To naysayers who insist you can’t make a living from dancing in Singapore, the 37 Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) dancers’ performances on Esplanade’s stage on May 31 and Jun 1 proved just how wrong they are.
Collectively, they traced how far Singapore’s first professional dance troupe has come in 25 years when it started with just 7 dancers. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen a ballet production before. One thing’s for sure, SDT’s 25th anniversary gala is sure to blow you away with the stunning performances they have to offer, which includes precise movements, charming intricacies and beautiful visual effects.
The gala celebration was a fitting showcase of its best works from the company’s repertoire ranging from classical to contemporary ballet.
“We want to look good on stage especially for this anniversary gala that represents what we have achieved during these 25 years as a company,” Chihiro Uchida, a senior artist at SDT, tells UrbanWire.
The 25th Anniversary Gala was nothing short of pure elegance. The night started off with Serenade by George Balanchine. The ballet was a gracefully executed piece, against the stunning royal blue backdrop, where the dancers were almost floating, flawlessly in sync with one another. With every graceful leap and pointe comes a soundless echo, showing how the dancers effortlessly controlled their weight shift. It was truly a breath-taking opening as they perfectly executed the signature piece of the New York City Ballet, setting the bar for the night.
The company has come a long way since its inception. When it started, the 7 dancers trained on the second storey of a rundown colonial bungalow on Killiney road. Just last year, the 37 dancers started practising in the gleaming bright Bugis+ mall. Its new premise boasts 20,500 sq ft, and four large studios for the dancers.
When it was time for Beginnings by the late and renowned choreographer Goh Choo San who co-founded the troupe, the crowd was taken back in time to 1988, when SDT first performed. The moment it began, the 2 couples, Beatrice Castañeda & Nazer Salgado and Kwok Min Yi & Ryo Suzuki, were nail-bitingly dramatic, as they explored the intense yet intimate dynamics in a relationship. Watching the dancers seemingly telling their love story was akin to seeing a drama unfold right before your eyes.
A piece that got the audience excited was ZIN! by Dutch choreographer Nils Christe. It was an attention-grabbing piece, because you’d hardly associate the high art form of ballet with something as commonplace as soccer. Yet, here we have 7 dancers that were supposedly mimicking a warm-up routine for a football match, with a touch of witty humour thrown in. The dancers sported red and white outfits, and whistles that were blown continuously to time with the bubbly upbeat tempo of the music “Serra Pelada” by Philip Glass.
Despite being a physically demanding and energetic piece, the dancers hardly showed a hint of fatigue; their grins stretched from ear to ear throughout the routine. The item hit a high when the dancers surprised us with the use of a canon of playful butt bumping, drawing loud cheers from the audience.
The highlight of the gala, however, was the world premiere of OPUS 25 by award-winning Chinese-American choreographer Edwaard Liang. The piece d’occasion was a specially commissioned work that featured the entire company of dancers, bringing out the strengths of each dancer as they brought out the fullness of the choreography, starting off with strong sharp movements, powerful lifts and tricks, and then transitioning to a dreamlike state, where the dancers had so much fluidity in their movement, it was almost like as if they were corals swaying in the sea. It was definitely a night to remember for both the audience and dancers.
For many dancers, SDT is more than just a dance company; it’s part of their life. Speaking to UrbanWire before the show, Kwok Min Yi, a Singaporean-born apprentice dancer with SDT, says, “Watching performances by SDT has been a part of my childhood, which is why it will always have a place in my heart.”