Ballet Under the Stars: Contemporary Weekend (Part 1)

“I thought more people would like contemporary [ballet], because it’s more accessible.”

So said a friend, to my surprise and, in a way, delight. Delight, because the audiences for such performances by SDT are generally less generous in size than for classical, and I’m used to friends falling asleep or cringing their way through the music of contemporary ballet performances (understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea). So I’m delighted whenever someone actually expresses an interest in watching those performances, because I think it’s great if more people get to see them.

On to the show.  I should write the word “review” here to see if it gets google eyeballs, but to be honest… this is not a review.

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Please excuse the unforgivably blurry photograph.

1. Blue Snow

01 blue snow-buts2016

That’s one of my favourite parts (actually, my favourite part) of the entire of Blue Snow, captured in that picture there. That delicate pas de deux between Etienne Ferrere and Nakahama Akira. I want to copy and paste something I wrote elsewhere about it, but I can’t locate it. You know — the couple marching through the desert, he turning his legs like waterwheels, she clutching fistfuls of sand that trail through her hands; the part where he lays the flat of his palm on the front of her head and as he marches forward, she retreats; almost a struggle, between the two, then almost a reconciliation, she throws up her skirt lightly, he slips under and on to the other side; they are together, travelling into the unknown on that long, desolate journey. That yearning, that forlornness, that companionship. It always makes me want to cry, and this time, I actually did (hurray).

Listen to this song, up to 1:49. That’s it. Yep.

After 1:49, we get the exuberance of Chua Bi Ru and Tanaka Nanase bursting into the scene (also my favourite part of the dance — impossible to choose, oh). Gypsy skirts, I always think — kicks and swirls and life. It’s been a joy watching the dance grow over time, through the same dancers.

Bi Ru’s version started out passionate and energetic, with such an obvious and strong connection of the heart and soul with the music — brought out in full force with every swing of the skirt and blow of the arms; and it has mellowed into a clean strength of movement, with no less spirit.

Tanaka Nanase’s version was controlled force at the start, and her version for BUTS was even stronger and fiercer than before — levelled up. Clawed hands, strong sharp poses at every turn (I’m thinking of that moment when they are seated on the ground and they throw out their arms sharply with clawed hands); all energy pulled into sharp, clear lines; a new vivacity in her interpretation.

They made a fantastic duo — paired very well also, with Huo Liang and Yorozu Kensuke, respectively; an easy rapport in the pair work. Each time we see Blue Snow, it gets better 🙂

Nazer Salgado takes on Timothy Coleman’s part in Blue Snow, including the pas de deux. If you’ve read interviews with Nazer, you’ll find the one where you see he started ballet at the age of 16. To get this far, in this amount of time, speaks not only of a lot of ability, but also of a ton of extremely hard work. Hats off.

I found his version of the role extremely interesting. You can see, in his interpretation, how a touch of his hand bends Chihiro’s knee and turns her. Timothy Coleman’s version with Chihiro is mutual angst and agony — the relationship that tears itself apart and longs to be together. Nazer’s with Chihiro has the element of angst but there’s also a bond in their relationship and a different power balance.  Chihiro entrusts herself to his strength in their pas de deux, and it works. It’s a pas de deux for the romantic at heart.

I’ve never found the opening music, to my chagrin — is it the same as the closing? I have always loved the opening movement.

Here’s the closing music, for only the 3rd time. Enough people like it that I have decided to not make it my favourite, though there’s that stunner of a moment when the music and the dancing gets joyous, and you can see the dancers throwing themselves into the dance with infectious gusto and enjoyment — before it gets wistful and ends on that last note of everyone collapsing and Akira reaching to the skies for the unreachable, a sole white beam on her.

A few notes on dancers:

1. In-studio, we saw Miura Takeaki take on Nazer’s part in the group dance once, and he was a stable last-minute addition.

2. If you read the names above, Yatsushiro Marina was supposed to be in it (taking on Heidi Zolker’s, and then Emma Hanley Jones’, role). We’d seen her dance this in the studio and so on before, and I was really looking forward to seeing her perform it on the open stage. She brings this light, intangible quality to it, and slips into the dance easily. It’s a beautiful dance, and she’s performed it beautifully. Just wanted to say that because … because it wasn’t to be 😦 and we hope to see her in this again.

3. Yeo Chan Yee danced on BUTS night, and point 2 above aside, it’s always great to see more of the different dancers and their takes on the dance. The memory recalls the final movement in particular, where it seemed she had absorbed the energy of the music and was bringing it out in her strong, vigorous, lively movements.


I thought I’d go on to Incomparable Beauty next, but the night is getting old. In case I forget, special mention for BUTS Contemporary Weekend goes to (amongst all the others) the unstoppable force that is Etienne Ferrere (who performed in all 3 pieces) and the incredible Maughan Jemesen, who displays stunning artistry in contemporary works (we will miss watching her). More on that the next time.




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