Dance of spiritual calm

Singapore Dance Theatre dancers rehearse the 23-minute-long Evening Voices by acclaimed British choreographer Timothy Rushton.
Singapore Dance Theatre dancers rehearse the 23-minute-long Evening Voices by acclaimed British choreographer Timothy Rushton.ST PHOTO: SYAZA NISRINA

Evening Voices, which is set to haunting choral music, is one of three ballets in Passages, Singapore Dance Theatre's annual contemporary season

The ethereal song of a choir fills the studio of the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) as dancers cluster in a row like links in a chain.

Principal dancer Chihiro Uchida pulls at them from one end, sending movement rippling through the line like a wave.

A flick of her elbow some beats later and their arms hitch left in sync like the unbolting of a gate.

The work they are rehearsing, Evening Voices, will have its world premiere this Friday in Passages, the company's annual contemporary season.

This season features three ballets that were specially created for SDT, from the colourful Shadow's Edge by Chinese choreographer Ma Cong, commissioned for the Esplanade's da:ns festival in 2014, to the urgent, kinetic Another Energy by Australian Timothy Harbour, which was first performed in 2016 in Passages.

Another of Harbour's works, Linea Adora, had its world premiere earlier this year at the SDT's 30th-anniversary gala.

Evening Voices is by acclaimed British choreographer Timothy Rushton, former artistic director of the Danish Dance Theatre, who has been nominated 13 times for Denmark's prestigious Reumert Prize, which he has won four times.

  • BOOK IT / PASSAGES

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 3 and 7.30pm; Sunday, 3 and 7pm

    ADMISSION: $35 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: www.singaporedance theatre.com

Evening Voices is set to Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil, a haunting a cappella choral composition - although for the sake of running time, Rushton has kept his piece to 23 minutes instead of an all-night affair.

"It's a beautiful piece of music," says Rushton, 55, who as a child almost became a pianist, but chose instead to go into ballet. "It pulls you slowly into itself."

He discovered the Vigil 10 years ago, but only now has he found the company he feels can dance the work he wants to set to it.

"I have to have a classical technique," he says. "Yet I needed someone with openness to tackle a modern way of thinking.

"Not all dance companies can do that - a lot of the big classical dance companies are quite closed in the way they approach choreography."

He wants the work to invoke prayer, but "not in a corny way, not like this" - to demonstrate, he clasps his hands at chest level as if praying.

"It's about people gathering together."

SDT artistic director Janek Schergen, who first met Rushton 15 years ago as his ballet master at the Norwegian National Ballet, says of the work: "We don't have anything in the repertoire that's remotely like it. It's much more spiritual, much calmer."

"I've been told the Singapore audience doesn't like quiet ballets, though I think that's wrong," adds the 66-year-old.

He thinks it will sit well in between the cutting-edge aggression of Another Energy and Shadow's Edge, a "lovely neo-classical blend of both contemporary and classical technique".

"If you take a good ballet and put it in the wrong order in the programme, you can destroy it. It would be like eating dessert before the main course."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline 'Dance of spiritual calm'. Print Edition | Subscribe