Coppelia, a whimsical love story involving a mechanical doll, kicks off Singapore Dance Theatre's new season

Coppelia, a light-hearted love story involving a doll, was last performed by the Singapore Dance Theatre in 2013.
Coppelia, a light-hearted love story involving a doll, was last performed by the Singapore Dance Theatre in 2013.PHOTO: NICOLETHEN STUDIO

Singapore Dance Theatre kicks off celebration with the theme Season Of Bliss starting with Coppelia, a whimsical love story

The Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) is hitching up its tutu skirt in celebration as it turns 29 this year with the theme Season Of Bliss.

"Everybody needs a little bliss," artistic director Janek Schergen, 65, tells The Straits Times.

"I always say that going for classical music concerts is like going to church - it centres me and makes me feel good. It tells me who I am. That's what I hope coming to a ballet performance does," he says.

Kicking off the season is Coppelia, a whimsical and light-hearted love story involving a mechanical doll. The full-length ballet, which was last performed by the company in 2013, will be staged at the Esplanade Theatre from March 16 to 19.

The theme of bliss also extends to the second weekend of the popular Ballet Under The Stars series from Sept 8 to 10, which has a wedding theme.

Wedding scenes in Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote will be performed. In contrast, the first weekend, from Sept 1 to 3, will focus on contemporary creations.

Also fitting the theme of bliss is children's ballet, Peter & Blue's Birthday Party (June 8 to 11), and the festive favourite The Nut- cracker (Dec 6 to 10).

The company's 2017 season also features its annual international repertory and contemporary series, with a number of company and world premieres.

Masterpiece In Motion returns with three works by international choreographers on July 8 and 9. These include the company premiere of The Four Temperaments by American ballet master George Balanchine and a new ballet choreographed for the Singapore Dance Theatre by Taiwanese-American Edwaard Liang.

Passages, the company's annual contemporary season, takes place from Nov 3 to 5.

This season will also see the world premiere of a work created for the company by Japanese choreographer Toru Shimazaki.

In the midst of all that is a tour to Malaysia and showings in Australia, Switzerland and Indonesia.

But even as the company kicks off the year in high spirits, Schergen tempers the mood with a dose of reality.

At the media preview for the company's new season, he notes that the Singapore Dance Theatre seems better favoured by people outside Singapore - for example, it has been featured in Dance Europe magazine and has had to turn down an invitation to perform at New York's Lincoln Center because the company did not have enough funds.

"Very often, people in Singapore will ask me what the company is doing and they will have the least understanding the nearer they are," he says, adding that the company can only "do the best we can do and keep trying to get that message out".

He also holds out hope that the company can get more funds - whether through government grants, fund-raising efforts or box-office sales - to be able to have an orchestra perform live for its shows, hire more teachers and stage new full-length ballets.

Schergen, who has been helming SDT since 2008, says that one thing the company continues to take pride in is the hiring of more Singaporeans.

Of its 37 full-time artists, eight are Singaporean.

The two newest Singaporean members are apprentices Valerie Yeo, 19, and Leane Lim, 21, both graduates from the Central School of Ballet in London. They will be performing in Coppelia next month.

Incidentally, Yeo's mother, Ms Jenny Chang, was one of SDT's first dancers in the 1990s.

Yeo says: "I grew up watching the company because my mum would take me to the Esplanade for its performances. She shaped my love for ballet and she's quite happy that I've joined the company."

Schergen says: "Yeo is a second- generation SDT dancer. I think that is quite spectacular."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2017, with the headline 'Turning 29 with bliss'. Print Edition | Subscribe