(left to right: Maughan Jemesen, Sun Hong Lei, Alison Carroll, Lisha Chin, Tanaka Nanase, Nakahama Akira, Ma Ni, Li Jie (李婕), Chen Peng (陈鹏), Xu Lei Ting, Nakamura Kenya, Chua Bi Ru, Suzuki Mai, Jason Carter, Yeo Chan Yee, Elaine Heng, Ines Furuhashi-Huber, Ruth Austin)
Ballet Under the Stars (BUTS) 2016. Classical weekend’s Saturday ended on a high note. I’m sure I’ll review the shows later.
Paquita was the last piece, starring Principal Artists Nakayama Kenya and Li Jie. At the end of the piece, Singapore Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director, Mr Janek Schergen, emerged with a microphone and soberly told everybody to stay put because he had a very serious announcement.
I’d heard that at least one major artist was going to be retiring (more on that another day 😥 ), so I wondered if that was it, but I also doubted they’d use this stage and BUTS to announce it, when everyone was in a really good mood. I wonder if subconsciously, seeing Li Jie and Kenya on stage, I had any vague premonition, since I already had the retirements in mind (though it might have been hard to say at that point who might be proposing and I didn’t know the proposal hadn’t occurred yet).
But before the brain could register any conscious thoughts, Principal Artist Chen Peng (who had performed in the 2nd piece) strode out, clad in a suit and bearing a gigantic bouquet of roses. There were gasps and people started cheering. Li Jie put her hands to her mouth.
Chen Peng handed Li Jie the bouquet. She looked as if she were crying. He felt around and pulled a ring box out of his pocket, popped it open, and actually got down on one knee. And then he had the microphone, but he had to switch it on again. The crowd was kind of going wild already, because none of us ever thought we’d get to see such a special moment.
The gist of his proposal is below (translating from Mandarin to the best of my abilities):
Li Jie, we’ve been in love with each other for 5 years. I thank the Heavens for letting me meet you at the right time and the right place. On the road to the future, I’m willing to bear all the responsibilities that a husband should bear. I’m willing to spend all the time in my entire life loving you, protecting you, being by your side, and taking care of you. Li Jie, will you marry me?
Yes, those words in bold were pretty much bellowed. His voice started to rise at the “protecting you”. Chen Peng seems to be a good-natured, affable, cheerful, spirited chap, and the proposal was absolutely in that vein: a loud, cheerful, hilarious, purposely and tongue-in-cheek-ly but completely sincerely dramatic and passionate proclamation and declaration of love.
(Note that “all the time in my entire life” could be “my entire lifetime”, but in Mandarin, it really is all the time in my entire life, which really has double the impact. Yes, he actually thanked the heavens and implied that the heavens wanted them meet in the right place. In Mandarin, the words used were really heavy with significance. I might put up the speech in Mandarin later, but that might be weird and creepy. I expect professionals were filming it as well, from the best angles possible.)
(Ok, here’s the speech in Mandarin: 李婕, 我们相恋五年。 我感谢上天要我在正确的时间，正确的地点，与你相遇。在未来的道路上，我愿意承担起一个丈夫所应该承担起的责任。我愿意用我一生的时间去爱你，保护你，陪伴你，照顾你。李婕, 你愿意嫁给我吗？)
The crowd cheered and applauded, as did the dancers. Some dancers were openly watching from the wings – Zhao Jun (who was filming/taking photographs of the event), Kwok Min Yi, Huo Liang.
Li Jie nodded, and Chen Peng then put the ring on her finger. (A majority of the following pictures are courtesy of a friend, P.)
Then he helped her up, hugged her, kissed her, hugged her again.
Then, in English, he thanked the Artistic Director, Mr Janek Schergen (who had disappeared off to the right of this photo, into the wings, but Chen Peng unabashedly headed for the wings and continued talking all the while, and Mr Janek Schergen emerged), for teaching him everything, for opportunities, etc.
Then he thanked his fellow Artists in English. Then he turned to the audience and thanked everybody.
Supportive friends from the wings (from left – Huo Liang, Kwok Min Yi (I think), and Zhao Jun):
Right after that, he turned to her and embraced her again spontaneously with just so much joy, delight and love — one great private embrace, just the two of them sharing that one moment, in a world of their own.
Then they went off to the side of the stage together, his arm around her, where their friends (e.g. Chen Wei, Huo Liang etc) and fans gathered to congratulate them, take photographs, etc.
It was so touching and heartwarming. ❤ It made everyone so, so happy. Those of my friends who are unfortunately well-acquainted with my minor ballet obsession know that I have a very soft spot for (amongst many others) Chen Peng and Li Jie, and I am WILDLY happy for them, wildly delighted, superbly overjoyed, et cetera (though probably nothing can beat how they feel right now). I am also very touched and grateful that we were all fortunate enough to see the proposal 🙂 It was a most awesome gift to the audience too (whether or not intentionally so).
One friend: “This is so romantic. I am tempted to say yes!!!”
Another friend: “I think he couldn’t invite all of us to his wedding, that’s why [he made the proposal public].”
Third friend: “Anyone else watching must be thinking oh…how are they going to top that.” (But not all personalities are suited to this sort of proposal.)
Best proposal ever ❤ ❤ Such a fairy-tale ending to the night!
Close-up picture from Singapore Dance Theatre: