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Singapore Dance Theatre


Stephanie Burridge






Esplanade Theatre Studio



Double the Pleasure

Singapore Dance Theatre embraced the title of the season at the da:ns festival, Shift, in staging ReDoubled in the Theatre Studio space at the Esplanade. The move was quite remarkable in many ways, irrespective of the two interesting works that made up the programme. For a company that is used to staging productions in large proscenium theatres, the move to a black box is courageous. Both philosophically and physically it lets the dance community know that the company is willing to experiment and push the comfort zones of the dancers. For regular SDT fans, some of the performers were almost unrecognisable - we do not usually see them close up, with flying hair and especially with minimalist costumes. This opened the way for exciting new possibilities.

Shift was a headlong dive into contemporary dance. The movement vocabulary, the ideas and the performance qualities required by the two choreographers, Jeffrey Tan and Kuik Swee Boon, pushed the dancers to their limits physically and emotionally. Both works were penetrating, soul searching and desolate. The dancers inhabited a zone pervaded by pessimism and loneliness, in contrast to the optimistic, romantic world of classical ballet. Singapore Dance Theatre is known for its versatility and its dancers certainly rose to the occasion - there were some performances and images that were unforgettable. It is a rare treat for emerging choreographers to be able to create their works with dancers of this calibre; the SDT dancers allowed the imagination of the choreographers to work without technical limitations, and the clarity of their performances added considerably to the success of the two pieces.

Jeffrey Tan's Sometimes I Think I Remember incorporated text, projections and a few set pieces: a ramp, a sofa and a swing. This highly theatrical work expounded a pessimistic view of life, oscillating between the musings of the central character (danced by William Wu) and the dancing of a small ensemble, though it was somewhat melodramatic in places. Tan showed his mastery of contemporary movement and the group work in particular incorporated interesting rhythms. Although part of the dance explored relationships, this aspect needed to be more focused and layered. For instance, a scene of a disconsolate couple on a sofa was awkward and did not contribute to the overall development of the dance. Like many choreographers who want to incorporate an "emotional narrative" into their work, Tan failed to solve the problem of transitioning between movement sequences and acting sections.

This was not true of Kuik Swee Boon in his new work Pellucid. Through his simplicity and his opening up the vast space from wall to wall, he achieved a much more intimate and cohesive baring of the soul. This was assisted by lithe physical presence of extraordinary dancer Chihiro Uchido in a stunning performance. Her introspective, haunting portrayal of internal isolation juxtaposed against external manipulation was one of the best of this year's festival. The choreography included a series of small-scale movement images - one section on a mat on the floor upstage in the corner, another on a stool where she was illuminated by a light held by a dancer, another at a side wall which she groped hew way along propped up by another dancer. This was inspired choreography where there was no gratuitous movement, no superfluous imagery, just a completely focused performance that had a truthful nakedness. Overall the piece was beautiful and enigmatic - it invited the audience to reflect on their own experiences without being too literal.

Singapore is currently experiencing a new wave of choreographers and this year's da:ns festival has showcased several of them. Tan and Kuik are leaders in this development and their talents were clearly visible in this engrossing and challenging double bill.

"The movement vocabulary and the ideas pushed the dancers to their limits physically and emotionally"


Choreography: Jeffrey Tan (Sometimes I Think I Remember) and Kuik Swee Boon (Pellucid)

Dancers: Singapore Dance Theatre

Lighting Designer: Suven Chen

Sometimes I Think I Remember: Music by Ho Wen Yang and Stephen Stanfield, poem by Sophian Subhan, Videography by Cha Chee Seng and Jeffrey Tan.

Pellucid - Music by Darren Ng, Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

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.