at the heartstrings), and Loughlan Prior who is the Choreographer in Residence at the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

6. Nutcracker –  a mystical, out-of-this-world modern design featuring Kwok Min Yi.

We charge forward.

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Now I have a sore throat but I can’t quite take honey so we shall eat soft(half?)-boiled eggs (an old wife’s remedy that apparently works) – I love those, and am uncommonly excited about it. Apple juice works as well, for some. Maybe I shall have to drink lemon green tea because the lemon shall soothe my throat. Jellies! I like the Tarami jelly pouch drinks.

Promotions (2019)(2) – First Artists

I reflected on how I may have to do a blockbuster post for 2020 given the sheer number of promotions and changes in title, and it felt terrible that I didn’t blockbuster 2019’s post. It’s okay, let’s time-travel. I want to take the time to appreciate them (the promotees? is that the word?).

So much hard work, so much beautiful dancing.

Nakahama Akira

Akira is the proverbial swan paddling beneath the lake – her peaceable, beatific expression belies the fact that she has incredible speed and beautiful footwork to the layman eye — nifty, quick, and accurate. There is such skill and experience, such hard work and craft, behind the delicate, deft feet and hands, the exact beats, the perfect musicality. The strength that powered her through the successful Sleeping Beauty debut and (heck time travel) the kind of strong musical instincts that swept her through all the Don Quixotes as Cupid, and memorably in 2019’s Don Q, when the music unravelled quickly, so quickly that it did not seem naturally possible to manage it – she hit every single breath and moment and took our breath away.

For contemporary works – I think they said Blue Snow was one of her first and she was nervous, but she did so wonderfully, it is iconic now, to the mind, her movements are stamped into the music, that lovely desert-crossing scene with Etienne that touches the heart; and look recently at the likes of Swipe – when she was added in, and fell right into the feeling and mood, and swing of the piece, the wry good humour and the extremely important camaraderie shared by all onstage.

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In case anyone asks, I’m not paid for these things. But in the final show of Swan Lake, I sat next to someone whose presence at the theatre reminded me of how fortunate it is to be young, and to have a ticket to watch a show. (Remember to Adopt-An-Audience!) She had been tired before the show started, but she sat up in between parts of Swan Lake and said, This is good. She was a wonderful (aunt?) to a little girl, she listened patiently and was kind, and that is how I shall remember her, listening to the girl with the most wonderful soft expression on her face, giving her all the time she had.

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Kwok Min Yi

We can’t get this out of our heads, that moment when Min Yi took the stage in Incomparable Beauty and was like a mint sprig out of nowhere – a refreshing contemporary feel to the rhythm in the turn of her head and the flick of a shoulder. We can’t find the words for this – she is unique in how her voice looks and feels different in contemporary performances, from classical performances – there’s a very distinct movement quality that has a modern dance look; are we thinking, now, of what we only know from High School Musical when someone says they can pop and lock as seen in hip-hop dance; and there is a voice telling a story.

A voice telling a story – and there is that little moment of revelation in every classical dance where you can see something you didn’t expect to see – taking us cleanly and assuredly through the dance when she started on demi-soloist movements: clean lines as the little girl’s princess Queen of the Snowflakes; Dawn in Coppelia, rising with the sun, soft and gentle, forgiving; and then through the lead roles — Giselle’s pathos, and her drifting closer and closer to Albrecht though they were separated by the fine line between life and death; Theme and Variations’ strength in every limb; spritz in Serenade; and oh, Swan Lake – Swan Lake! We must get to that. Wait, we were supposed to talk about 2018 only. Too late.

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Also, I have been under the weather in a number of ways, and (over the last 2 weeks) completely and utterly consumed by work** (rarrr rarrrrrr rarrr says the work monster) – not at all a coincidence, I daresay – though I think I caught a bug either just before or during Swan Lake, and by the last show concluded though I should be crying in Act 4, I cannot because I have [nothing in my guts] and all my feelings are in my guts* – but to my utter amazement, I was completely immersed in a fantastic world where Rothbart and Prince Siegfried battled it out to the most perfectly rousing, perfectly-timed music ever and we were swept away by the beautiful dancing of everyone involved, from the Swans to the leads.

Family Reunion is definitely on the way, Swan Lake is in the mind. I don’t have a lot of words inside me right now. We shall get there soon. The month of December is always a bit of a fiend.

If, perchance, you feel under the weather or as if you are being compressed emotionally and so on, try watching Nigella Lawson. Or perhaps Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking.

*I did not realise I was sick until I was on the way home and then I suspected correctly that I was running a temperature; with apologies to every human (whether stranger or otherwise) whom I met along the way whom I unknowingly/ inadvertently infected.

**Are we worried about being consumed? We are – we just have to get much better at managing it. Ballet is one of the ways. We can but try. I talk about this only because it is tiresome when mental health is a taboo topic and we have to pretend. Listen to some music that does not make you sad, treat yourself with a nice bite (if not out of a neck of someone who displeaseth you, Ms./Messr. Dracula, some chocolate will do nicely)…

Passages (2) 2019 – Swipe, Bittersweet

Passages 2019 was such a joy. I really keep wanting to do Bittersweet first, but we can’t swipe past.. yeah. Swipe. I’m in love!

Passages cover

Do watch the video that Singapore Dance Theatre put up here for World Ballet Day.

 

2. Bi…Swipe

(02) Swipe

This was seen in 2014 ( a review of which exists in my mind, of bars of gold lying dustily across the stage, of slithering bodies, of Timothy Coleman and the intravenous deejay music; but hey…where is it); and again, 2016 at BUTS.

Etienne, though not dancing in this, is always – for those who want to know! – incredible in Swipe; there is a delightful elegant crispness in his movements; in that solo where he leaps round and round in a circle, legs in a sharp V, or leans over in a perfect arabesque penche, legs practically a straight line with one foot on the ground. I tell you, I have written a review for this before (which I can’t find), of Etienne leaping backwards while throwing his arms piston-sharp for each portion of the music that sounds like a gunpowder keg open (I probably attributed it to the wrong dance, gold stars all round). Yes, crisp as slices of green apple on the palate. And imagine him marching out with the other three men, just making their way out proudly to the store down the road, leaning over and kicking back in jovial companionship. This is for our memories.

When you watch the dancers take the stage and begin their characteristic roc-like movements – five in a circle facing one another, and out of nowhere, one begins with a raised swerving arm sweeping outwards, jerking the body like a gull pecking at food – sometimes one arm, sometimes two, and then one-and-two-and-one-and-two, you try counting in your head – one by one, the others join in until all five are swaying forwards and upright again, swiping their arms up and out…

…immediately upon seeing this and hearing the music (it opens with the movement below), you know that the dancers must be in possession of an innate healthy sense of humour and a clear appreciation of wry humour. Listen to this music and imagine birds pecking…before they take flight.

Satoru steps in to take Etienne’s place, and he has his own contemporary style and fits into the beat without missing a breath. It is jaw-clenchingly difficult to fit in at the last moment, and especially a one-and-two-and fast-paced complicated work like Swipe, which is crammed full of so much fast footwork that just thinking about racing through it almost frays the seams of your shirt.

I am picking through the music on youtube with a chopstick, and similarly we will pick through the moments with our toothpick memories: Akira sliding her jacket off at the last of the opening act so it hangs tubularly from her arm and Jason can pull the jacket off Akira’s outstretched hand as he exits the stage, in a movement as smooth as water running off a silvered surface; Satoru and Akira’s duet, seamless and effortless; bizarre humorous little moments like May Yen Cheah and Huo Liang marching along the breadth of the stage in opposite directions, swiping their arms and nodding away like the fringe on cowboy pants.

May Yen Cheah and Huo Liang in the delightful little waltz of the puppet-doll, that opens (I think) with May Yen Cheah poised, one foot in front and arms curved expansively, bouncing to the beat, the famous one where he walks her through the four major points of the clock, stopping at each corner to turn their heads and swivel slightly as if to acknowledge the folk on the sides; she cycles her arms large as unicycle wheels;  she leaps into his arms, and there is a split-blink of a tumble and twist in his arms. Huo Liang is a quiet partner but it is evident that he carries within him the spirit of the dance and an appreciation of the absurd beats and quirky humour – there is this jazzy quality to how he moves to the music.

(We say this always, of May Yen, and it is very evident again in Swipe — every single expressive head tilt and every vibrant movement speaks of a deep, instinctive understanding of the music and an incredible ability to share the secret in the music and dance with us. It is as if she is speaking directly to us, and in Swipe, the moment she takes centrestage – and then my friend says who’s that? – she is opening this door to us to let us into this little joke, this delightful and enjoyable secret about Swipe – you feel something in you resonate  – not that something resonates with you,  I mean tuning fork to tuning fork.) We know everyone is unique and has their special qualities — and in this respect, in particular, she stands on a pinnacle of and on her own, with this unique ability that is entirely hers…)

Because we hear little hiccoughs of beeping in the music, a faint hint of the music for the three ladies’ dance later, we always think it follows – but i think what follows is what we call mystic Jason on the beach by the ocean, to the music below – Jason Carter walking backwards from the wings to our left. The light that pours down and illuminates only a stretch of the grey stage before us is the moon upon the sand. Listen to the whirling call of the ocean as he pushes himself across the moonlit shore, slithering upon the sand; to the desolate, haunting echo from above as he displays his characteristic precise control and sweeping grace, staring out into the ocean, flicking one leg out, curling it back inwards as if to cross his foot over his knee, his arms sweeping out, circling, encasing the sound as it washes down upon him; as he slinks elegantly across the sand – deliciously enigmatic. This is exactly the dance you would do if you were alone in the grey room, with the thudding beats whirling overhead, and the sea calling out to you. In the background, on the mother-of-pearl stage, Kensuke and Beatrice enter, undulating, arms cycling large as the moon, pausing at each step forward to bounce a little as May Yen Cheah had earlier – embracing the moon and all its mystical mythical magnetism.

