[Review] Ballet Under the Stars (2018)

© Bernie Ng

Singapore Dance Theatre is currently staging its 23rd edition of Ballet Under The Stars. Back by popular demand, it’s spread over two weekends: 31 August – 2 September, and 7 – 9 September.

The first weekend’s performance delivers four uniquely different performances in a single evening, spanning everything from modern interpretive dance, to a highly stylised, classically inspired waltz piece.

The evening begins with The Four Temperaments, an emotive 4 “act” performance, alluding to the medieval belief in “humours” (ie. temperaments), that determine a person’s character, namely: Melancholic, Sanguinic, Phlegmatic, and Choleric. Each act brought forth different sets of dancers – as solo, pair, or group – who delivered emotion to the stage. This set serves as an introduction to the dancers – a sort of ‘appetiser’ of the evening, if you would.

© Bernie Ng

Taking a decidedly highly choreographed turn, the second piece, 13th Heaven is an emotive work created specifically for SDT by renowned choreographer Edwaard Liang. Staged to the backdrop of a giant illuminated moon, the dance evoked a sense of longing and belonging – with much of the choreography focused on principal artists Chihiro Uchida and Kenya Nakamura. What makes this piece stand out is the group choreography – there’s something different happening on each section of the stage.

Dancers move solo, in pairs, and en masse, as the tempo ebbs and flows, injecting moments of intense action, set against intimate interludes, as the dancers weave in and out of tightly choreographed set pieces, accompanied by Oliver Davis’ moving score which navigates its way through a range of human emotions, at times dipping to eerily emotive lulls, only to reverberate back in sudden, exuberant explosions.

© Bernie Ng

As an interlude, Nocturne was a departure from the evening’s main programme, as SDT’s promising young troupe of pre-professional dancers took the stage. It combined elements of classical dance with a certain youthful joie de vivre and modern dance thanks to its incorporation of arm movements rarely seen in classic ballet.

The evening ended on a rousing note, with its final piece Midnight Waltzes. Choreographed by François Klaus, it’s mainly set to the waltz score of Johann Strauss. The piece is an interwoven tale of various young couples, as they meet, mingle, and in some cases, find love, during a grand Viennese-style ball. The piece allows both the individual virtuosity of SDT’s principal dancers like Chihiro Uchida and Li Jie to shine, as well as the entire SDT troupe especially in the large set pieces, as they seamless mix the rigorous movements of a classical waltz with exquisite artistic flair as they literally float across the stage.

© Bernie Ng

All in all, it was a delightful evening under the stars with an outstanding performance by SDT’s artists. The next performance takes place on the weekend of 7-9 September, this time dedicated to masterpieces by Singapore choreographer Choo-San Goh. The evening will present some of his most iconic works with Schubert Symphony, Unknown Territory and Fives.

Catch the second weekend of Ballet Under the Stars, with tickets available via SISTIC at $35.