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Production

Ballet Under The Stars

Company

Singapore Dance Theatre

Reviewer

Malcolm Tay

Date

20/07/2007

Time

5.00pm

Place

Fort Canning Green

Rating

***1/2

Lost In The Woods

What is the appeal of Ballet Under The Stars? Am I the only one who would rather view proscenium-framed theatrical dancing indoors? Yes, apparently, because every year, Singapore Dance Theatre’s outdoor performance season draws the kind of numbers that its main house programme doesn’t get. Me, I put up with the mozzies and thoughtless crowds only to see the new works, which so far seem to have no stage life beyond Fort Canning Green. Shouldn't BUTS be a platform for sustainable choreography?

This year, the SDT gave pre-show stage time to three homegrown dance groups and dancers from 21 primary and secondary schools. Most of the juvenilia on opening night was decent, a few of them too dreadful to remember. The audience also thrilled to the pageantry and wushu acrobatics in Dance Ensemble Singapore’s Beauty of Tradition, one-third of a 30-minute showcase that included a piece each by Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts and Bhaskar’s Arts Academy. These guest performances by the local groups, billed collectively as Roots of Asia’s Rhythm, were, however, basically trifles: pleasant but serviceable arrangements of classical and folk numbers. They did little beyond giving the dancers something to do, as if the SDT needed them on the programme to fill some sort of ethnic-dance quota. A shame, surely, even if BUTS is usually not the occasion to present more demanding fare because of the mainstream crowd it usually attracts.

The host company remained the troupe to watch. Among the trio of premieres, none of which were plot-based, the most convincing piece was resident choreographer Jeffrey Tan’s Breath of Love, a lyric ode in the early style of Czech master Jirí Kylián. Tan was likely inspired by his one-month stint in Madrid at the Compañia Nacional de Danza, whose artistic director Nacho Duato used to dance under Kylián’s direction in the Netherlands. I felt, however, that there was a little too much that bore the Kylián stamp, from the solemn procession that began the ballet, which left behind one couple staring upstage, to the spacious physicality and the push-pull tensions of the dancers’ close partnering. We’d seen more of the same in the few Kylián creations that the SDT had acquired in recent years. Nonetheless, the dancers thrived in this modern-balletic mode, as well they should have.

Bookending the evening were contributions by former and current ballet masters of the SDT. Edmund Stripe, now with the Alberta Ballet in Calgary, set his Piano Concerto No. 2 to Shostakovich’s score of the same name. Thirteen black-clad dancers echoed the brisk musical passages with fast, beating footwork and quick shifts in direction, although at times they fudged a few steps. On this occasion, the ensemble had suffered injuries and so, unfortunately, had to omit the middle duet segment of this three-part work. Paul de Masson’s La Rose Malade, the shortest SDT offering of the night, completed the line-up. Four couples, clustered together like a bouquet, unravelled from the group in slow reverie. Long, lingering lifts suggested romantic longing and heartbreak in turn, the women arching back or hanging limp in their partners’ arms. It was compact, to the point - and, sadly, unlikely to be seen again.


"I put up with the mozzies and thoughtless crowds only to see the new works, which so far seem to have no stage life beyond Fort Canning Green."

Credits

Choreography: Paul de Masson (La Rose Malade), Jeffrey Tan (Breath of Love), Edmund Stripe (Piano Concerto No. 2, Opus 102)

Dancers: Alexandra Sklavos, Chihiro Uchida, Jin Shuyi, Kellie van der Ploeg, Lee Pei Nee, Liu Xiaomi, Natalie Clarke, Sakura Shimizu, Xia Haiying, Zhou Lin, Bryan Chan, Chen Peng, Chen Wei, Robert Mills, Toru Okada, Zhang Jun

More Reviews by Malcolm Tay

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.