Bits and Pieces
Stylish, sexy and slick - that is what best describes the choreography in Singapore Dance Theatre's (SDT) latest production Impressions.
As its title aptly indicated, the triple bill presented "impressions"
of contemporary dance in different styles: Negro Y Blanco,
a tango-inspired piece by resident choreographer Jeffrey Tan; Seasons
of Buenos Aires by Argentinean Mauricio Wainrot; and Czech choreographer
Jirí Kylián's seminal Stamping Ground.
I especially liked the body-hugging costumes which accentuated the taut,
trained lines of the dancers.
The standout of the evening was Stamping Ground. Inspired by Australian aboriginal dance and culture, this 1983 work is still so innovative and fresh despite being 24 years old. Kylián sought new inspiration for his choreography in Australia and set out to refresh his dance vocabulary - the result is a sensual, animistic voyage that explores relationships between people, the earth and their spirituality.
The dancers performed the difficult choreography credibly, though they lacked the movement quality to pull it off. Kylián observed how the indigenous Australian dancers were able to spring swiftly from the ground, move rapidly and freeze suddenly; and use simple rhythms, including clapping and body percussion. Such sharp, dynamic changes, however, are difficult for contemporary dancers who are trained to move fluidly, and the low centre of gravity required in this work is difficult to sustain for classical dancers who are trained to be light on their feet.
The dancers also ran into difficulties in Seasons of Buenos Aires. It required passion and an exaggerated use of the torso, but the grey-clad dancers performed tentatively and looked tired instead. The finale of the night faded away rather than ended in a bang.
The dancers performed better in Tan's new Negro Y Blanco, which began well with photographic poses incorporating clean lines and interesting forms that were highlighted by the black and white costumes. Tan's concept and style played to the company's strengths and is an attractive piece.
As the work progressed, however, it seemed to dissolve emotionally and be sustained by a series of gimmicky images, rather than engagement between the groups of dancers. For example, lowered on stage was a frame representing a musical score, but the dancers moved around this in a simplistic way, rather than utilising this set piece to enhance the interest of the dance. Still, with some reworking, I believe it can find a place in the company's repertoire.
Overall, the dancers showed some superb lines and danced credibly. However, the choreography of each piece was so demanding that they still fell short of expectations. Each work required unique qualities that stretched the performers beyond their capabilities. The SDT is not alone in facing this problem; it is a dilemma for any repertory dance company that attempts to engage its audiences with a range of choreography. Still, it was a bold programme and the SDT should be applauded for bringing such world-class choreography to Singapore.
Ratings out of 5, based on
Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent /