a few weeks quite some time since BUTS ended. On the last classical ballet night, Zhao Jun and Chen Peng danced in their last performance, Ma Cong’s Shadow’s Edge.
Here, have a photograph:
Thank you everyone for joining us at Ballet Under the Stars 2016! It was wonderful having you as our audience. Here's to Chen Peng and Zhao Jun for their swansong performance as well! 🎉 We look forward to seeing you at Masterpiece in Motion! #singaporedancetheatre #buts2016 #swansong #sgballet #sgarts #singapore
Is it all right to share this picture below…? In any case, Uchida Chihiro has a lovely Instagram:
Chen Peng on the left, Chihiro in the centre, Zhao Jun on the right.
Each dancer leaves an indelible mark, I like to think. But sometimes there are those works that are made different by a particular dancer’s presence; without taking away from the new ones who dance the roles, there are things that you can’t find twice, actually. An indispensable, irreplaceable spirit. (Looking back, say — who can forget Timothy Coleman, a dancer who brought incredible character and drama to every role he danced, swaggering towards in a corner of the studio, getting ready to slide into the skin of the next dance, syncing himself to its rhythm in his mind?)
“Every company has a dancer who is a Character. Zhao Jun is ours.” – Mr Janek Schergen at One @ the Ballet (circa 2014)
I think I’d never thought hard about what I’d say on this occasion. I won’t exhort humans to go back to read my past posts because that sounds like advertising, but you can read about Zhao Jun’s dancing in so many of them. Zhao Jun’s clean clear lines when dancing, his fearlessly spirited dancing. Such impossibly high leaps, spins, jumps invested with so much energy that (especially for this last BUTS) you can see him just pouring all his energy and strength and spirit into them. Here are a couple of the memories that I really want to keep, forever, of Zhao Jun’s dancing.
1. Tybalt in Goh Choo San’s Romeo and Juliet, 2011
This was the first time I clearly recall watching Zhao Jun dancing. Out of the shadows and into the light sprang Tybalt in a grand old stomachache, throwing his hands into the air in soundless rage, leaping round in a circle as his rage escalated in volume, and throwing himself into the air into huge kicks of anger that I never expected to see in a ballet. It sounds childish described that way, and perhaps Tybalt is really one big child who wants his will done (and of course that could be what throws Romeo and Mercutio off ), but there’s a sense of a real menace and this really plunges us straight into the arc of tragedy of the whole story. Without your Tybalt to kick-start your action and your deaths, your story ain’t going nowhere.
It’s a testament to Goh Choo San’s choreography and most definitely also to Zhao Jun’s dancing that you get your Tybalt exactly as the ballet needs him. I was amused by the throwing of hands up into the air when I saw it because it was so unexpected. But it was exactly that sense of anger that we needed at that moment, that speechless anger — Tybalt, expressing his emotions best physically and with the point of his sword — Tybalt screaming what the hell??, Tybalt being impossible to reason with and completely a force to reckon with.
The first moment I could after watching that, I flipped open the booklet to see who was playing Tybalt.
2. Angry Man in Opus 25
Just as Chen Peng and Rosa Park, as what I secretly call Founding Couple, are totally necessary to Opus 25 to demonstrate the growing spirit of the company, Angry Man is the essence of the waking company. The Angry Man who, when all others have frozen (unenviably) into various poses, takes centrestage and has a grand strong furious solo that includes staring straight out into the darkness of the audience. The Angry Man, who smacks his hands together and bringing everyone slowly to life; the Angry Man who is bowed, exhausted from his exertions, while everyone gathers around him and feeds him their energy and brings him into their circle and helps him draw himself back up again to form part of their company.
Zhao Jun is Angry Man, and every next dancer who takes on the role will probably have a different interpretation. But Angry Man is his version, and is seared in the memory of the viewer.
There are too many memories to count. Zhao Jun bringing superb energy and such an impossibly high jump to the Gypsy King in Don Quixote; neat, nifty footwork and partnering of an efficiently precise Maughan Jemesen in Piano Concerto No.2 Opus 102 by Edmund Stripe (also perpetually referred to as Shostakovich in this blog).
There’s an irreplaceable passion and spirit in Zhao Jun’s Swipe! and Lambarena, and 4Seasons. Here’s a bad analogy: every dancer being a facet in a prism, we’ve lost one facet and the colour and lustre won’t be the same again though there is always a joy in seeing new interpretations and versions, of course.
I’ve dallied too long before getting round to this.
To end off, here’s a good interview with Zhao Jun: http://balletlove.co/naughty-boy-became-dancer/
I’ll write about Chen Peng’s farewell in a while. It’s taken me a while because this has been a season of madness, and I don’t know when it, too, shall pass. But I’m still watching SDT 🙂