Ballet draws inspiration from ballroom dancing

Midnight Waltzes will premiere as part of the triple-bill Masterpiece In Motion.
Midnight Waltzes will premiere as part of the triple-bill Masterpiece In Motion.PHOTO: SINGAPORE DANCE THEATRE

He has decades of dance experience, but choreographer Francois Klaus, 66, took ballroom dancing lessons to prepare for his latest work, the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) commission, Midnight Waltzes.

The French native, who retired as artistic director of the Queensland Ballet in 2002 after 15 years at its helm, says in a telephone interview from Sydney: "I actually took some lessons with my wife Robin, just to do the ballroom dance. It's very different from what classical dancers do because of the position of the body. The weight of the feet goes between the legs."

The ballet, premieres on Aug 21 as part of the triple-bill Masterpiece In Motion. The other two works are Edwaard Liang's Opus 25, which was commissioned two years ago for the SDT's 25th anniversary, as well as the company premiere of Danish ballet master and choreographer August Bournonville's Bournonville Divertissements.

SDT artistic director Janek Schergen, 63, commissioned Klaus to create Midnight Waltzes because he wanted more stylistic variation in the company's repertoire.

He says that the works performed by the SDT so far "have been entirely classical, like our full-length ballets; neo-classical, that is, international ballets which everybody has acknowledged as masterpieces; or works that were made for us".

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    WHERE: Esplanade Theatre

    WHEN: Aug 21 and 22, 8 pm

    ADMISSION: $30 to $70 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

So, he approached Klaus, who received his training in the European opera house tradition, to create a work that was more rich and visually sumptuous than those in the SDT's repertoire.

Schergen says: "Even though I was ballet master of two big European companies, that's not totally my heritage. I might have enough familiarity to do a reasonable job, but I wanted somebody who could do it deeper than I can. "Klaus was born and raised in the European tradition, which none of us are."

The ballet, which the choreographer describes as a "visual symphony", follows the high-society intrigues of late 19th-century Romanov Russia.

Klaus says: "There's an awkward girl who wants too much to be beautiful and tries to seduce a man who is not interested, and several boys who try unsuccessfully to impress a beautiful lady.

"There is no big, deep, complicated story. It's more of a social situation, where you follow the little characters and their anecdotes.

"In a way, life is like that, most people just worry about themselves and what happens to them. That's a bit like what happens with the soloists."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'Ballet draws inspiration from ballroom dancing'. Print Edition | Subscribe