 

 

Next is what we called the “credit card song” in the past, and when you hear it your blood thrills and your heartbeat quickens – this is one of my favourite moments, as always – the three ladies dancing. The other day, I heard a computer system digesting instructions, and it was the exact techno sound you get here; and also the sound of water falling down a drain.

May Yen Cheah in the silence walking over to the centre front of the stage, taking up her position before the music falls through to our favourite song; the little fish-catching solo, where Akira, making full use of the music, sways her arms from side to side before her, lower and lower, hands parallel to the ground but changing direction at each side as if her hands are fish swimming through the water – and that sudden sharp moment of silence where the music pulls back and catches itself sharply – and that little moment in the music where she suddenly pauses and lingers for a moment as seen in the picture below – there is that tinge of amusement and it always gets a small giggle from someone in the audience with whom it strikes a chord; Beatrice sharp-footed and nifty, blade-quick feet and swift little leaps. Watch the video from SDT, it’s all there – their fearless precision, their little skating feet, the casual archer hand drawing the string to the shoulder and the bow hand flinging itself forward, the wonderfully leisurely saunter and sashay across the stage, with their delightful little proud dipper cat-hands pointed just-so — we’re just ladies at the Ritz – utterly fast-paced yet completely chill, and the audience enjoy this.

At the end of the women’s piece, my friend could not stop marvelling: It’s perfection, she said repeatedly, and then again of the other pieces, in a kind of wonderment, as if to say – How had I not known of this, it is all perfection – exactly what I felt so many years ago when I watched my first One @ the Ballet …

 

The men are next up, and they are hot favourites with the audience. Striding out confidently from one corner to blurping bloorping music, the aces of our card deck, throwing themselves forward in great bows, kicking back – flinging their heads back as they march about to the music, oozing strength, confidence, charisma: Here we are, the dance proclaims – look at us. Falling into line at the back of the stage – enough breath in the music for Jason Carter to nod at Huo Liang and Satoru – you ready?, says the nod, and people always laugh maybe because of that moment of camaraderie or because it also fits, if you read it as a challenge, or a nonchalant devil-may-care moment that slides into 1:07, when they throw themselves into a tricky little jig of the feet as they advance as a row to the front – their feet kicking out to the sides, throwing arms out, almost a Scottish jig, or are we talking Irish here – beats to the feet, no time to pause, and when they meet at the front they cross paths, throw their heads back confidently, exaggeratedly, almost rebelliously.

To that music (as it rolls on), we have our men’s solos – a full display of shatter-proof power. Kensuke is made of zipline energy, a juiced-up juice box, explosive – see the flight of Kensuke round the stage, with his perfect trademark definitive Kensuke whip-turn of the head as he throws a perfectly-arced arm up. Huo Liang has the belligerent solo with the fast high kicks forward and freewheeling arms thrown out to touch his kicking feet, irrepressible energy, all-out jiving and a massive corkscrew spin  — he is his own man and he dares you to say otherwise. Jason Carter is in next, skittering feet sliding impossibly quickly across the floor, stylish, wry humour – almost skating across the floor – and at this moment on Saturday night, we have already heard the applause for the 3 ladies and the felt the audience perk up  – but if you are in the audience at this very moment, you can see – the men are on fire and they know it. Right then and there, in soars Satoru with a God Almighty leap (with no offence to the Divine), rapid and sharp on the beat with the little leaps backwards and the explosive opening of arms, one-two-three, when there are three short sharp exhaust-fume barks in the music (3:31 – 3:33).

Satoru is our rolling deejay now, wrapping the arm about the head and back out again, Huo Liang and Kensuke joining him – the weird but enjoyable moment when they cross their arms to touch their knees, legs out in lunges –  it’s a long lick of an ocean wave for a surfer to ride, that blast of energy that they take until they hit the ground flat on their stomachs like logs, and the lights go out, to thunderous applause.

 

Next we have a slow pas de deux of Jason Carter and Beatrice, slowly emerging from our left to the throbbing of a heartbeat. This is intense, deeply intricate intertwining couple work – Beatrice hanging, from an arm, must swing herself up to catch onto Jason; in another move that people love, she leaps – practically flies – backwards into his arms as lightly as if they were two magnets, drawn to each other; they draw themselves together in symmetrical, deliberate shapes, but it never looks forced. More than one person was overheard comment after on how right they looked together – it is as rich and fully fleshed-out as a blade of fragrant grass pressed between book leaves, or an orange through a juicer; nothing over-wrought, just simply pure movement.

