Last chance in a while to catch Swan Lake

Singapore Dance Theatre's Swan Lake production will feature dancers Chen Peng and Rosa Park (both in foreground).
Singapore Dance Theatre's Swan Lake production will feature dancers Chen Peng and Rosa Park (both in foreground).PHOTO: DENNIS NG

When fresh-faced ballerina Chua Bi Ru is not on her feet, caught up in intense rehearsals for the Singapore Dance Theatre's year-end performance of Swan Lake, she is busy sewing herself an army of pointe shoes.

"It's simply because we go through so many pairs of shoes for Swan Lake as there's so much dancing for the women," says the 23-year-old, who has been with the dance company since 2012. She is dancing as one of the swans.

"I don't know exactly how many pairs I've gone through, but I've prepared about 10 to 15 pairs for the shows. We can easily go through one to two pairs in one run."

The classic tale of a princess transformed into a swan by a sorcerer's curse is one of the best-loved classic ballets. But it is also one of the most exhausting to execute, with dancers in constant motion for long stretches of time.

The waltz in the first act, for instance, involves eight long minutes of non-stop dancing, says Chua. And with no intermission between the first two acts, dancers have barely two minutes for a harried costume change.

"To overcome the sheer exhaustion, I've learnt to pace myself when I dance," says Chua, adding that stretching and an ice bucket can help relieve sore muscles.

  • BOOK IT /SWAN LAKE

    WHERE: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Thursday to Sunday, 8pm (Thursday and Friday), 1 and 8pm (Saturday), 1 and 7pm (Sunday)

    ADMISSION: $30 to $70 from Sistic

She also elevates her legs, propping them against a wall for at least 30 minutes a night.

Her fellow dancer Elaine Heng, 27, adds: "It's physically and mentally demanding as your performance is highly dependent on the condition of your mind and body that very day... Calmness is key and knowing when to give and hold back the right amount of energy is vital."

She is dancing as a Big Swan.

The dance company ended last year with its take on Don Quixote, based on the story by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes.

 

The decision to stage Swan Lake this year, hot on the heels of Don Quixote, illustrates how the company has developed since it was founded in 1988.

 

Its artistic director Janek Schergen, 63, says: "Swan Lake is the most famous of all classical ballets and by presenting it after last December's Don Quixote, we want to be able to present the growth and depth of the company, artistically and overall.

 

"People would expect a memorable spectacle and, of course, the Singapore Dance Theatre will deliver."

It first staged Swan Lake in 2007 and again, using the same set design, in 2009 and 2012.

This year's production, which features newly painted sets, will be the fourth time the company will glide onto the stage with the work.

It may be the last chance for audiences to catch it over the next few years though.

"We do not have any plans to stage Swan Lake again in the near future, so if anything, this is the year to watch us perform it," says Schergen.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2015, with the headline 'Last chance in a while to catch Swan Lake'. Print Edition | Subscribe