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  1. What's Singapore Dance Theatre's ("SDT") Don Quixote? A blast of non-stop energetic engaging fun, the music carefully curated for the most interesting bits, the dancing and story never flagging (I'll be the first to admit that Sleeping Beauty's last Act is intense, and not everyone likes the endless array of swans in Swan Lake). First staged by Cynthia Harvey based muchly on the version she danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov in 2014, it was well-received enough to make it to Dance Europe's front cover back in the day - and a good choice for opening Season 2019. The main principal couple ("Cast A") consisted of Uchida Chihiro and Nakamura Kenya, the leading lights of SDT, world-class technical execution - Chihiro breezing through everything with her usual pin-sharp musicality and crisp movements, as a delightfully cheeky wisp of a Kitri; Kenya powerful as always, unleashing high jumps and spins with great might (and, in a particularly heart-stopping show of perfection, terrifying the audience when, in one pas de deux, he pretended to be a slightly tipsy Basilio smiling and joking with friends while Kitri leapt for his arms - and at the last moment he turned around to catch her perfectly). I was eagerly anticipating the debuts of the principal couple for the matinees ("Cast B") -- First Artiste Kwok Min Yi (who graduated in 2012 from the English National Ballet School) and Artiste Agetsuma Satoru -- as they had never performed principal roles before on any occasion - and they did not disappoint. Unafraid, energetic - they worked 'Spanish'-style flourishes into their dancing and acting, while never getting too over-the-top. Had a huge smile on my face throughout their Act 1 performance. Both are powerhouses: Min Yi has an assured, confident style of dancing (confidently working her way through the fouettes without turning a hair) and clean lines; Satoru displays superb form and incredible energy and charisma. They filled the stage with their presence and (to my mind) were a successful pas de deux couple, bringing out each other's strengths. Special mention must also be made of (amongst others) the graceful, dramatic Cast A Gypsy King (Yorozu Kensuke) and (another debut) Huo Liang as the zealous Cast B Gypsy King who wove in some advanced technique in his spins (lifting his supporting leg clear off the ground in mid-spin); the incredibly light-footed Cast A Cupid (Nakahama Akira) and nimble, joyous Cast B Cupid (Beatrice Castañeda, another debut); and, most certainly, the incredibly hilarious Gamaches (Jason Carter for Cast A and Etienne Ferrère for Cast B when he was not being the suave, charming Espada). Always my favourite ballet - absolute fun from start to finish. For those who don't mind lengthy spoilers - rambling reviews here: Part 1 and Part 2.
  2. Agree with some of the folk above - sitting close enough to see expressions matters more for me than seeing patterns - I feel more connected to the performance as a whole. If I'm seated too far back even in the stalls, I feel as if I'm watching a DVD on a large screen, and I can't seem to feel the emotions (on that one occasion that happened, it could have been because I was watching a Nutcracker and it's generally less heavy on the story when the dancing gets going). That said, there's such a thing as "too close for comfort" for me; I sat in the front row once in an orchestra-less performance (which some may prefer because they can see the motion of the feet and legs) - but it was too close to the action and lights, which made the ballet (also a Nutcracker) actually less of a fantasy and too real for me - I could sense the stress of the pas de deux much too close for comfort. And it was a very taxing pas de deux. I'm short - I'll take my chances with being blocked (as I have been) by taller people with creative hairdos, as long as I can usually see the faces
  3. I'm afraid not! I was under the impression there was a tour, but on checking further, it seems this could have been a one-off invite to Singapore. Their website does not list any recent international tour dates (last one being in 2015 to the USA). My apologies for the incorrect impression given😔
  4. Quite an exciting, unique take on the Nutcracker Hats off to the principals especially, for their impeccable dancing in an incredibly intense pas de deux. A longer review may be found here. It seems fitting that where the Western version of the Nutcracker celebrates Christmas, the version by the National Ballet of China (NBC) is built around the equally festive Lunar New Year, a season that's all about family as well. I was extremely impressed by how cleverly the Lunar New Year theme was transposed onto the Nutcracker ballet, and the ingenious use of symbols of Chinese culture and tradition. A quick run-down of some new elements in this Nutcracker (Act 1): Instead of Clara and Fritz fighting over the Nutcracker, we have young Yuan Yuan and her cousin Tuan Tuan bickering over the toy. ('Tuan yuan' in Mandarin means 'reunion', and Lunar New Year is a time when families come together to celebrate.) In place of the Rat King and his soldiers, we have the mythical Nian monster, which legend says terrorised a village until it was chased away by loud firecrackers, the colour red, and spring scrolls (calligraphy scrolls). The first half of this Nutcracker involves dances containing