 

What do you think you are getting from this music below? Let’s say you decide to start from 0:22 to speed things up. Listen to the moon as it passes through the sky — and wait for it… 1:01 – the whirring of helicopters, and BOOM at 1:05 – the light burns white and  we have the buzzing of the jungle mixed with open spaces, the thudding pulse building up as the dancers spring into electric spring action. Danger, says the music, as Beatrice and Jason hit the beat and throw themselves boldly forward, jerking their heads back and scooping an arm high as they kick back in the fish-hook kick, as keenly as if fish string tied to their shoe is being pulled back, in short sharp successive jerks in the next few beats – they look incredible, out of this world, mannequins flung back. – You think you have already seen the manic mad action to the shrill whisper of anticipation building….

…then the bullet shots hit the dust, and as 1:42 draws up — 1:43 is Jason lifting Beatrice high like a warning across the stage — and the women are now raptors, pennants crossing the sky, one leg down for landing, the other curled behind for take-off — and a man in the audience goes oh my god in delighted surprise. This is the sound you get in a Terminators, Transformers movie – and the dancing is racing metal and sharp adrenaline, non-stop machine gun-speed and slick shimmering pairwork and thudding, darting shadows across the ground.

This picture brings us towards the end – Kensuke lit up, and from left to right, disregarding who is in front and who is not – May Yen, Akira, Huo Liang, Beatrice, Satoru, Jason (rightmost).

The last moments see Kensuke in his own lonesome world – a one-man fearsome show, opening his arms out arms to the audience in a silent cry (why, why) with the beat; he leans out to us, one leg unfolded back like a swallow-tail; at some point he lies upon the ground, defeated, while the others stand about him and swipe the air until at last he rises – and they empty the stage, and suddenly at the closing beat, he freezes, in a quizzical comical contorted version of the pose May Yen Cheah did earlier in centre stage (the one that moves to bouncing).

When the lights go out, someone invariably laughs – it tickles the funny bone somewhere. It’s phenomenal, and this time round – a lot more of its glory is revealed, like polished silver or like those scratch-and-win coupons. It grows on one, is what I meant to say – especially up-close.  It has its incredible charms, and when you watch them dance, you think Of course that’s what this music is doing. It seems completely correct.

It was a huge favourite with the crowd, this one. Somehow something in it really made the audience excited – you could feel them on the edge of their seats, and the  contrast between the slower and the faster parts was gripping.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say my new favourite part really is the helicopter portion. It just bloody socks you in the jaw when Beatrice and Jason Carter hit the stage – there is this curiously addictive thrill that comes with the music.

 

3. Bittersweet

What a work. Here’s our review of the 2014 versions.

(03) Bittersweet

You know the story already. The casting was a gold star, what a brilliant idea, why did we not think of it. I think the number of times we recall seeing Jason and Min Yi partnering each other on stage may be counted on the fingers of round about 1.2 hands and an elbow.

You know that story, now watch the video. Watch it with the music. You have to see it. I have longed a video of it for so long and now we have one. This is a short and intensely-crafted work that takes every note of the music to its logical emotional conclusion. This is why we don’t wear eye makeup to the theatre any longer; we did on Sunday, and it rolled down with hot tears.

Min Yi is vibrant and alive – she plays a creature for whom every fibre has awoken and is awake. The first step she takes forward, after sliding off Jason’s outstretched arms, is precious to her  – you can almost feel the fibres in her foot and the muscles in her leg thrilling to the touch of the ground. Those first steps are richly significant – they are alive, they are signs of being keenly aware of being alive. Even when her feet buckle inwards and her legs slowly fold to the ground, and she rises up again and limps back towards Jason who is now looking away from her, the images are sharp as glass in our eye; it is like watching those little creatures fresh out of the eggshell, stretching their wet stringy wings and letting the sun dry their feathers…

I cannot emphasise this enough – the steps are richly realised, in vivid colour.

When she takes his face in her hands, almost as if to say Don’t you recognise me? and he does, and she runs her hands down his arms to clasp his hands – she is in his veins. There is a breathtaking effortless emotion in their haunting pas de deux – she clings to him (perhaps metaphorically) because she cannot bear to let him go; and she is never a burden to him. Every moment he carries her is an embrace of his arms about her. Every handhold is gentle and strong (see: his Albrecht and the Rick Astley meme), every pirouette she makes is secure, precise, perfectly-timed and rich with this trembling emotion of simply being with another.

She knows, you see. She always knew that it was he whom she was destined to be with; and that is why she said Don’t you remember me? and she dances with him, and you see how he realises that she is not merely in his veins  – she is in his heart, and has always been, and he only needed to look at her to know it.

