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Production

Continuum

Company

Singapore Dance Theatre

Reviewer

Stephanie Burridge

Date

13/06/2008

Time

8.00pm

Place

Esplanade Theatre

Rating

***

Still Journeying

An arts festival is a platform for experimentation and creativity - in this context, Singapore Dance Theatre's Continuum was a rather sedate offering and, even allowing for opening-night jitters, I didn't feel the dancers looked comfortable in any of the pieces.

Graham Lustig's Evening started the proceedings on a sombre note. The choreography required principal dancer Chen Peng to begin several sections with a pirouette into a held arabesque position - a difficult move that set up an amount of dramatic tension between the dancer and the audience. Although there were some interesting moments and the choreography was full of poetic imagery and wistful Romanticism, overall, the tone of the piece danced in dark costumes to a Benjamin Britten score looked passé. It was in the realm of a repertory piece rather than one appropriate for the opening of a festival programme.

David Dawson's A Million Kisses to My Skin to Bach's Piano Concerto No 1 was the most successful piece of the evening for the company - the dancers threw themselves joyfully into this light work and showed their marvellous leg extensions and precise pointe work. The partnering was also caring and brought the right nuance and sensibility to this exuberant piece. The SDT women looked fantastic in this high-energy choreography that really showed their talents and the pale blue leotards which revealed their muscular strength and extreme flexibility - it was refreshing to see them take charge of the choreography and make it their own as they exploded around the stage. The men did well but they need tighter footwork as well as cleaner turns and leaps in order to match up to the women.

Expectations were high for Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo's Glow-Stop. It began well but as it progressed, the energy flagged and the company, sporting luxurious red velvet costumes, could neither sustain the articulation of the intricate gestures nor achieve some much-needed emotional engagement between each other and the audience. There should have been fire and passion in this highly innovative work. Instead, the dancers struggled to keep pace with the beautiful, complex choreography that required a good dose of wit, playfulness and nonchalance juxtaposed with superb technical wizardry. Glow-Stop is a piece of the moment that captures all the elements of the new style of virtuosic classical ballet that challenges dancers in its form and content. Audiences have responded well to these new ballets and this is a marvellous addition to the SDT's repertoire if they can invest time in uncovering the intention of every moment and nail the technique.

The triple bill offered by the SDT featured strong choreography and showed the dancers' ever-evolving technical skill and confidence. Nothing was really fresh in the programme, however, and the company pushed diligently through the choreography rather than transcending it to dance with spirit. The SDT should have taken the title to heart and truly embark on a journey of self-development. Instead, it left the audience short-changed in terms of emotional engagement with the performance as the company still needs more time to pull off the demands of this programme.


"The company pushed diligently through the choreography rather than transcending it to dance with spirit. "

Credits

(Evening, 1989)
Choreography: Graham Lustig
Music: Benjamin Britten, Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings

(A Million Kisses to My Skin, 2000)
Choreography: David Dawson
Music: Bach, Piano Concerto No 1

(Glow-Stop, 2006)
Choreography: Jorma Elo
Music: Mozart and Philip Glass

More Reviews of Productions by the Singapore Dance Theatre

More Reviews by Stephanie Burridge

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