Credible showcase of diversity

Sync by Nils Christe at the Singapore Dance Theatre's 30th Anniversary Gala.
Sync by Nils Christe at the Singapore Dance Theatre's 30th Anniversary Gala.PHOTO: BERNIE NG

REVIEW / DANCE

SINGAPORE DANCE THEATRE - 30TH ANNIVERSARY GALA

Esplanade Theatre/Last Friday


To mark its 30th anniversary, the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) acknowledged its past, but emphatically powered into the future.

Underpinning this evening of celebration for the home-grown professional dance company was the insightful vision of founding directors Anthony Then and Goh Soo Khim; the nurturing of current artistic director Janek Schergen's through commissioning inspired new creations while carefully re-staging selected repertoire and historic pieces; and, above all, the talented dancers.

Essential to this mix is the perennial neo-classical repertoire of Singapore's renowned choreographer Goh Choo San.

The late choreographer's Double Contrasts and the Configurations pas de deux began the programme.

The first was for two groups of dancers in contrasting black and white outfits, showing the purity of classical lines combined with quirky hand gestures and leg flicks, somewhat reminiscent of Chinese dance.

The dancers swirled into myriad pathways, exiting and entering the space skilfully while executing complex footwork. Their leaps and lifts synergised with Poulenc's score, which accentuated contrasts of mood and tone.

A favourite SDT artist, Chihiro Uchida, exuded sensuality and expression in Configurations, resplendent with off-centre lifts and precarious points of balance. Partnered with Kenya Nakamura, they probed the depths of a fleeting relationship that resonated with curiosity, exploration and nuanced emotion.

Choreographically, it was sophisticated in its subtlety and innovative in pacing and style. This intense simplicity stood out as a special, defining moment for the duo.

The highlight of the performance was Australian choreographer Timothy Harbour's world premiere Linea Adora, set to music by Philip Glass.

The work was created especially for the anniversary. The large cast of dancers made disciplined formations that then dissolved in multiple directions within a minimalist lighting frame.

Simply about lines, it was a mesmerising, organic journey evolving into a metaphor of a larger purpose. This took place as the structures of control segued into spirals of deconstructed passages, with dancers seeming to grapple with hanging onto one another despite moving in opposite directions. Glass' music seemed at first simplistic, but it progressed to a vortex of expression.

Harbour's choreography was edgy yet poetic, fuelled by clever movement and complex structural ideas.

Sync, by one of SDT's regular guest choreographers, Nils Christe, responded to the presto score of Ludovico Einaudi.

This futuristic piece fluctuated among a rock clip, a Twyla Tharp work and Cirque Soleil theatricality as the dancers hoisted themselves on and off a suspended truss at the back of the stage.

The women, clad in bright red leotards and black tights, were splendid as they powered across the stage backwards en pointe at an amazing rate, providing a leitmotif that the men never quite matched. Unusual passages of repeated, unison dancing was a feature of this fast-paced dance that was ultimately clinical and cold.

Bold and brave, the programme created a showcase for the diversity of the dancers, cementing their place in the Singapore cultural landscape and stamping their quality on the international stage.


Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2018, with the headline 'Credible showcase of diversity'. Print Edition | Subscribe