There is that one-armed raise, sometimes substituted with lifting her high, her hands pressed to his shoulders. This moment is not included as a circus feat; it is the crescendo of the story of their relationship –  a story of trust, for that is the bedrock of their secure love. It almost doesn’t matter because you have seen already that even if she is a filigree trapezoid wrapped about him; if they are entwined on the ground; if she is unfurling her arms while he holds her waist tenderly, filled with a triumphant gladness that she is with him, as if she is made doubly alive with him;  if she is resting upon his shoulder like a swallow – that even through all these moments, he is saying You can trust me and she says You can do it and at that moment when they confirm it with that incredible lift, your heart simply swells for these two characters.

There is a long and terrible embrace after, where they are locked so close together in the radiating warmth of their longing and belonging together, and the intensity of that knowledge makes more dreadful that moment when a long bar of white light falls across the stage like the blade of an unforgiving sword, dragging him inexorably away from her. This is Jason Carter’s solo – characteristically graceful and delicately expressive, beautifully articulated feet, a gentle eloquent emotion that says This is all my love for you. In those rare moments where he cannot be with her, he wants her to know that he has not forgotten her, and you can see all his love for her then; and there is, in how she stands and watches, the essence of tears streaming down her cheeks – I see you, she says, I understand.)

At last he breaks free and returns to her.

That moment where he tugs her lightly by the wrist, and she flies into his arms and he catches her – again, it is not a mere move, it is a gesture of togetherness; for we are apart but we must never be, and please, draw close to me; and someone in the audience gasps …

They are destined to meet once a year, perhaps, like the cowherd and the weaving maiden; though it is on a bridge of moonlight that he is persistently drawn away rather than a bridge of swallows to her. Imagine it then, that once a year she awakens, and she knows she must remind him of who they are, together, and how quickly they grow accustomed to being together for this blissful, brief, moment – dancing together, completely and utterly whole and perfect.

But as the light dims and the night fades away, and the clouded dying moonlight falls murkily upon them, they know it is over – it is over. In a bitter irony, their moves here echo the moves at the start that marked the beginning of their reunion; and once more, he turns his back to her, forgetting who she is, and she cannot help but be trapped again, upon his back, each foot that once touched the ground so freely and lightly, drawing up against the other leg as it did in the beginning, as if to remember the moment that has passed and that she must wait for again.

It is bitter, their parting; and their fleeting reunion, so sweet.

This is Bittersweet.

 

This, this is the embrace.

 

 

 

About Singapore Dance Theatre’s Swan Lake

It opens tonight. Perhaps the opening night has ended even as we speak – opening night with the glorious Nakamura Kenya and Minegishi Kana.

First, what a marvellous article this is. – it contains an interview with Kwok Min Yi, Agetsuma Satoru, Mr Janek Schergen, and the conductor for Swan Lake, Joshua Tan (if you have been checking out instagram, you will have seen a lot of excellent videos of him working hard to ensure that the music matches the dancing – no mean feat –edit to add: and the pianist Gabriel Hoe). What a wondrous thing it is to read about dancing and conducting in one article. Such telling snippets:

Satoru: Even if the orchestra plays it at a speed we don’t like, we still have to adjust and go with the music. That’s one of the exciting things for us – there’s a kind of fear! You don’t know what’s going to happen because it’s not a recording. 

Min Yi: It keeps you alert! When a pause is a little longer and you’re about to take a step, you have to listen to the music and tell yourself, don’t take the step!

JS: It makes you a lot more sensitive. When you’ve heard the same recording a hundred times, you know exactly how it’s going to be. But when it’s an orchestra, you have to be – no pun intended – on your toes. 

Joshua: There’s a limit to how long they can levitate in the air! Sometimes what’s natural for them may be slightly unnatural for the musicians. It’s just my job to be the middle person and sometimes I just have to pull the orchestra along.

 

There’s a passing comment on whether people will watch because there is live music, and how the music was made for the ballet to begin with. I’ll say that I did manage to get a friend to buy a ticket by way of luring her with the live orchestra  – as she started up her car, I heard something awfully familiar and I said oh do I know that, and she said I think it’s from Swan Lake, it’s on my CD, and then said I, They are performing this in December with a live orchestra; and she has kindly added that she’s in it for the ballet, too 🙂

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Next up:

Congratulations to Kwok Min Yi – she will be a principal next year and also the first Singaporean female principal dancer of Singapore Dance Theatre. The link takes us to a wonderful article but it is hidden behind a paywall. (It was extremely exciting to see that this had made it to the front page of LIFE! but my copy is not with me so no proper photographs.)

I found this quote particularly striking: “For the White Swan, the movements are really controlled because they’re so slow, the linking steps have to be seamless. The Black Swan is exciting, a burst of energy. I try to see them as equals – if I identify with one, I might not give as much to the other.”