many festive elements: dancers playing children dressed up as creatures from the Chinese Zodiac; rows of dancers holding lanterns in the dark; couples bearing spring scrolls. New elements (Act 2 - when Yuan Yuan dreams that she is grown up and has met her Nutcracker Prince): A few highlights - instead of the Kingdom of Sweets, we are carried away into the Porcelain Kingdom which is decorated with vases. Instead of snowflakes, we have gorgeous red-crowned cranes (symbolising good fortune and longevity) picking their way delicately through a field of falling snow, the long elegant reaching arms and folded hands of the ballerinas bringing to mind the spreading wings of the birds; and their perfect little bourres depicting birds floating into the field. The Waltz of the Flowers was danced brilliantly by men and women dressed in costumes reminiscent of blue-and-white Ming Dynasty vases, and the choreography was inspired, bringing out the music in all its glory - the joyous triumphant lifts, the energetic leaps from the men. I was also exceptionally fond of the Dance of the Mirlitons, which took the form of a story of a boy and his kite (lovely lilting floating bourres and flicking arms to depict a kite whisking through the wind, and unwinding at the end of a ribbon) -- which ended with the kite breaking away, then returning to the boy willingly as his childhood companion. On to the pas de deux: An incredible high-speed heart-stopping breathtaking performance by Zhang Jian (as the grown-up Yuan Yuan), who is partnered by the capable, strong Ma Xiaodong (the Nutcracker Prince). The choreography is light, speedy, incredibly athletic, and intoxicating. It is almost as if they are drawn together like magnets, as they swing from strength to jaw-dropping strength with the finest grace and agility. Zhang Jian has incredible poise, excellent technique and the most expressive arms. Special mention must be made of Qiu/ Yue Yunting, the lead crane (who can be found on google/youtube), for her charismatic, graceful dancing and for admirably remaining in character throughout as the gracious, assured leader of the cranes. Same for Zhan Xin-Lu (young Yuan Yuan), who has a fascinating dramatic range and clarity to her dancing and the energetic Teng Jiankai (Tuan Tuan) -- for on their capable shoulders rested almost the entire first half of the performance.
  5. Thank you for the review and the clip. Lovely to hear about Harlequinade - it sounds like a marvel. Thanks also for the info that the title role of Ratmansky's version was created for James Whiteside -- very pleased, because his fine dancing aside, he has magnificent dramatic charisma / stage presence. Managed to see him in ABT's Swan Lake (on tour in Singapore) as the wicked enchanter Rothbart (unfortunately I missed his turn as Siegfried) and he was quite perfect -- charismatic, enticing, and seductive. If they ever release this on DVD..!
  6. Thank you for the review! Good to hear about Staatsballett Berlin Out of curiosity - what did you make, then, of the lovers' respective death scenes, please? I must say I felt a twinge of impatience / disbelief at the amount of time taken by each character to lie down and pass away (I watched R&J as performed by Stuttgart Ballet on tour in Singapore): for instance, Romeo stabbed himself, collapsed heavily on top of Juliet’s stomach (I wondered if this was how and why she would awaken, but no) and after a while, he bestirred himself and lay down properly beside her. After another bar of music, he reached for her and rolled her over into his embrace. After another while, he ran his fingers through her hair, raising long locks up and letting them slide through his fingers, just as he had that morning when they woke in her bed. At last, his arm dropped down by the side of the bed. While it should have been a poignant reference to their relationship, I was not as moved as I suppose I should have been... A very richly fleshed-out and detailed sort of passing, but rather long. Greatly admire the Carnival King! Wildly popular and vibrantly portrayed. I sometimes wonder - given the requirements of the Carnival King (charisma, brilliant technique, stamina, strong character) - if being cast as Carnival King is a sign that one is a possible shoo-in for a principal role in the long run. (E.g. I've heard tell that Dewdrop in Nutcracker is a role to test one's stamina.) Hmm
  7. On that note, Washington Post has an interesting article on this exact topic (and a little more). https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_danc/hermes-bags-hugs-and-the-occasional-stalker-when-ballet-fans-go-overboard/2019/01/24/d38d3c38-1854-11e9-a804-c35766b9f234_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.6f6199991024 'Occasionally the cons can have more troubling consequences than a floral bruising. A stalker once sent Boylston threatening messages on social media and began waiting for her outside the theater. The police eventually intervened. “It’s wonderful to see the fans at the stage door, but you can be in a vulnerable position,” she said. “People feel like they know you. And we don’t have the level of security that Beyoncé has.' 😳
  8. Thank you for sharing this insightful interview I've been wondering what it's like for the conductor and the players, especially as the latter can't 'see' the action on stage. Sometimes I wonder too, how exactly the mood of the playing affects the dancing!
