Disney feel and patriotic moments

Singapore Dance Theatre's triple bill fails to impress

Saccharine- sweet Midnight Waltzes sees couples revolving in pastel- coloured swirls of silk.
Saccharine- sweet Midnight Waltzes sees couples revolving in pastel- coloured swirls of silk.PHOTO: BERNIE NG


Singapore Dance Theatre
Esplanade Theatre
Last Friday

This year's edition of the Singapore Dance Theatre's annual Masterpiece In Motion takes the audience around the world to the idyllic countryside of Italy, the aristocratic ballrooms of Russia and the diverse landscape of Singapore.

The company premiere of the great Danish choreographer and ballet master August Bournon- ville's Bournonville Divertisse- ments  unfortunately falls flat, lacking in its requisite, idiosyncratic style.

Descended from the early French school of classical ballet, the understated Bournonville technique is not an easy one to master, especially in the advent of dance as mere feats of athleticism. 

With the simplicity of Bournonville's choreography, its substance is in its style - softly rounded arms, eloquence of the upper body, swift footwork, buoyant jumps and an overarching illusion of ease.

While the dancers manage the demands of the choreography, most do not understand subtlety as virtuosity, interpreting the work in broad strokes.

Bournonville Divertissements, consisting of excerpts from A Folk Tale, La Ventana, Flower Festival in Genzano and Napoli, is also awkwardly strung together, situating young lovers of various nationalities, clad in different colours of the same costume, in the same village square. 

The world premiere of Francois Klaus' Midnight Waltzes is a similar mishmash of dances and characters, most of whom are not drawn clearly enough to have an impact.

The saccharine-sweet piece has the look and feel of an old-world Disney cartoon. There seems to be a Cinderella pining for love, a belle of the ball, a Mad Hatter, three cheeky Musketeers and, of course, a dashing Prince.

While Klaus has given them all typical Russian names, he does not fill them with the haughty glamour typical of the Soviets. 

Much of Midnight Waltzes is a staid amalgamation of a ballroom waltz and a balletic pas de deux, with couples revolving in pastel- coloured swirls of silk.

After a while, the schmaltzy sweetness wears off and the love triangles are too shallow to hold their weight. The dancers do admirably well with what they are given and it is particularly lovely seeing younger dancers such as Kwok Min Yi and Lewis Gardner in featured roles.

Closing the evening is the third outing of Edwaard Liang's Opus 25 in three years.

Coincidentally patriotic, it featured a large red cloth sweeping across the stage to reveal the ensemble in white, the women in tunics and the men in mandarin- collared shirts.

However, this viewing of the work somehow feels diminished - the edges have been smoothed out but the movement now appears too mild for the emphatic punch of Michael Torke's music. 

Some stunning moments such as Rosa Park being elevated from the floor in a beautifully surprising maneouvre still draw gasps, while others vanish into the extended flurry of action.

Zhao Jun punctuates the work and the evening with an unprecedented intensity and expansiveness in his movement. He takes risks and the company should do likewise, in performance as well as programming.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'Disney feel and patriotic moments'. Print Edition | Subscribe