[Review] SDT’s 30th Anniversary Gala

@ Bernie Ng

Singapore Dance Theatre celebrated its 30th anniversary with four stunning masterpieces on 27th and 28th July. The team of 40 ballet dancers brought a simply flawless performance, aweing the audience with their effortless execution of the challenging choreography by local choreographer Choo-San Goh, together with Timothy Harbour and Nils Christe.

The first act, Double Contrasts, was one of Choo-San’s first ballets that actually stood the test of time as he choreographed it originally for The Washington Ballet back in the 1970s. Clad in full black or full white, the two groups of dancers performed to two duelling piano sets; one set being full of energy and youthful enthusiasm and the other more sophisticated in nature. The transitions between the two moods were almost perfect in both the music and the dance, in spite of the quick pace of this piece which should have been pretty technically challenging for the dancers. It was almost magical when the two colours collided; black and white intertwined, melding into an altogether picturesque scene onstage.

Double Contrasts. Photo by Bernie Ng

Also choreographed by Choo-San, Configurations pas de deux was my favourite piece out of all four acts, starring principal artists Chihiro Uchida and Kenya Nakamura. The pair, in spite of their lithe figures, managed to fill the stage and beyond, reaching out to the audience with this emotional piece. While the previous piece was more exhilarating and even showy, this piece tugged at the heartstrings. Configurations pas de deux was a tribute to the durable values of Choo-San’s craft and art; a portrait of personalities and relationships and how two people can be so involved with each other yet remain self-absorbed in worlds that utterly diverge. The duo eased every bit of that emotion out with flawless lifts and plenty of chemistry, leaving the audience in quiet awe. It was simply breathtaking.

Configurations. Photo by Bernie Ng

The next act saw the World Premiere of Linea Adora by Timothy Harbour of the Australian Ballet. Linea Adora translates from latin as ‘the adoration of lines’ and true enough, the lines were immaculate in this piece — truly a treat for the eyes, especially since I’m a sucker for all things nice and neatly arranged. There’s just something so satisfying about watching a whole troupe of 32 dancers celebrate the beauty of lines, both in the individual shapes they make — all arms in uniform angles, formations all on point (or shall I say, en pointe) — and in the configurations of this ensemble. The dramatic mood changes and swift pace of the music did not waver the dancers as well as they remained strong and poised throughout this powerful piece.

Linea Adora. Photo by Bernie Ng

SYNC was performed last and boy, what a way to end the show, Choreographed by Nils Christe, this ballet piece felt a little more contemporary and dynamic as compared to the structured, more traditional steps of the previous few items. The tribal-like music brought a little spice to the whole piece and the usage of the barre upstage was unexpected and probably a little risky, with the dancers losing their grip every now and then, but it was still overall very impressive. Throughout the item, the stage was consistently used to its fullest extent — there was something going on at every corner most of the time — which could have gone wrong if not for the disciplined and well-trained dancers. Nobody stuck out like a sore thumb in a choreography that supposed to be absolutely synchronised (as its name suggests) which was quite an amazing feat considering that there were 27 dancers of different sizes to coordinate.

SYNC. Photo by Bernie Ng

Overall, the gala was definitely something I’d watch again. Every item was unique in its own way and the dancers remained strong yet graceful through it all, exuding the right emotions and blending in effortlessly with the music. Also, kudos to Chihiro Uchiha, for truly stealing the limelight. She deserved every solo moment — and there were quite a few – on stage, with her beautiful lines and excellent form.

By Rachel Lim