  9. Hmm. The short answer is yes 😅 Over here (Singapore), the country is small and the local company, i.e. Singapore Dance Theatre, is a modest size (30-odd) -- and I think there's a good chance the principals or some of the others will emerge to meet their friends/ students / fans they've connected with somehow; and under such circumstances, they seem quite willing and happy to take photos with folk who ask. I'll admit I had to work up the nerve to do it. Generally speaking (i.e. re all the discussions on how dancers might feel), perhaps there are universal signs e.g. they're still in costume, they're taking photos with others, or their body language (some may quietly slip past with lowered eyes). To me it always feels as if they're doing me a favour because they must surely want to crash into bed! But perhaps some are still on a performance high or more outgoing by nature, or they like connecting with the audience to know they've had an actual impact. I wouldn't dare with the touring companies, but a friend of mine has! And everyone he has met has always been happy to stop and say hi. I'm terrible at faces that I'm not familiar with and have just seen flash past under layers of makeup and tulle - slightly concerned I'll embarrass someone or myself 😅
  10. A little late too, only having just seen this. Happy New Year to the moderators! This forum is a joy to those of us who can only dream of attending performances abroad, and your hard work in holding the fort and keeping the peace, and your warmth in helping / welcoming this newcomer is much, much appreciated Best wishes for the new year!
  11. Thank you for the kind words, @Sim- a pleasure to know someone enjoys hearing about them too @RuthE Yes, absolutely Surname-first for names of Chinese and Japanese origin, the only exception being May Yen Cheah - somehow I've gotten into following the brochure on how her name's presented given it's specifically different from the others' (though I note also that she grew up in Australia and hence perhaps surname-first would be the convention to follow). As such - first names would be e.g. Chihiro, Kenya, Akira for the principal roles.
  12. Rather on the belated side, I'm afraid - caught this production in early December but it took a little while to write up. Beautifully accompanied by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra (MFO), which lent a depth to the experience. There's much to be said for having a live orchestra (which is usual in many places but hasn't been seen for a long time due to costs) - you can truly hear unexpected mellow notes in the Diamond-Gold-Silver pas de trois, for instance, and the piano scale in the wedding pas de deux sounds richer and sweeter on real ivories. There were two casts: at night, Uchida Chihiro as the sweet Aurora with vivacious lively dancing, and Nakamura Kenya turning in solid dancing as always (there's the added sweetness to performance in knowing that the couple is married in real life); in matinees, Nakahama Akira (newly-promoted to First Artist this January) in her debut as a very stable Aurora without a single show of nerves, and Etienne Ferrère in his debut as a charming, graceful Prince and steady partner. One wonders if there could have been room for a third cast to let Li Jie (Principal Artist in her last performance with the company) dance Aurora - as it was, she was a marvellously graceful Lilac Fairy with exceptionally touching miming; Elaine Heng was the other Lilac Fairy and turned in a clean performance as always. Special mention must be made of Princess Florine and Bluebird - the reliable Tanaka Nanase and Yorozu Kensuke can always be counted on to bring on sharp, speedy, step-perfect performances, and matinees saw the well-deserved debuts of the nimble Beatrice Castañeda and spritely Huo Liang. The performances were given additional spark by the unforgettable Carabosses, played with exceptional fire by First Artists Elaine Heng (night performances) and May Yen Cheah (matinees). They milked every second for all it was worth -- fire and ice ran through the veins of Elaine's majestic Queen Carabosse, while poison ran through the veins of May Yen's smirking, slinking Carabosse. To be truthful, there were (a few) moments during a couple of the shows which were a little ragged or startling, but overall it was a very pleasant, enjoyable experience. The company's presenting Don Quixote next - their 2014 performance was lauded by Dance Europe, so I'm looking forward to seeing it - this time with the MFO's accompaniment, which should add to the performance. Separately, here's a very lengthy review (so to speak, as it's on a personal blog) - marking out some of the music, and including pictures of the cast at curtain call.
