Ballet Under the Stars 2015 – Contemporary Part 2 (SDT)

Lambarena by Val Caniparoli

3 lambarena

If you recall, there’s this video which was put up earlier, for Don Quixote. Snippets of Lambarena show up from 2:13.

Here’s one part of the music, the opening, or thereabouts:

Lambarena ended the night on a bang. Warmth radiating right off the stage.

Undulating hips, ululating music and ladies in hand-painted dresses like pennants in the wind, like colourful flags in the wind. A leg might be raised high to reveal the wide swathe of colours and ribbons of paint; or a dancer raised, or swirled over a neck-bone.

People waking in the early morning, the quiet of dawn giving way to riotous activity and a rush of movement across the stage. Women like birds of paradise, sweeping across the stage. Zhao Jun, imbued with the spirit of the music and dance, in great arced jumps, and staring out from between his raised palms, and rolling on the ground, and at last catching the graceful, athletic May Yen Cheah mid-way in a jump through the air so she’s poised like a runner, arms and legs at right angles.

The women seemed to be enjoying themselves, whether they were shuffling quickly in a circle with tiny steps en pointe with swaying hips, or swaying their hips in a large circle, as if to form the shape of a basket with their torsos. Nimble pointed feet, rapid scattering flocks. Or leaping up, their left arms curved as if holding baskets, and as they jumped and tucked their feet under, their right hands dipped into the crooks of their arms and out again, their heads dipping along as well.

Men’s arms thrown out like the great scythe-tusks of elephants, men bending and pushing themselves off the ground forcefully with their palm, or crossing the stage, heads lowered and curved arms held up, like the shapes of distant birds in flight. Slower-moving herds pushing their way across the plains. There was a slower portion of the music, when only the men were onstage, moving ponderously and pensively and landing on one foot with their bodies tilted and then hopping once after landing, which required good balancing. Actually it just reminded me storks… It ended with the dancers taking turns in little groups to lift Kenya as if on a cross, which was quite unexpected, and I suppose it was in keeping with the tempo of the music.

Nakamura Kenya and Uchida Chihiro dancing in a pair, almost like Javanese court dancers – very stately and graceful, and in fabulous synchrony. Images of them lying down and striking one flat foot with the instep of the other, arched foot before sitting up and throwing their hands up; Chihiro fiercely bourreing towards Kenya as he moves back, like fencers or fighting birds; Chihiro lowered to the ground with just the support of one bent knee and Kenya’s hand under her neck, her body a straight plane – or lifted straight up with just her knee in the crook of Kenya’s arm, so that her skirt swishes down to unveil its colours.

There’s also a lively scene that had just Chihiro at the start, but slowly called to mind a busy market scene, with a lady actually seeming to talk during it – I think that’s the music below. But it felt a bit lonesome at one part when she started dusting her skirts a little and bending to look beside/behind her, almost as if looking for her other friends, so it was great when the others came out on stage shortly after that. Here’s the music – you can hear how lively it is. Chihiro commanded the stage during her solo:

Okay, a special mention of two things:

Etienne Ferrere’s incredible piece, which you simply could not tear your eyes away from. Nightfall and a blue sky, and his body arching and his fabulous pointed feet; each move on stage very slow and deliberate and perfectly-formed, from swivelling shoulders as he walked forwards and backwards while repeatedly lifting a finger (pointed skywards) up from behind one horizontal arm and down again (pointing towards the ground); to a very careful moment when he lifted his foot up and turned the other foot on the ground slowly so that he rotated through forty-five degrees, and another forty-five. His one-man scene in blue light soon melted into dawn with a bright point of red in the corner of the screen; a fevered dream, where he was joined by Li Jie, May Yen Cheah and Stefaan Morrow (in excellent form), all repeating the movements of swivelling shoulders and raising a finger. It was bizarrely mesmerising and quite fascinating. This ended with the others going offstage while Etienne Ferrere returned to lying at the side of the stage and arching his feet and his torso slightly.

My absolute favourite part was the one that began with groups of three – Chihiro leading Kenya and Etienne; Nazer leading Beatrice Castenada and Li Jie – to the hypnotic rhythm of three hollow beats: two beats for throwing one’s head and arm back while kicking forward with the opposing foot; one beat for angling one’s body and arm forward while kicking the opposing foot back. The second trio circled the stage, each of them taking turns holding the others’ hands as he/she leapt into the air in a running split.

This quickly shifted to a most whimsical scene; imagine it if you can; in a yellowish light like the hot dusty sandy light of the afternoon, to the sound of rhythmic, mildly comical hooting (hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo, with a little dip in each hoot as if someone were singing through a flute), five girls (Chihiro, Maughan Jemesen, Li Jie, May Yen Cheah and Beatrice Castenada) are lifted straight up high against the backdrop of the stage, and lowered again, at different points in time, and raised high while they are moved across the air, their skirts floating about their ankles. They stay entirely still. No flapping arms, no splits. Up and down, floating across the stage like giant bird puppets – giant owls, all to the faint hooting in the background.

It’s deliciously nostalgic, somehow. Like dreams in an afternoon nap as a child.

I loved it. It was magical.

On Saturday night, when the entire performance had ended, there was a pause; and then a great shout from the back and the sound of applause rolling down the hill, from the back where the audience sat, all the way to the front.


As mentioned before, a Val Caniparoli piece will always have signature moves, and he just creates the most amazing visuals out of the most seemingly-simple motifs, echoed throughout the dance. Geometric forms that appear simple and that work so well.

I kind of enjoyed being in Friday’s audience – we were wet, and hidden beneath our raincoats and umbrellas, and that made us brave, and we cheered for the dancers at the end and at the bows. It was lovely. Maybe because we were the few who had hung around hoping for a show, and were just so glad that they had performed for us despite the downpour and cold.

But I’d never ever wish for the rain to fall on a BUTS night. Seriously.


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