Passages 2015 Review – Part 1 (Singapore Dance Theatre)

Wow, this is really late.


That’s a picture of Zhao Jun in 4Seasons. Singapore Dance Theatre had a voting competition – people could choose whether they preferred this cover, or another iconic-ish shot of 3 guys leaping, their backs partially to us, straight off to the right.

The other was fine enough, but I’m honestly glad this one won. It’s a great shot of a spectacular moment – it flies off the page and takes you with it. It’s like that weird saying about not turning your back on the audience. Awesome soaring shape.


Here’s the line-up:


I am going to jump straight to Bliss (by Gigi Gianti) first. It’s about getting rid of negativity. The dancers are dressed in white and embossed patterned gold cloth.

Things I took away from it:

1. How it starts. No music – dancers as creeping, crawling thoughts snaking their way across the stage slowly. Then when the music strikes, they fall into jagged shapes: hit an arm to break its line of motion – slap a knee to snap it into action. Chua Bi Ru is the luminous centre. More on that later. There’s quite a bit of choreographed freestyling in the dance – Shan del Vecchio stands out quite a bit.

2. Everyone moving to their own rhythm, perhaps struggling in their own murky world, and Elaine standing still, just one hand raised high to count: one, two, three. As if getting ready to drive the mind down a different path. Count to three, and we’ll snap out of this horror.

3. One of my favourite parts of Bliss: a trio of Nazer Salgado, Stefaan Morrow and Bi Ru, performing what looks almost like a ritual to drive out evil (in my mind, seeing as that’s the theme). I think it’s set to really gorgeous music too (gamelan?). Each pause and pose is resolute in the face of the world. Nazer swinging Bi Ru over to stand on his thighs to gaze out at the world; then the trio entwined to form one strong totem, Bi Ru’s face staring out starkly. It ends with Nazer holding Bi Ru by the waist and retreating backwards as Bi Ru kicks out squarely at Stefaan, who strides towards them, but bent low, as if he’s almost defeated. An evil- cleansing ritual; out, out.

4. Chen Peng and May Yen Cheah walking out together peacefully as a blissful couple; and the others as the gossips and the whispers crowding them out, staring and pointing and casting doubt. (I’m cheating a bit, was informed that the others were supposed to be doubts. Okay.) I like the unexpected part where Chen Peng goes to one corner and stands with knees bent and pointing out so his legs are in a diamond shape, and May Yen Chean suddenly slides herself between his calves so she’s suspended solely by the strength of his calves, and she makes a sort of star-shape with her limbs. Like a mermaid. It’s beautiful. You can see it above, as performed by Timothy Coleman and Heidi Zolker.

But it seems that May Yen Cheah goes to the gossips after that and enters the crowd – but then everything melds into a new scene.

5. Another of my favourite parts is a delicious pas de deux between Nazer Salgado and Elaine Heng – a loving couple in an energetic, athletic piece. There’s chemistry and contortion, and when they accomplish it perfectly, you can sense their exhilaration. It’s one of the parts of Bliss that really stands out in my memory. It’s such a short little duet, but there’s something so perfect about how it’s choreographed and how it all hangs together.

6. Nakahama Akira, May Yen Cheah and Yatsushiro Marina in a triangle (the first at the front) – light and nifty steps. Perhaps drawing closer to happiness – one of those moments when everything seems to be working well, at last, and one thinks one is out of the woods. (Disclaimer: Viewer’s imagination.)

7. Probably the part that maybe borders so much more on the contemporary that my mindspace ran out of tape: when a voice over speaks of a female protagonist (“she”) who struggles and struggles, but it’s so hard – and then she finds “bliss. Yes, bliss”. I didn’t get this when I first saw it outside Passages, because it seemed to be given on a plate. But during the actual Passages performance, it occurred to me that perhaps one was supposed to really listen to the words and let them sweep one away to a dark place, and then tug one back out.

8. After that, the group breaks out of all it structured struggles – perhaps a sign that the tension is broken (no more choreographed freestyling!) and true bliss is in freedom – and everyone pushes their way to the front, chattering excitedly in various languages. At first, I found this really odd (perhaps this viewer is not very used to contemporary works). Later, I found it quite enjoyable since it seemed to be meant to be so: relaxed, and such.

9. Yatsushiro Marina has her own little solo piece(s). I think of it as wandering amidst stardust, trying to find one’s way out. I’m happy to see her have her own part; somehow there’s a little bit of fragility (even in strength when struggling against the night, do not go softly) in these parts of the dance, and she brings that out.

And at the end, she picks herself out of the crowd and drifts to the centre. Then she claps her hands, and a cloud of chalk explodes as the lights go out. Like a burst of hope, in the darkness.


Okay, that’s all for now, folks.

I said Hurray in the last post. I forgot to say Hurray for updated individual photographs for some of the artists. On that note, whilst spring-cleaning, I found the brochures for the 2006 (?) Nutcracker and 2011 (!) Ballet Under the Stars (where I was sick so I left halfway). So bizarre!










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