Singapore Dance Theatre’s (SDT) annual year-end performance, which happened this year from 5-8 December, showcased Swan Lake in its full glory, having teased a portion of it earlier this year at Ballet Under the Stars.
While this is not SDT’s first staging of Swan Lake, this is the first time the ballet is presented with a full live orchestra, the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra. What’s not to love about watching one of the greatest romantic ballets of all time accompanied by the live score created by none other than the great Tchaikovsky? It’s one of the reasons Swan Lake remains the most famous of all classical ballets – everyone will know many portions of the music.
Swan Lake is a familiar fairytale, and tells the story of Prince Siegfried (Kenya Nakamura), who upon coming of age has to find a bride. He meets Odette (Kana Minegishi) at a lake, who transforms from a beautiful swan into a woman, and he falls in love with her. Odette is cursed by the sorcerer Rothbart (Kensuke Yorozu) to only become human at night; her spell can only be broken upon the promise of true and everlasting love. But Rothbart is not letting that happen – during the Prince’s grand ball, Rothbart introduces Odile, the Black Swan, Rothbart’s daughter disguised as Odette. After he is tricked into confessing his love to Odile, the Prince heads to the lake to find Odette and fight Rothbart.
For the most part, Swan Lake can be described as an elegant performance, mainly showcasing the gracefulness of the female dancers. Highlights of the ballet include the entrance of the swans, whose formations were always on point, and the amusing dance of the four cygnets with their precision legwork.
However, it’s Act III that you should not miss – it’s where we get to see Odile perform the 32 fouettés, one of the most famous technical challenges in the whole of ballet (you can go dizzy trying to count them). What’s interesting to note is that the role of Odette and Odile is played by the same dancer, in this case Kana Minegishi. Even though it’s her debut role as Odette/Odile, she displays an elegant and expressive performance worthy of a seasoned dancer in the role. Kenya Nakamura, as the Prince, played a rather minor role, but he does shine whenever he does his tour en l’air (pirouettes in the air) or solos.
SDT’s version of the finale where Prince Siegfried fights Rothbart could be described as peculiar – it’s rare to see a male dancer lift another male dancer! Also, Rothbart defeats Siegfried twice before the Prince does something most people think would be unfair: he shoots Rothbart to death with a crossbow.
A special mention should go to the costumes, which were especially eye-catching during the ballroom scenes (the Court women and men wore heeled shoes for their performance!). In the audience, we could also see several women dressed in kimonos – perhaps as support to the Japanese-led performance.
As the closer to SDT’s 2019 season, Swan Lake definitely ended with a bang – the rousing cheer from the audience is a testament to the company’s great performance, and a great start to the holiday season.