Masterpiece in Motion (MiM) was billed as SDT’s International Repertory Season. This year it was held at the Esplanade, a much more central location than last year’s, which was held at the very nice but somewhat faraway University Cultural Centre at the National University of Singapore in Clementi. I think that this year, there’s generally been a lot more advertising for SDT events – I even saw posters up at bus stops for Ballet Under the Stars and MiM. That’s good. The crowd for MiM this year was larger, and I noticed more students on school excursions.
(1) Bournonville Divertissements
This was the company’s premiere of the Bournonville Divertissements.
Bournonville arrived on the scene long before Petipa and his full-length ballets (Swan Lake, et cetera). When I first saw a bit of a Bournonville pas de deux, my immediate reaction was Okay, this is nothing like the usual. None of the 34 fouettes or huge turns and lifts and massive spins that Petipa-ballets-through-the-years contain.
Technique and subtle, seemingly-simple steps: beated legs in jumps; little thrown leaps across the stage, feet first; spins in both directions; sweeping a leg in one large circle in the air from front on the ground to the back, lifted (Flower Festival).
The ladies wore white bell-skirted dresses with puffed sleeves and glossy cummerbunds of different colours, depending on which segment of the dance they were involved in, and matching flowers/beads in their hair. The men wore white long-sleeved shirts and black tights to their knees, white stockings, black soft shoes and coloured cummerbunds. The set showed a town square – a painted fountain, town hall and houses in the background, and four benches on stage. Somehow, the fountain seemed real. I had to check pictures to be sure it was just a backdrop.
Though the Divertissements opened with the Reds walking onstage, the Greens (Lettuces) danced first, in A Folk Tale Pas de Sept. Pas de Sept has all the quiet technique-heavy works: enchanting little kicks and corkscrew pirouettes, and one of my 101 favourite moves to watch, where the dancer faces the back and then does a jump-turn 180 degrees to face the front, landing in arabesque with arms lifted, hands almost overhead.
If you expand the picture above, you’ll see some names struck out. For some reason, at the last moment, Lewis Gardner took over Yorozu Kensuke’s role in partnering Li Jie for Pas de Sept; Yorozu Kensuke took over Nazer Salgado’s lead role in La Ventana (Reds) and Peter Allen took over Lewis Gardner’s role in La Ventana, partnering Ma Ni. It’s not easy to take over roles at the last minute, and if you didn’t know and were watching Pas de Sept and La Ventana for the first time, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that there’d been any change.
Offhand, it was interesting to note that Lewis Gardner’s dance style seemed to match Li Jie’s – a more liquid form. You could see this in the smooth fluid extension of legs.
I’m not going to force myself to do a blow-by-blow account. Suffice to say that it’s good to see solos by the dancers, e.g. Jason Carter executing multiple tight turns on the spot in both directions. Lots of single jumps and turns from Zhao Jun’s solo; to the passing eye, it’s nothing like the 100% bravura stuff in a full-scale Petipa ballet (see: Don Q-Gypsy King’s ridiculously high leaps in the air), but it takes a lot of energy and skill to execute a Bournonville too.
La Ventana‘s Red dancers enter next in a diagonal row, bowing the Greens out.
La Ventana’s story is apparently about a romance between the town beauty (May Yen Cheah), who wears a veil over her face, and a young man (Yorozu Kensuke) who sees her at her window every day. It reminded me superficially of Don Q: opening with Kwok Min Yi and Emma Hanley-Jones leaping across the stage, flicking fans; Town Beauty wearing a red sparkly translucent veil over her white skirt, which she picks up and swishes; finger-snapping from the other dancers as she lifts her feet elegantly; Young Man and his guitar.
May Yen Cheah plays a lady-like town beauty, crossing her hands gracefully before her face to keep her veil in place, but lifting it coyly to reveal her face while the Young Man seeks to have a look; extending a long, graceful leg decorously while en pointe. Yorozu Kensuke is, as always, delightful to watch – slick and charming as the Young Man. Perfect spins, clean landings, absolute confidence – an efficient and strong performance with character.
