Passages 2016 – Part 1: Shostakovich, Another Energy

While the earth is still fresh, let’s till.

By the way, I feel a little paiseh (embarrassed) when I read other people’s reviews. I just found one on BUTS. You can tell I am a newbie because other people are saying things about the dancers’ dancing that I obviously can’t see, and they have the language and knowledge of history and what a good Balanchine or Bournonville should look like. And/or, I will go for the good and better, and try not to publicly express any comparison or name names, or et cetera.

Onwards! This is SDT’s contemporary season.


That’s Jabula on the front.

1. Piano Concerto No. 2, Opus 102 – by Edmund Stripe

Seemingly simple, and it’s effective.

01 piano concerto shoskatovich.jpg

This is Shoskatovich, which I have been misspelling as Shostakovich. Someone is turning in his grave now.

Maughan Jemesen, who opened it previously (with her cut-glass sharp moves and quirky thrusts), has left. Chua Bi Ru steps in (a more rounded feel to the moves, and soft turning hands). The ever-reliable, cheerful Etienne Ferrere blazes in to take Zhao Jun’s role.

Honestly, I’d forgotten most of it, so it’s always a joy to rewatch. There are always new things to see.

The choreography knows how to make use of the music, and I’ve seen other choreography to this music online, but to me, this is the best application of moves to this piece. A rush of accents building up to climax sees the ladies and men separated, throwing arms open (as if pushing open doors welcomingly) and running towards each other, then the men hoisting the women aloft, the women forming great turning compasses. Quick swinging beats see the ladies, assisted by their partners, swinging their legs up like pendulums, then back via a sort of ronde (loose use of terms, please excuse) and leaning forward, their legs clocked high up back, and then a promenade. Men leaping to the back, women to the front, in little leaps in semi-splits that open finally into huge clean jetes. Dancers bent double, arms outstretched, quickly shifting their feet.

These moves look basic, but require so much energy and careful pacing, and they fit the music like hand in a glove. The music is never wasted: never do you hear a great loud roar in the music that is spent carelessly on a tiny, accentless move.

One of my favourite understated parts of this dance is how partners clasp hands. They look like they’re waltzing, and there’s a sense of comradery when hands are clasped so.

Uchida Chihiro and Beatrice Castenada share the soloist role of Tinkerbell. It’s great to see Beatrice in a solo role like this: quick, piercing steps and rapid turns round the stage, light on her feet. Chihiro’s Tinkerbell is fresh, bright, and she throws her arms up to make clear arcs so that her moves extend far beyond her frame — scattering fairy dust. It seems, sometimes, that the best dancers manage to stretch their presence far beyond themselves, to touch every corner of the stage.

The pas de deux between Li Jie and Nazer Salgado is the culmination of a massive amount of hard work. We’ve watched it, and the partnership, grow over time, and this is hardly the easiest pas de deux. Nazer is the ultimate hard worker: little lifts so Li Jie can make little running movements with her feet, or so that (while her arm is slung round his shoulders and her legs in a V-shape) he can turn round and round with her; huge soaring lifts as she extends her leg high up in the air; and after they make little sorties in the air with their soft arms, he turns his attention straight to her.

For the girl is the centre of the man’s universe in this dance, and he is hers, and Li Jie is gorgeous in this dance. Watch her feet, so quick and light and perfectly stretched, each step so finely enunciated. It reminds you of the saying that one must dance such that the viewer is unaware of the shoes.

This review of Shostakovich must close with a mention of Ines Furuhashi-Huber and Shan Del Vecchio. They’re a striking pair, evenly-matched. Shan Del Vecchio has danced in more roles recently (including Masterpiece in Motion, not reviewed yet). The development of dancers over time is always of interest; from walk-on roles in Sleeping Beauty to full-blown demi-soloist roles in contemporary dance. On that note, Shan Del Vecchio has got that elusive quality of charisma (not everyone can be so blessed), and he has talent and memorable form, and theirs is a dancing partnership that looks steady and comfortable.


2. Another Energy – Tim Harbour

02 tim harbour christina chan.jpg

This dance is really hard to describe. Partly because I failed to caffeinate myself before the afternoon performance (friends, do not underestimate the power of caffeine) and also because my vocab isn’t that extensive. Translating moves into words is hard for me.

Picture a giant white luminous oval on a screen as the backdrop. I loved the costume design: cosmic dark blue leotards (long tights for the men) with white whorls. At first, I imagined the dancers as moon worshippers, but that progressed into viewing them as atoms or just particles of energy, vibrating.

May Yen Cheah stands out in this dance. She’s very, very aware of how her body is to work and move; the embodiment of the body as an instrument, finely-tuned, with just the right amount of energy required. Nowhere is this more evident than here — when she jabs her hands sharply downwards at an angle, hands like steel-cut scalpels, or the bows of violins drawn to just the right angle; or when she throws her body, bowed inwards, into the air. She has a rapid pas de trois with Huo Liang and Yorozu Kensuke (bodies carving shapes in the air), and you realise that the dancers are moving so quickly that if their motions were translated into a sport, they would be essentially sprinting.

It’s interesting how, over time, dancers have moved up to demi-soloist etc, and you can see them taking the challenges and growing with them.

Nakamura Kenya and Chihiro have a pas de deux: magnetic hands drawn to each other and locked together; she lifted and turned round, clinging to his back, legs thrown up in a swallow-tail. A magnetic partnership as he turns her over and over like an electric unicycle wheel.

Jason Carter and Chihiro have another pas de deux. I like seeing how their hands work. You know the sort of classical pirouette where the lady has her hand above her head holding her partner’s hand, and he turns her round and round while their hands shift overhead to accommodate the rotation? The same principle seems to be applied when Chihiro rotates on a horizontal axis (so to speak), one foot on the ground, the other in the air, with only Jason’s hand as a support.

Interestingly, this dance ends with the dancers bobbing, ducking, bending knees, alternately facing us (I think) and each other, in perfect continuous rhythm, particles in constant motion, and then all goes black.

Two last things of note:

a) Glad to see Shi Yue Tony in a new, more prominent role. Like his form. He evidently takes the role seriously, and also seems to be enjoying himself. Good also, to see Kwok Min Yi in another contemporary role that makes good use of the quirky air she brings to such dances. Li Jie is in more contemporary dances this year than she has been, in maybe the last x years (bar Shostakovich), and I think that contemporary stretches a dancer in ways that we mayn’t realise; limbs are lent emphasis, motion becomes meaningful, and if you expected Li Jie’s contemporary dance style to be “classical moves in a contemporary dance”, interestingly, it’s not — it’s growing its own shape and voice. Huo Liang’s voice, for instance, is growing urgently audible, and there is a visible strength and energy in his kicks and jumps. His dancing is telling a story, it’s saying something, it has meaning.

b) The ending bows were excellently-plotted. The dancers as shifting, restless  particles, slipping in and out and bowing, and separating out again into males and females before bowing.  This was a pleasant little reminder of the ending of the dance, and the audience was amused.

2 more pieces to go!










2 thoughts on “Passages 2016 – Part 1: Shostakovich, Another Energy

    • Many thanks! Had found it quite odd too, because I recalled googling it when I first used it. Hope I haven’t re-corrected (re-wronged?) everything, because combing through past entries would be a real pain ):


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