There’s a part on Mr Schergen saying that What sets a principal apart from other dancers is “technical strength, artistic sensibility, confidence, authority and a willingness to work”; and Min Yi herself says: “If you’re going to do this as a career, you have to make sure you love it. When your body’s aching – when you have long days, late shows and early starts – if you don’t love it, it’s just too hard for you to do.”

 

Actually we will have a proper Promotions article, since there’s a long list. Hurrah. We are just waiting for the full round-up (as far as we know – demi-soloists: Tanaka Nanase, Beatrice Castañeda, Yeo Chan Yee, Minegishi Kana, hurray).

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Congratulations to Satoru – for his promotion to Soloist! This article is not behind a paywall but it is in Mandarin, which means we hit a different kind of wall – we shall skip to how he and Prince Siegfried share a similarity in that they’re experiencing things for the first time (boy, I hope I got that right): Siegfried is having his first taste of love, and then marriage; and Satoru is, for the first time, playing this role and entering the character’s role completely. Prince Siegfried also has to mature from a boy to a man; while personally, he is experiencing the transformation from not believing that he can play this role, to completely being immersed in the character; and there’s a short discussion about dancing with Min Yi: about how they are both analytical actors and that the time they spend discussing and analysing how they will act isn’t any less than the time they spend dancing.

(There’s a bit more but it’s 10:59 PM! There are also other interviews e.g. with Minegishi Kana and Miura Takeaki — will make mention when ready:) )

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All right, we end off with youtube videos by students of LASALLE College of the Arts – Diploma in Broadcast Media.

This video is about the preparation leading up to the ballet. The part from “200 hours in rehearsal” shows Kenya and Kana! ❤

 

I am a major fan of the music used for the next video. Look at those costumes.

 

I quite love the music for the next part, too.

 

Passages 2019 (1) – Blue Snow

 

Passages cover

Etienne Ferrère and Nakahama Akira in their costumes from Blue Snow

Here, have the official photographs.

Oh…for World Ballet Day 2019, they put up bits of almost everything in rehearsal (and the Everything for Bittersweet). So exciting! The video below starts with a segment of Swipe (one of my favourite parts of it), then goes to Bittersweet, then to snippets of Blue Snow.

 

 

1. Blue Snow

This was first seen at Intermezzo (Dans festival) 2014 and then went on to BUTS in 2016. The cast marked ‘1’ below consists of most of the original dancers (though changes were made over the years); and ‘2’ are the newer cast (though Yeo Chan Yee has danced it at one of the performances too).

(01) Blue Snow

It’s dark, so dark that you fancy you see a cluster of dancers holding hands as they step out of the wings.

This is the music. Such a delicious delicate gentle inviting quiet opening, simple, pastoral. Invites sur la terre means guests of the earth, says Google translate. The plucking of strings, and then the clapping along, as if at a hearth by a fire. The lights make the floor look like a skating rink – the blue with arcs where circling feet have left their mark.

 

The lights go on to a group of dancers, backs to us, feet moving up and down in rhythm, swaying slightly to the beat. It’s almost reminiscent of a folkdance – cadence of a story in its movements, a comforting sensation like a sweater – but also the slight tension of the unknown (no props, everyone content yet also reaching out to the sky) – the newer cast giving it the look of pioneers in their cornfields, settlers and corn seedlings to the sky, the halving of wood and the growing of the land; they settle gently into the flow and there is incredible grace and the littlest of movements carry a significance. Ma Ni and Satoru stand out for their grace and delicate movements; Yeo Chan Yee has a clarity in her movements through which you see the understanding of the music filter through. You can imagine, from watching the group, that some of them have a backstory for their characters already.

Cast 1, I shall always love watching – there is a quality to them as there is in well-loved soft shoes – one moment there is a vigour and life as they dance upon the new earth to the strumming of the guitar, and the next, there is something almost spiritual about their dancing – this is lyrical poetry about breathing new life in the air. Do you know, perhaps you can feel how much they love this dance. There are new things always in this dance, to see – Akira / Jessica Garside making little circles on the ground with the foot – the five girls running to the front of the stage, their dresses sashes in the air.

The choreography itself, married with the music, is a miraculous work; it is seamless, and the group work looks as natural as breathing.

This is one of the most striking moments in the entire opening. You hear it at 2:10; the cold moonlight falls upon the people and they move in gentle haunting slow motion, reaching, yearning, each dancer the owner of a separate set of movements that are tangentially related to the other dancers’ movements – it is a marvel how they have their own independent movements but they breathe and move as one body of life.

Below, left-to-right: May Yen Cheah, Jeremie Gan, Shan Del Vecchio, Yeo Chan Yee in front of Agetsuma Satoru, Elaine Heng as the heart, Reece Hudson behind Miura Takeaki, Ma Ni in front of Jessica Garside.

