Hip-hop inspired ballet part of Singapore Dance Theatre's annual Masterpiece In Motion showcase

4Seasons is one of the three works in Masterpiece In Motion. -- PHOTO: NICOLETHEN STUDIO
4Seasons is one of the three works in Masterpiece In Motion. -- PHOTO: NICOLETHEN STUDIO

Masterpiece In Motion comprises three diverse dances that span a spectrum of moods

Swiping is one of the most recognisable breakdancing moves, in which a dancer balances on his arms as his legs twist a full circle in the air.

Swipe is also the name of a hip-hop- inspired ballet by American choreographer Val Caniparoli, which is part of Singapore Dance Theatre's fifth annual Masterpiece In Motion.

Masterpiece In Motion, which opens at the University Cultural Centre on Friday, is the company's annual showcase of works by established, well-known choreographers. Artistic director Janek Schergen says the programme is meant to "bring together choreographers who are acknowledged internationally at a certain level".

Caniparoli's Swipe is set to the music of London-based composer Gabriel Prokofiev. The grandson of the prolific Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev is a producer of hip-hop and dance music.

Caniparoli is known for works which are rooted in his classical background, but inspired by a wide variety of influences, including African music and ice skating.

He first created Swipe for the Richmond Ballet in 2011 and was inspired by Prokofiev's thumping hip-hop music. He says: "The music sounds so different from what his grandfather wrote. There's an energy in it, unlike anything I'd heard before."

Swipe also incorporates a lot of forceful, high-energy moves. Caniparoli, who is also a principal character dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, says: "Sometimes, it's just the swag of it, the confidence, and it's a little more in your face. I incorporated a lot of that and the dancers really exude that energy to the audience."

Schergen says the work is typical of Caniparoli, as he "likes the hard edges". "It's very forceful and doesn't let up for a second at all," he explains.

Also part of the programme is Dutch choreographer Nils Christie's Fearful Symmetries, played out against a set inspired by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian's compositions of black, white and primary colours. Fourteen chairs are arranged on stage in ever-changing formations: a box, a diagonal line, or a heap at the back of the stage.

Christie, a former dancer and choreographer with the Nederlands Dans Theater, has also created works for influential companies such as the Paris Opera Ballet. The ballet is divided into a dozen sections, which see the dancers moving to the pulsating beats of John Adams, an American composer known for his minimalist style, which uses repeated patterns and steady beats.

Schergen calls the work "quirky and fun", and says: "In one section, chairs have been put at the front of the stage during the blackout, and the guys are all standing on them. As they jump, the lights go on, and you see them in mid-air. It's so smart, so clever, so interesting."

Schergen also says the ballet is reflective of its creator. "The primary colours of the set are simplistic and, in a way, I think that the ballet is simplistic as well. Nils is a person who has no falseness in him. Absolutely no falseness. He's very child-like, in an enjoyable, innocent kind of way."

After the guileless simplicity of Christie's work comes 4Seasons by Natalie Weir, artistic director of Australia's Expressions Dance Company, which was founded in 1984. Choreographed to Vivaldi's concertos of the same name, the work premiered at the company's Ballet Under The Stars in Fort Canning last year.

4Seasons comprises four duets, each representing a stage in a relationship. Spring brings newness and undiscovered potential, while summer is a tumult of storms and shades. Autumn is a brittle season which longs for lost warmth, while winter is chill and loss.

Schergen says he decided to re-stage the ballet because it is "spectacular and beautiful: "It's so evocative, there have been so many ballets made to that music, truthfully, and most of them are boring. Hers is anything but. It has beautiful imagery and it keeps you captivated from the very first moment to the very last."

Schergen also says the serenity of the work reminds him of Weir, who was formerly resident choreographer for both the Queensland Ballet and the Australian Ballet. He says: "She moves very quickly as a choreographer and she's not overly dramatic. The work is also quiet, it's a lot like Natalie."

The three works will take the audience through an entire spectrum of moods and emotions, says the artistic director.

"4Seasons is very pensive, Swipe is very cool and linear and contemporary, and I think for Fearful Symmetries, if you don't end up smiling at the end of it, something is very wrong."

lting@sph.com.sg