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Masterpiece in Motion

August 25, 2012
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Event: “Masterpiece in Motion” presented by Singapore Dance Theatre
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Run: 24th & 25th Aug 2012

Works Of Artistic Pleasure

The Singapore Dance Theatre had kindly invited us to attend their third annual showcase of “Masterpiece in Motion”, which presents works of international standard and of the finest choreography to audiences here in Singapore.

This being one of the very rare occasions I watch a dance performance, I entered the Esplanade Theatre with as open a mind as I could, hoping to draw as much as possible from this fascinating artform which is always so inextricably linked with the world of music.

And it was through this link with music that I managed to find a familiar footing, and what better way to kick things off with George Balanchine’s “Divertimento No. 15”, which was the first of the evening’s three dance pieces.

This ballet is based on the five-movement Mozart composition, which the legendary Balanchine incidentally deemed as the finest divertimento ever written.

The light and playful music of Mozart, especially his divertimentos, lends itself perfectly to a neoclassical ballet such as this, and it was a delight to see the five female soloists and three leading male dancers, together with an ensemble of eight women, prance delicately around on stage with a combination of solos and duets as well.

I thought the three leading male dancers did especially well, and I was constantly transfixed by their performance.

The second piece “Chant” was a world premiere, and was choreographed by Val Caniparoli, who had flown in a month ago to work extensively with the SDT dancers to create this piece.

“Chant”, set to the music of Lou Harrison’s “Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with Javanese Gamelan”, was an interesting study in shadings.

The first movement was a dark and even hypnotic affair with the loud, steady thumping of the gamelan giving rise to deeply sensual movements, while in the second movement the gamelan sounds disappear, leaving the music to take on a flavour suggestive of a European folk-dance, with the dancers performing grander, sweeping movements.

The third and final movement sees a return of the gamelan, which immediately brought a slower, darker tone back to the dance, and midway through the movement the music suddenly soars into a distinctly Oriental phase (use of pentatonic scale) where the strings almost mimic the sounds of the erhu.

The piece ends off with the gamelan making a final appearance and the choreography making nods to Javanese dance sensibilities with angular movements and all.

Choreographer Caniparoli was on hand at the end of the piece to soak in the well-deserved applause and appreciation.

The final piece of the evening was Edwaard Liang’s “Age of Innocence”, choreographed to the music of Philip Glass and Thomas Newman.

“Age of Innocence” was inspired by the Jane Austen novels and the women of her era, and explores the complications of male-female relationships.

The five-movement piece was characterised by passion and vitality, and the sight of the large red velvety drawing room curtains as a backdrop from the start indicated that this was to be no frivolous affair.

The first movement was full of vitality, while things took an even more sensual and carnal feel in the second movement.

The third movement was particularly riveting with the pulsating music giving a sense of disequilibrium with its constantly changing time signatures, and with the scintillating choreography following suit.

The fourth movement was probably the highlight of the piece, showcasing a long, protracted mating dance between passionate lovers, played to the red-blooded soundtrack of a symphony of cellos, and finally, in the last movement the full ensemble comes back on stage in full Baroquian splendour, not before rounding things off ever so nicely with the introduction of the sombre piano tones at the end, giving the entire dance a soft, wistful, and contemplative touch to end things off.

Liang, similarly, was on hand at the end of the piece to receive the appluase as well.

The three pieces on offer last evening were varied in their styles and genre, but regardless, one can see the sheer power and magnetism of dance when the genius of choreography, together with competent execution, is matched seemlessly with beautiful music.

Truly masterpieces in motion, in every sense of the phrase.

Many thanks to the Singapore Dance Theatre for organising such a wonderful showcase.

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