At the last, the dancers stream away from the stage like water droplets off an umbrella in quiet rainfall, leaving one lady and one gentleman, backs to each other – oh and then they turn and discover each other – to the music of Yanoyuki (which I do not have – vocals purportedly without actual words). This is the first of two central couple dances, with Kwok Min Yi (1) / May Yen Cheah (2) and Miura Takeaki, where once this was danced by Uchida Chihiro and Timothy Coleman / Nazer Salgado. Miura Takeaki is a steady reliable partner, and each movement is carefully pronounced – a leg as clear as a beam through the air in the stillness, the hands a steady support, and every touch is kind; and out of any tension there is the thread of goodness that shines through – with May Yen Cheah whose version is light and lady-like, and whose emotion in her face is like sake brimming almost over the edge of a small sake cup, capturing that moment where one feels almost crying like, but not; with Min Yi’s interpretation, their dance is the desolate edge of a knife – there is a sharpness in Min Yi’s movements when she wraps her arm round him and covers his eyes, and leans back, pressing into the air; when she reaches out to him with yearning arms. A second couple enters and dances in the corner with them, a mirror couple, a shadow couple – Jason Carter and Yatsushiro Marina (1); Agetsuma Satoru and Yeo Chan Yee (2) – and the lights go full on and the sense of isolation of the original couple grows less.

I think we can safely cut to the chase. I want to talk about two things, in particular.

First, when there are many couples onstage towards the end of the Yanoyuki movement. Out of all the shows watched, out of the dimness, it is Reece Hudson whom we see so clearly. It is as if innate in him he has the secret ability to understand the music, the dance, and to tap into some vein in it, and it flows through him. There is no over-thinking; in the dimness, he knows to crouch his back slightly as if he is protective of his dance partner (Ma Ni) as he presses his hands gently to her ears; he knows that when he closes her arms before her eyes like shutters, this is to be done tenderly, gently, with the greatest care and love. This is the quality that Reece has that we have tried to articulate, time and again, and it suddenly becomes evident in this one particular moment, this scene. This is not a series of dance moves. It is an entire emotion that flows in through the music and fluidly out through him; it has definitely gone out through his cerebral cortex because he is not moving thoughtlessly – but there is no overthinking, only a deep instinctive understanding that is arresting. There is no pretension whatsoever. It just happens. I emphasise the dimness because you cannot see anybody’s face really very well and yet – and yet when you watch him, you don’t need to. The collective group dancing, though stands beautifully in the eye – the solemnity graven in the eye.

(Oh hey, this is the dance where the ladies step over the seated men’s shoulders, towards the backdrop, and their skirts fall over the men’s faces so the men have to lightly brush the skirts away in their next move, very easily and naturally. You have to look out for it to notice it so none of the kids in the audience laugh because it’s very smooth.)

The second thing to talk about is the dance that starts with the music I do love, below.

From here on out, you can see the dances in the video above.

Always the gentleman enters the stage first and then his arm waterwheels slowly back, while the lady enters the stage, so that his hand lands perfectly upon her shoulder; as she walks along the length of the stage, he marches onwards stoically, at knee-height only – a move that Etienne and Shan Del Vecchio both make fascinating – sure, anyone can march but to do it and for it to look rhythmic and charming …

Etienne and Akira have danced it and each time it looks beautiful – there’s that little edge of an ache in the heart for some reason, in their dancing – fraught with the little touches of tension and longing.

For the performances, Shan Del Vecchio danced with Akira (1) and Jessica Garside (2) – please see an earlier post on why.

Here is the second thing we must say: What was immediately impressed upon us was that Shan immediately adapted to each partner perfectly. Jessica Garside, it is good to see her spirited take on the dance – there is an energy in their moves, an expansiveness, a generosity – the wide embrace, the moment where she pauses  – he is still on the ground, and she pauses and scythes her leg in a wide arc through the air – almost a challenge; and when she throws up her skirt so he may slide under and through to the other side, they move with such urgency and energy – this is not about going all out, you understand, it is not the rawness and electricity you will see in the final piece (Zoo Animals…uh Family Reunion) because this is Blue Snow by Shimazaki Toru – it is controlled. But it is vast and it stretches out, it is open and it welcomes you. They are in absolute sync with each other and the music – you can feel the visceral motions of his pressing his palm against her head as she moves backwards – almost as if she is resisting yet as if gravity is also drawing her backwards (I know! gravity pulls downwards, not back, but you see). There is a tussle of life and subtle energy – this is a dance between them.

That moment there where he has slid through and under her skirt, and then when he gets up, they each rest a palm on the ground and move in a part-circle – and you can see that she glances at him almost, but not quite – their palms linger on the ground for the exact same amount of time and there is a similarity, the pressing of the new raw fresh earth, as if it has a heartbeat of its own.

