Ballet Under the Stars – Classical Night Part 1 (Singapore Dance Theatre)

Concerto Barocco, George Balanchine

I had a picture for the Concerto Barocco costumes, but you can pretty much see them here. If you click on this image, you can read the names of the dancers, etc who worked on this. Yay! — too lazy to type too much.

4 concerto barocco

This is the closest approximation to the version that played that night:

The other day, in the bookstore, I heard the distinctive notes for the Largo movement (part 2) where the group dancers, in white, make bent-knee-pointed-out hops* en pointe (6:19 – 6:22; in my mind I saw Beatrice Castenada’s very exact steps and bright smile), and stood under the nearest speaker and just listened, and remembered.

(*For reasons why description is thus, see “About” 😉 My excuse being that this is for non-dancers to read.)

It starts in a flurry of sharp movements, fitted to the music. The first act looks so simple, so effortless – little fluttering simple-looking, elegant steps. But everyone’s shining with sweat by the end of it.

Rosa Park and Uchida Chihiro, as first and second violins respectively, have their solos and their piece in the centre where they are almost reflections of each other, and just a fraction of a beat behind the other – quick pacing, and perfect neat steps. It’s a treat to see the two Principal Artists of SDT in a classical piece together.

There’s some very familiar stuff ala Themes and Variations, ladies holding hands, arms crossed behind backs or raised high, while they bend their heads and step in and out under the raised arms, so that everyone is in a neat little contorted geometric knot with arms crossed in front, and then everyone steps back out again, and unwind the knot.

My personal favourite act is the second part. The MUSIC! Chen Peng is back, partnering Rosa Park, and the 8 girls form an intricate frieze of a background. For instance – in a V-formation, 4 on the left standing and 4 on the right kneeling; Rosa progresses down the right side of the V-formation, and as she passes each girl, she does an arabesque to the side (a la seconde, internet says), i.e. lifting her leg to the side gracefully, as high as it can possibly go, and lowering it, but almost in a circle-like motion; and each kneeling girl then rises and very gracefully leans to the side in profile, arching an arm overhead. Grace – that’s the word for this entire scene.

There’s a wonderful sort of genteel, chivalrous grace in how Rosa Park and Chen Peng continue holding hands as they bow to each other gracefully in the centre. And then she puts her hand on his shoulder and does a couple of arabesques in a couple of directions; and then she pirouettes with just her one raised hand holding on to his hand overhead, for support. In the backdrop, the girls in pairs form different shapes and poses; e.g. irreverently, Olympic sledding/running starting position (crouched, with arms curved overhead); I recall Yatsushiro Marina and Beatrice Castenada posed, arms outstretched (second position??) and one foot pointed forward, very gracefully. (Edit to add: Another, more delicate, thought that crossed my mind was that their yearning shapes were like subtitles of love.)

My favourite part of this favourite act is the part where Rosa Park and Chen Peng dance with the other girls, without losing hold of each other’s hand – it’s sort of romantic, in a way, though it’s presented in an unexpected way. Like when a group of four girls stands very, very close behind him; and he and the four girls bend backwards (think of dying swans, leaning backwards on their necks) and he stretches his arms out overhead, so that Rosa, holding his hand, can walk one round behind the girls, her hand and his hand held above their heads, and she never losing her grip on his hand(never let me go).

But where it grows deliciously complicated is when he holds Rosa Park’s hand and someone else’s hand (Chua Bi Ru’s, I think, as the end of this figure of eight); and someone else holds Rosa Park’s other hand; and all the girls kind of join the group, each holding another’s hand; and then they take turns bowing and passing under raised hands so that they are gathered with crossed arms, in a knot, the centre of which is Chen Peng, who never loses Rosa from his upheld hand, and she, him.

It’s all a very delicate operation.

Chihiro also has a moment in the second act, flitting amongst the other dancers. Earlier, she is waiting in the corner as Chen Peng sort of gathers Rosa Park in his arms and slides her out across the floor so she shoots out and she immediately rises up on one foot and does a kind of arabesque. Superb technique – Rosa Park sparkles.

Okay, irreverently, (remember, this is for people who haven’t watched it yet) there’s a brief portion where Chen Peng heaves Rosa Park like a sack of rice with one arm, close to his torso, and sets her down occasionally to rest on one foot.

The third and last scene has all the girls dancing – Rosa Park and Uchida Chihiro sometimes having their own separate parts in the middle, e.g. hopping towards each other with arms outstretched, sticking-out limbs all at right angles to the torso; occasionally, and towards the end, they lead the other dancers in a finale that has all the hallmarks similar to Rubies – rapid-fire switching of arms aloft and feet en pointe, so quick that it must hurt, and but for the pain and shades of fatigue reflected in some of the dancers’ eyes, you wouldn’t know that.

But I hasten to add that all the dancers always, always look like they are getting on perfectly fine, and it takes a long look at a face to guess otherwise.

Chihiro for Contemporary Night – she was in every performance, and you would never have known – she appeared as fresh as a daisy in each scene. Ditto Li Jie – seen in some performances in every scene straight, smile as brilliant as if she’s having the time of her life; or Jake Burden (see next when we discuss Schubert Symphony, if at all), who always looks massively smiley even though I can’t imagine that leaping around on stage and hauling ladies up in the air can be anything but tiring.

Okay! I will pause here and Schubertize another time.

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