Kudos for effort

Singapore Dance Theatre's Ballet Under The Stars shows that neoclassical works can be watchable

REVIEW / DANCE

BALLET UNDER THE STARS

Singapore Dance Theatre

Fort Canning Green/Last Friday

This edition of Ballet Under The Stars by the Singapore Dance Theatre featured a triple bill of neoclassical ballet performances and it opened at an easy, dignified pace with Toru Shimazaki's Blue Snow.


The work, Incomparable Beauty, performed by the Singapore Dance Theatre. PHOTO: BERNIE NG

Built around ideas of journeying and searching, the work was well-suited to the dance company, which was all calm fluidity and control as it moved to the thrum of guitar strings, the gentle tinkering of ivories and a series of percussive hand-claps. Chihiro Uchida's delicate, fluttering arms stood out amid the ensemble, her movements radiating warmth.

The performance, though, was not so much a journey through winter snowfall, as the title of the dance suggests, than a cruise down an endless ocean highway - pleasant and serene, like Uchida's dancing, without great peaks or valleys to surprise or awe.

The programme kicked into higher gear with the world premiere of Ma Cong's Incomparable Beauty, created specially for the company. The choreographically engaging work emphasises elongation and endless, lean lines in a dancer.

The performance, however, highlighted the dancers' weakness. They moved well together, but their movements lacked the delicious crispness that sets the best ballet companies apart.

They also failed to fully express the depths of passion and heights of yearning in the work. One felt effort rather than intense emotion in the pas de deux between Maughan Jemesen and Kensuke Yorozu.

  • BOOK IT /BALLET UNDER THE STARS

  • WHERE: Fort Canning Green

    WHEN: Friday to Sunday, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $30 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

This was the piece the dancers looked most uncomfortable performing and they appeared relieved when it ended without major mishaps. Yet the choreography was the most enjoyable of the night and a testament to Ma's abilities. One hopes the company will be able to grow into the work with time and practice.

The final piece of the night was Swipe, a word that carries new connotations in this digital age with the rise of the popular Tinder dating app, where users approve a potential date by swiping right on their mobile phones.

The 2011 piece by Val Caniparoli celebrates pure movement - the balance of grace and awkwardness, acrobatics and elegance, which is seen in contemporary dance pieces.

It demanded strong interpretation from the performers, but not all of them possessed the requisite sass or swagger to make it work. In a sea of stoic-looking male dancers, Etienne Ferrere appeared to be the only one who was having fun, although the dancers loosened up a little as the piece neared its finale.

Neoclassical ballet is often regarded as the lesser sister of classical ballet, but the Singapore Dance Theatre showed that contemporary works can be interesting, thought-provoking and, most importantly, watchable. This evening was not one to swipe left on.

A different programme will be performed this weekend.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2016, with the headline 'Kudos for effort'. Print Edition | Subscribe