Dance review: Forward-looking repertoire from SDT, but where was the audience?

4Seasons by Natalie Weir was one of the three ballets performed as part of Masterpiece in Motion by the Singapore Dance Theatre. -- PHOTO: NICOLETHEN STUDIO
4Seasons by Natalie Weir was one of the three ballets performed as part of Masterpiece in Motion by the Singapore Dance Theatre. -- PHOTO: NICOLETHEN STUDIO

Singapore Dance Theatre boasts a repertoire of classical and neoclassical ballets, and versatile dancers who can ably tackle the demands of its range. This year, Masterpiece In Motion, its international repertory season staged on Friday and Saturday, features three ballets which marry the poise and vocabulary of classical ballet with the wildly kinetic movement possibilities of the contemporary.

Calling to mind the traditional English rhyme, this mixed bill has "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue".

Something old is Natalie Weir's 4Seasons, which was first danced at the company's popular Ballet Under The Stars season last year. Choreographed for Singapore Dance Theatre and Australia's Expressions Dance Company, the ballet ebbs and flows with a mellow grace.

Weir's deliberate pairing of one dancer from each company made 4Seasons' four central duets soar with the evocative strains of Vivaldi's music. Singapore Dance Theatre's dancers lack the earthiness to step into their Australian counterparts' shoes, failing to elevate the duets beyond their spectacular physicality.

Something new is the company premiere of Val Caniparoli's Swipe, his 2011 creation for Richmond Ballet. The hyperactive piece is set to portions of String Quartet No 2 by Gabriel Prokofiev, and funky remixes of the original score. The choreography of jutting hips and arching backs seems interesting at first, but without much variation, the piece gradually becomes a monotonous automaton.

Swipe, though rooted in the formal language of classical ballet, is a nod to hip-hop and jazz with its deep lunges and undulations. The men have more mischievous swagger than the women, as they seem to race each other downstage with a series of quick footwork, much like b-boys doing the toprock before launching into a battle.

Closing the programme, Nils Christe's Fearful Symmetries borrows from the bustling energy of John Adams' and the immediately recognisable colour scheme of Piet Mondrian's abstract geometric paintings. Stools are stacked haphazardly in a pile, sat and stood on, as the cast forms fascinating tableaux that are revealed following a chalky white light masking the stage.

The brisk ballet is cleverly constructed, its episodic nature setting off fireworks of brilliance. Built from a simple running motif, Fearful Symmetries spirals into a subtly theatrical wonderland of bickering couples, broken dolls and barreling waves.

While the evening ends on a spirited high, the disappointing turnout is cause for feeling blue. With less than half of the University Cultural Centre Hall filled, it is a shame that the national ballet company is unable to garner more audience support for its most forward-thinking annual performance season. Perhaps artistic director Janek Schergen ought to have a silver sixpence in his shoe for good luck.

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