Monday, July 31, 2006


An evening of mixed bill of classical work and new works but company members. This outdoor event began with a bring your-own-picnic-basket, followed by a hip hop act performed by a school of teenagers. Their number looked unrehearsed as lines were not properly placed, and unison were not taken seriously.
The main event, Singapore Dance Theatre's Ballet Under the Stars kicked off later than the published time. It was delayed for 20 minutes. It began with Petipa's Raymonda Act III. As stated in the given programme that the original choreographer was Marius Petipa, however, the choreography performed by the dancers were changed, and adapted. Of such, the Tarantella solo, performed by Chihiro Uchida, was changed, losing the demi character essence and quality in the use of epaulment. The stage seemed too small for the staging of this act. Dancers in the corp seemed to be struggling to avoid kicking their legs into each other's body.
Zhou Lin and Fu Liang took center stage as the main principal couple. Zhou Lin demonstrated assured technique, however, she was behind the music in most instances, and her interpretation as the leading Raymonda was a disappointment. Fu Liang demonstrated strong and assured technique, showing off virtuosity and style. However, in general, the entire cast did not provide enough entertainment for this number. As an audience, it looked like the dancers were doing steps instead of dancing. Expressionless throughout a wedding number, one may assumed that Petipa will not be pleased with that.

Thierry Malandain's Dying Swan did it for me. The concept behind the piece was done beautifully. He approached Fokine's solo with a twist and modernism. He adapted 3 women, with 3 solos using the same music, but 3 different movement motifs, but still sharing the same theme and style. Natalie Clarke, Zhou Lin, and Sakura Shimizu, each dancer with different physicality, and style of moving looked splendid and priceless in their individual solos. This piece is quirky, soulful and yet meaningful.
Tan Yaling's Mozart was up next. In marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of the classical composer, Yaling created a piece where one dancer, Mohd Noor danced the title role, and 2 other couples. Mohd Noor performed his solo with confidence and ease. His movements were carefully crafted and he made the solo succelent and captivating.
Sakura Shimizu's Reflections of Dusk was a short piece performed by 5 males and 1 female dancer. It was lyrical but the movement vocabulary was closely mirrored to the previous number, and the following piece, Robert Mills' Paradise Falling.
Singapore Dance Theatre is flooded with Chinese export dancers, with 1 female dancer who is native, and a couple of Australians and Japanese. It seemed apparent that the company's strength still lies in contemporary ballet works.


The final show at the Linbury for the Royal Ballet School was a galore of excitement, joy of dancing, and promising showmanship from every performer.
The size of the stage proved to be one of the challenges for the dancers, especially in the mass pieces. In La Bayadere - Waltz from Act 1, 18 dancers tried their best not to thread on each other's feet, and arabesques. Despite the lack of space, extensions and lines were not compromised. Majority of the dancers are in their 1st year, and they displayed nothing less than their seniors.

Bethany West's Dark Twist showed strong potential. Swan Lake - Pas de Douze from Act 1 seemed to show off more of the boys then the girls. Step by Step by Vanessa Fenton was an interesting piece. The dancers displayed wonderful technique and great personality. It was a delight to watch Ruth Bailey, winner of Phyllis Bedells Bursary 2006 and former Young British Dancer of the Year, perfomed with confidence and assurance. Special mention of Year 7's Anna Rose O'Sullivan, who danced the central role in the 3rd Movement, was professional and at ease with her solo. I enjoyed Step by Step greatly, all the dancers seemed to sparkle and shine on the small stage, with smiles that looked like they are genuinely enjoying their time on stage, sharing their joy of dancing with the audience.

Colour Blind by Leigh Alderson was a captivating piece. Despite the unfortunate wrong cueing of music and late lightings, resulting in an encouraging applause from the audience, and some giggle from both dancers, Leigh Alderson and Jade Hale-Christofi, and the audience; the piece was fascinating. Both dancers excelled in their own strength in Alderson's choreography. Alderson showed off his linearity and expression, whilst Hale-Christofi exhibit expressive dancing and strength. There was deep meaning behind the innovative choreographic movements, which could be perhaps performed by a male and female. But both male dancers were very involved and focused, synchronising each others' line and movement. This was one of the highlight pieces for me that evening.

Don Quixote - Excerpts from Act 3 were dominated by the stars students of the evening, Adeline Kaiser and Sergiy Polunin. Adeline Kaiser, winner of Prix de Lausanne "Scholarship" in 2005, and Sergiy Polunin, winner of Prix de Lausanne 2006 and Youth America Grand Prix 2006. Kaiser's Kitri was performed with wit and maturity. The repertoire work of her solo was adapted to display her breathtaking balances in arabesques (Each balance lasted about 8 counts/ a full phrase of the music). Her 32 fouettes looked like a norm to her. Polunin was simply remarkable. He handled his role as Basil with zest, and boyish cheekiness. One could almost see traces of Baryshinikov's flavor in his dancing. Polunin looked like he was flying across the stage in all his leaps. His leaps and turns were assured and perfomed at ease. Both dancers made the pas de deux looked easy peasy. During their curtain call, Polunin whispered/mouthed thank you as he took his bow after his solo. Both audience and him were appreciative of each other.