  13. Thank you @Jan McNulty - glad that there's interest in SDT and happy to share! Thank you @Sophoife- I am so glad to see a fan of his here, and thank you for sharing so much about Tim Harbour and his works. Filigree and Shadow looks delightful - a ball of energy and a ball of a time. Sweedeedee sounds really amazing too - truly inspired and inspiring. I know so little about TAB myself, so thank you for sharing! My friend was fortunate enough to watch Tim Harbour dance (and I imagine his wife as well), some years ago. I shall look up Madeleine Eastoe - it's good that many of her performances are recorded on DVD! Oh yes - it is my blog If you've not seen Timothy Harbour's brilliant Linea Adora yet, it is described here (created for SDT's 30th Anniversary Gala), including musical cues. I think my words don't do it justice - I saw it in-studio again on Friday at an event, and it was breathtaking
  14. In Oct 2018, Singapore Dance Theatre held its annual Contemporary season, Passages. Just sharing a flavour of the works below (including information on the choreographers), and links to longer reviews 1. Another Energy, by Timothy Harbour, had been created for the company in 2015. Timothy Harbour danced with The Australian Ballet and is now a choreographer working with TAB as well as across Australia and internationally, creating works for NYCB, the Queensland Ballet, etc. Most recently, he created a world premiere for SDT, Linea Adora, that was reviewed favourably by Dance Europe. Another Energy is a fast-paced, delightful work in which the dancers appear to represent clear lines and planes, and vibrant pulsating drops of energy. It's an inventive, energetic work - the pas de trois is a slick work of fast beats, slicing hands and incredible partnership. I also particularly enjoyed the two pas de deux - the first, a pleasant, contemporary-style waltz with unconventional moves e.g. the female dancer stepping through a loop created by the dancers' arms; and the second, a powerful show of strength and passion, involving incredible lifts and waterwheel turns; and the superb ending and curtain call, with the dancers sliding from side to side and peeking out like drops of mercury. More details are in this review - Another Energy. 2. Evening Voices, by Tim Rushton - a company and world premiere. Born in Birmingham, Tim Rushton trained at the Royal Ballet Upper School and danced in various North European companies and is currently the Artistic Director of, and choreographer at, the Danish Dance Theatre. This work was inspired by, and set to, Rachmaninov's Vespers (All-Night Virgil), and is a soulful, lyrical work that touched the audience. Soft-limbed dancers; inventive choreography with strong images: ladies like cats poised on their partners' limbs, or lying like Cleopatra across the men's shoulder blades, or peeled off the ground leaving only their heads and shoulder-blades on the ground, their body lifted like a question mark; an emotional, complicated pas de trois that seems to depict two men struggling over their love of a lady whom they seem to simultaneously wish to raise up and worship, and yet also to pin down; a remarkable use of arms to create a giant whale's mouth that opens upon exploration by a dancer, a mouth that pinches itself together into a link-chain; dancers' hands fluttering like butterflies. More on Evening Voices :) 3. Shadow's Edge, by Ma Cong - a 2014 company premiere. Currently the Resident Choreographer of Tulsa Ballet, Ma Cong trained at the Beijing Dance Academy, has danced with The National Ballet of China and has had a stellar dancing career as a principal in many leading works, and as a choreographer of many award-winning works. This is a vivid work, though slightly softer on this viewing. It's also the most classical-looking of the three - dancers swirling through sharp pointe work, quick group work and bold dancing; and a plot twist where a seeming finale to glorious moving choral music suddenly halts and shifts into a heart-racing finish and a flurry of limbs. A masterpiece of action, this has always been popular Shadow's Edge, in a little more detail.
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