There’s a pas de trois too – Jake Burden, Beatrice Castenada, and Nakahama Akira. It requires control and balance. One memorable moment has Jake Burden holding on to the girls’ cummerbunds (presumably) while they stand en pointe on one foot, the other leg lifted before them (horizontal). This dance also has the girls doing leaps that you often think of guys doing – large jetes.
Another thing that struck me (from this pas de trois and the one in Midnight Waltzes) was how tricky it is to move dancers around when there are three of them. Maybe you want the chap (facing the girls) to be flanked by the girls for the next part of the dance. Quick, get him to turn the first girl gracefully so she’s on one side; then turn the other so she’s on the other side of him. It has to look like he’s waltzing with each. You can’t just have him walk between them and turn around like a normal person, because that’s almost like saying the show’s over. You have to keep the dance going!
Someone has to be un-partnered for some of the moves, so you have to make sure everyone is doing meaningful moves that occupy the eye and take the viewer’s attention away from the fact that someone is being partnered and someone is not. I.e. if the girl is being raised goddess-like to the heavens, the un-partnered may look very, well, un-partnered, or invisible. That didn’t happen for the pas de trois in MiM, though.
Flower Festival is a pas de deux between Etienne Ferrere and Rosa Park. Here, have a picture.
SUBLIME AND ROMANTIC.
How her face is illuminated by her smile as she gazes up at him, her hands tucked behind her so she holds his one hand while she stands en pointe on one toe in a standing split.
There’s a part where Rosa Park is en pointe, leg extended in arabesque, arms outstretched in opposite directions; and the hand that’s behind her quickly moves in towards her chest and she turns to look at it (!) without losing balance and it moves out again to stretch behind her. She does this four times, twice on either side, all by her lonesome self. But later, when Etienne Ferrere joins her on stage, she repeats this move, this time with his support as he holds her.
Etienne Ferrere’s arms are also used as a table, a barre on which Rosa leans to arabesque; and that just took the romance out of it…
They’re both good dancers, and that makes the performance pleasant to watch. It’s in this pas de deux that you see extended pieces of Bournonville’s choreography for guys – lots of legwork and turns.
Towards the end of their piece, the Greens and Reds start drifting in to sit on the benches and watch.
Flower Festival leads in to Napoli, the music of which is lively and hummable. Everyone from the previous 3 dances enters Napoli – it opens with Young Man (Yorozu Kensuke) announcing that all shall dance, and Zhao Jun and Chua Bi Ru lead everyone in a jolly opening with tambourines. It’s impossible to stop smiling during it. You get everyone dancing in it, again – Ma Ni and Peter Allen dancing in a square, clapping hands, while another couple dance in the centre; Yatsushiro Marina and Stefaan Morrow leaping forward while ‘presenting’, opening their arms in a welcoming gesture – nifty and neat dancing as always; a graceful Li Jie paired with Jason Carter, arms round each other and one leg extended in front while they hop swiftly (!) in a circle on the other leg, every move matching the beat and spirit of the music; Maughan Jemesen and Lewis Gardner working (I mean this in an America’s Next Top Model kind of way) a great red banner of a shawl, leaping in opposite directions while holding it up, he behind and she in front; Huo Liang and Shi Yue Tony as opposite images, with Bournonville beated legs and the slow deliberate unrolling of a leg while hopping in opposite directions; the super-sweet Flower Festival pair dancing down a diagonal of the stage as the others celebrate around them; the Young Man trying, and failing, to catch Town Beauty’s leg initially, and then succeeding in sweeping her away.
Napoli is the roaring success of an end to this four-part exquisite piece of choreography. It’s the best note on which to end everything, and I like how everyone from the previous dances managed to be slotted into it, even if Napoli didn’t use to exist with the other dances.
Okay, next up is Midnight Waltzes!
I visited an old blog tonight. It was strange reading it; it felt as if someone else had written it.
I expect I’ll feel the same way, some years from now. I think there’s very little incentive for me to run the film blog because it doesn’t matter as much. There’s a little more incentive for me to write this. But it’s so awfully belated, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes emotions run low and I don’t feel up to it at all. Sometimes I feel I should focus my energy on all the other little daily things that need attention and growth. I wonder how long I can keep this up. #沉默