Now we see when he presses the earth with Akira, how they do with a light intimate touch. Akira and Shan are well-matched. We know it is a last-minute change because we are informed of it, and you cannot at all tell. There’s a lightness to his touch when he presses his hand to her head – almost a caress. They make their way through life – there are moments in the desert and moments of light, a softness in their collective movements. Evocative dancing. It still tugs at the heartstrings, that moment she flings up her skirt and then they are together again – their hands caressing the earth, that is what it is.

 

You know and I know that I love 2:39 onwards, also seen in the video. It has been my favourite from the get-go and it shall always hold a special place in my heart – Tanaka Nanase as the fiercely joyous warrior Queen throwing up her hands sharp as katanas and Chua Bi Ru full of cheer as the gypsy Queen, all ice and fire, the both of them, the sharp turn of the heads when they slide about the floor – and watch them with their partners (Yorozu Kensuke and Huo Liang respectively) – harmony, professionalism, efficiency – and that spark of joy. Yes, that is it. I shan’t say that oft-used phrase.

Elaine Heng and Ma Ni dance this for cast 2  – you can tell they are having a ball of a time, Elaine is strong and fearless, Ma Ni as the graceful warrior lady – the music personified. And now again for something we must talk about – that moment when their partners dance with them. Jeremie Gan and Elaine Heng, what energy, the tensile strength of a springboard (you know this moment, where the partners are connected by a mere hand hold, hand gripping hand, and they lean back and spring together, almost) – elasticity and speed that swallows the eye whole, that demands that you watch it, listen to the music and you can imagine what I mean; Reece Hudson and Ma Ni, sleek and graceful, so graceful – smooth, poised to leap forward. Jeremie Gan is right on the music, right on that strumming beat and you get the energy of the music from his dancing; Reece Hudson is right on the emotion, following a rhythm that flows through the heart and strikes the heart.

The last music is this. You can feel yourself staring up at the stars … Gentle, but thought-provoking. Music to think, to feel, to dream, to.

That is the dancing, which you can also watch in the video above. Miura Takeaki light as a butterfly; Shan Del Vecchio – soft rain falling on his arms, moves as deliberate as the plucking of a guitar string; all of them soulful. Oh, I think I am in love with the music and dancing; is it possible to feel more love than in this moment, watching them?

Of course there’s 2:52 which we all adore and which you can see quite a few of the dancers enjoying too – where it launches into a more merry dance (that’s the part where they smile, said a friend, listening to the music – a friend who can’t stop laughing from the happiness when she watches them). Sure, it looks easy, but it’s for ages on end at high speed, and it’s jolly and the audience loves it – you can feel the rubber band of tension release itself and you can see the evident joy – if you watch Chua Bi Ru’s face, the sheer happiness is infectious – and then when the music is slow and solemn again, incredibly, at the turn of a shoulder, her face is sorrowful. There are little enjoyable moves I do like – the elbow that rests in the palm while the other raised hand waves like wheat in the wind; holding that hand up when they bow their heads, the raised hand closes, Min Yi’s folding like a fan downwards – I like that little trill of the fingers winding into themselves; leaping dolphins to a side; the lifting of ladies high, their backs arched in the men’s hands, their flowing skirts draped silkily over their legs; there is a clear joy ringing out through Elaine Heng’s movements; the kids always giggle a little at the butt-wiggle in the end scene; and the applause is always warm at the end when all fall down and Akira / Jessica reaches for the moon.

Yes, this is always beloved.

I first saw this in 2014. I think it is a good time to say here and now for the 100th time how grateful I am to have seen this. There are things we take for granted, and let the everlasting enjoyment of dance not be one of them.

There is a surfeit of images for Passages 2019, but to spare the website and because I can’t remember where they all are, we will just hang in there and put this up first.

I enjoyed all the dances for Passages 2019. Swipe, what new sounds and images we have and adore now; Bittersweet – such a wonderful touching performance that said so many things, so important – primary amongst them that loving dancing; Family Reunion – that warm raw earthy pas de deux, that petting zoo, the marvellous costumes, the acid.

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…I felt I must at least write about Blue Snow, this afternoon. Get it out there, we thought – get it out there.

(I really need to stop here and say I’d thought the most touching farewell on Terrace House I’d seen is the one where some one wrote a song and performed it for his friends on Terrace House but now someone just topped that because he cut all the grass, washed the baths, and cleaned the kitchen for his friends before leaving. That’s the best.)

Sometimes when I say things, it may be like when they say on Terrace House that boiled dumplings feel a lot more gentle than gyoza, and a man who makes the boiled potstickers can’t be a bad guy. I get what they mean…

But when I write about something being seriously good in a particular way, I mean it.