Donato Ferrer, a founding member of the Singapore Dance Theatre, dies at age 57

Dancer and choreographer Donato Ferrer died of cancer on Jan 11, 2020.
Dancer and choreographer Donato Ferrer died of cancer on Jan 11, 2020.PHOTO: ATTITUDEARTS.COM

SINGAPORE - Dancer and choreographer Donato Ferrer, a founding member of the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT), died of cancer on Saturday (Jan 11). He was 57.

Ferrer had been a dancer with Ballet Philippines before he was recruited by SDT's artistic directors Goh Soo Khim and Anthony Then to form the SDT in 1988.

There, he choreographed and performed in numerous productions.

Ferrer then went on to pursue his passion for teaching dance and became the full-time ballet master at Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) in 1994.

Shortly after, he was awarded the Lee Foundation scholarship and sent to the Royal Academy of Dance in London to attend a professional dancers' teaching course.

His excellent performance during the nine-month course also won him the Jerwood Prize, which goes to the most outstanding graduate.

"Mr Ferrer was a brilliant and talented artist who did particularly well in comic roles," said Ms Melissa Quek, 39, who had been a student of his at SCGS in the 1990s. "He had a great sense of humour and always brought laughter into the classroom."

In 2001, Ferrer founded the Attitude Performing Arts Studio in Bukit Timah.

Besides ballet and jazz, the studio also offers classes in gyrotonics and pilates.

"A holistic performing arts studio which showcased various styles was also Ferrer's vision," said Ms Quek, who is now the head of the School of Dance and Theatre at Lasalle College of the Arts. "His dance and choreography was very versatile because he was well versed in both ballet and jazz."

Attitude Performing Arts Studio's co-founder Aldo Gan added: "Donato had a special gift for understanding the body's anatomy and movements."

Ferrer's students often sought him out if they were experiencing aches or injuries, since he could easily detect if something was amiss with a dancer's posture.

Besides teaching at SCGS, Ferrer also worked with students from Crestar Learning Centre, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and Lasalle College of the Arts.

SDT's artistic director Janek Schergen said:"Donato was well loved by many and contributed greatly to the dance community in Singapore. While he was in SDT, all the dancers were in almost every single ballet, which helped to shape the repertory of the company. More than a workplace, Donato found his home in Singapore.”