Jabula was an amazing piece to conclude the program. It brought out the versatility of the dancers. Captivating dancing from Hale-Christofi, Kaiser and Alderson. I thought the partnership between Hale-Christofi and Kaiser was marvellous. Both dancers seemed highly engrossed into the mood of the piece, and into their characters, they literally owned the stage. Alderson, once again, establishing superb emotions and dancing in his solo. The challenging lifts and partnerwork were handled with outstanding flair. Jabula indeed made the dancers looked a million dollar.

It must have be a meaningful performance for the performers, the teachers, the parents and friends. Bravo to all the dancers. All the hard work certainly paid off. Each and everyone of you are stars that shone ever so brightly, showcasing so much promise and aptitude. Congratulations to all. Thank you for putting up a brilliant show, and to share your joy with us.


The final night performance was simply wonderful. All the dancers were on fine fettle. Wordsworth and his orchestra were fantastic too. The entire company's performance seemed to be further enhanced from their opening night, assuming it was their final night, hence less nerves, and being their final show for the season before the tour, everyone just gave their all.
Gordon's Rake's Progress was definitely a masterpiece, just as Wordsworth once mentioned in the Insight Evening. Special part of the ballet that touches my heart was watching Laura Morera as the Betrayed Girl in Rake's Progress and the music in all her solos. I cannot imagine who else would be a better Rake than Johan Kobborg. He seemed to be technically and dramatically at ease with the role.

In the Divertissements, each and everyone of the dancers in their respective roles were remarkable. I could not fish out specifically who was the best, as they are so diverse in terms of characterisation and choreography.

Viacheslav Samodurov in Satan's Solo was majestic, he was fully in control of the music and the stage. His final pose is contradictorily a glorious moment (to me). Zenaida's Dante's Sonata solo was beautifully performed. Amidst the violent head-banging action (which I thought made her hair portray an illusion of a mohican hairstyle), she contrasted it with the fluid use of arms and body.

Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta's Romeo and Juliet was extremely touching. Both of them just do magic to these roles. Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares were fantastic in Elite Syncopations, she was such a delight to watch. Her glowing personality and his charm did wonders to the pas de deux.

Apart from being musically and technically strong, Miyako Yoshida illuminate the joy and love of dance when she is dancing, perhaps this is the x-factor for a beautiful dancer.

Thank goodness for a modern number in the program to show the versatility of Royal Ballet dancers, McGregor's Qualia was an appropriate choice. Both Edward Watson and Leanne Benjamin was extraordinary and captivating.

Homage to the Queen was marvellous. Special mention, Federico Bonelli's Earth solo, which he danced effortlessly with expansiveness and grace, Lauren Cuthbertson and Laura Morera for being a pair of beautiful and contrasting dancers, enhancing and glorifying their individual qualities and, last but not least, Steven McRae, for doing the impossible.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening. Glorious dancing, glorious music. I was left speechless after the evening's performance. Huge thank you to Monica Mason for a sensational season, and what a superb program to end

Friday, July 07, 2006


Hofesh Shechter
deGENERATION: ‘Cult’, ‘Fragments’, ‘Uprising’
June 2006
London, The Place
It was a wonderful evening of interesting choreography showcase. It showed off Shechter's distinctive style and movement vocabulary.
"Cult" kicked off with an intimidating atmosphere. Total darkness, with loud pumping beats. It carried on for a couple of minutes, which was enough to increase the pulse rates in the audience, and create an impact psychologically. The dancing was strong and definite, all dancers displayed strong stamina and confidence. Shecter's use of space, and choreographic devices created a considerably harmonious effect.
The second piece, a duo, performed by Chris Evans and Claire-Laure Berthier, extended Shechter's movement vocabulary to a new level. Both dancers performed in solos and unison, and very much involved in their character. "Fragments" demonstrates good use of space and creative use of the music. The lightings set for this piece were soft and endearing, enhancing the partnership of the dancers. Personally, I felt this piece strongly brings out the best in the choreographer and his dancers.
"Uprising" commenced with seven men storming towards the audience with a menancing intent to finish right at the tip of downstage in a balance in a retire position. They dispersed into either side of the stage, as the lights began to change. The stage was black and bare, illustrating a fairground for battle royal. One of the motif Shecter used, was an ape-like travelling movement where the dancers were on all fours, darting across the stage. In addition, Shecter used some familiar movements of common male behaviour on the football field. The dancers were running frantically with the body at an angle, almost 60 degrees to the floor, with legs kicking behind, and arms in a 'T' position. (A movement commonly seen on the soccer field when a player scored a goal) Halfway through the piece, all seven men came together in a circle in the middle of the stage. One by one, gave the dancer standing next to him a hard pat on the shoulders, which slowly lead to a very realistic wrestle, without the sound effect. (It reminded me of a scene from David Fincher's Fight Club (1999), starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.) For me, this simple and naturalistic choreographed mayhem, was the climax of this piece. "Uprising" began at a steady pace, which build up to this point, and it ended almost the same as the beginning, which was quite steady and expected. Shechter incorporated the same choreographic formula he had in the previous two pieces into "Uprising", sharing unison, duos and trios, change in level, change in speed of movement and directions.
I agreed with Graham's views about the sound system. The music for "Uprising" was blatant and excruciating to the eardrums. There is no need for loud music to create an impact, it will only cause discomfort to the audience, unless that is the objective of the choreography.