More modern choreography that is risk-taking and surprising needed for Singapore Dance Theatre’s Passages



Singapore Dance Theatre

School of the Arts Studio Theatre / Last Saturday

The Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) season Passages showcased the company as a versatile ensemble able to attract leading international choreographers.

Billed as a contemporary platform and staged in a black box theatre, the performance raised the expectation of experimentation, with an opportunity to showcase personalities in this up-close setting.

Val Caniparoli's Triptych based on photographer Lalage Snow's images of soldiers before, during and after service in Afghanistan exemplified the notion of contemporary resonance.

Featuring dancers in androgynous army fatigues, it abstracted the narrative to focus on themes of experience and transformation.

Incorporating recognisable motifs such as standing at ease, marching in formation and stylised salutes, it soon transitioned into current movement vocabulary with rapid drops to the floor, combat rolls and stillness instigating reflective moments.

Utilising the energy and motivation of anger, the dancers' torsos contracted, while arms carved the space in self-subjugation.

Skittering slides across the floor and off-centre turns metaphorically suggested inner turmoil while steely stares into the audience that were mementos from the photographic source denoted resolution.

Driven by honest intention and visceral commitment, it emphatically delivered a powerful statement that enabled the dancers to exploit their emotional range by navigating the complex layering of this piece.

Goh Choo San's 1982 Configurations pas de deux was a beautiful counterpoint. A fragile love story of compelling attraction, it aesthetically embodied the purest sensibility of neo-classicism.

Superbly danced by Chihiro Uchida and Kenya Nakamura, it paid tribute to the permanency of this Singaporean artist whose work resonates with the magic of Balanchinesque classical abstraction.

Bookended by the opening Incomparable Beauty by Ma Cong and Toru Shimazaki's finale Unexpected B, Passages edged further into the realm of neo-classical ballet. Relying on extended body lines, partnering and patterning, albeit with creative twists and inventive responses to the music, it lacked grit.

Ma's choreography, underscored by Ezio Bosso's haunting music, synergised a series of couples entering and exiting the space.

Featuring quirky moves to reflect the musical impulses and constantly evolving partnership, where bodies organically cohered then dissolved, it was an exquisite sensual rendering of the use of touch.

Driven by a desire to reflect inner beauty, the work should have been lusciously seductive, but needed more relaxation and indulgence to melt into the musical notes.

It was strong technically, but missed an emotional edge as the dancers became overly preoccupied with the complex mechanics of their partnerships.

Unexpected B as a closing piece was playful and clever, echoing Shimazaki's penchant for incorporating idiosyncratic folksy dance elements in his work.

Fast rhythm changes, games between the couples, flexed feet and finger-shaking added some lightness to this work that was bogged down by the dark costumes and overall weighty movement.

The thumbs up by the dancers at the end signalled a job well done in a season that could incorporate more modern choreography that is risk-taking and surprising.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Good showcase of versatility'. Subscribe