Dance review: Singapore Dance Theatre back in fine form in Masterpiece In Motion

Swipe by Val Caniparoli, performed by the Singapore Dance Theatre at Masterpiece In Motion.
Swipe by Val Caniparoli, performed by the Singapore Dance Theatre at Masterpiece In Motion.PHOTO: BERNIE NG

Masterpiece In Motion

By Singapore Dance Theatre
Esplanade Theatre, Sunday (Sept 26), 3pm

After a long break due to pandemic restrictions, the Singapore Dance Theatre's (SDT) main season is back and the company is in fine form.

This triple bill of contemporary ballets included challenging repertory such as Val Caniparoli's Swipe and Natalie Weir's Jabula, as well as a rare staging of Momentum by Goh Choo San.

The 1983 Momentum has a timelessness to its slicing neoclassical lines and demanding pace, with a dash of Goh's signature Greek sculptural poses, and moments of charming flirtation.

A striking sequence had couples moving across the stage, the male dancers sitting and inching backwards on the floor, dragging their female partners who floated forward on pointe.

The roles flipped and the female dancers led their male counterparts who now slid in a forward recline. The sequence was performed with unbelievable flow.

The piece concluded with ranks of couples moving through each other in exquisitely synchronised lifts to Sergei Prokofiev's awe-inspiring cascades of orchestration. The polished performance was impressive, given that the piece has not been performed by SDT since 2007.

A clever programming choice placed Momentum back to back with Swipe.

Both pieces began similarly with a group of dancers standing in a circle in a darkened stage. Both were also set to music by Prokofiev.

The similarities ended at that point.

The abstract pizzicato score rose to a pounding house beat and it shook one to realise that this was the music of not Prokofiev the elder, but his grandson Gabriel Prokofiev.

The upright clarity of Goh's lines was swopped for Caniparoli's energetic slicing-arm motif and jerking spinal undulation driving an odd stork-like gait.

Swipe's middle section was a succession of duets, solos and trios which seemed to last a little too long. There were, nonetheless, many exciting highlights, with overtones of jazz and street dance woven into the choreography.

Adrian Tan's fresh lighting design stood out, transforming the backdrop into an arcade of oval windows.

In this matinee cast, Beatrice Castaneda shone in both Momentum and Swipe, executing demanding rhythmic sequences with feisty attack and witty charm. Kwok Min Yi was consistent in the lightness of her endless lines and exquisite musicality in Momentum.


Jabula by Natalie Weir, performed by the Singapore Dance Theatre at Masterpiece In Motion. PHOTO: BERNIE NG

In Swipe, the cast did well in adapting to the non-classical vocabulary, notably the male dancers and a sinuous solo by Akira Nakahama.

The programme closed with Jabula by Australian Weir, a crowd-pleasing ensemble that borrowed African vocals from the soundtrack of the film The Power Of One (1992). The dancers gave their best to the forceful movement vocabulary, with Chua Bi Ru embodying the titular spirit of joy.