Esplanade's recently ended DA:NS Festival asked audiences to exercise their thoughts as well as their eyes.
The biggest hit at the recent annual da:ns festival at the Esplanade: Theatres on the Bay was unsurprisingly Matthew Bourne’s “Swan Lake”. While this “modern classic” actually premiered 19 years ago and enjoyed the status of longest-running ballet on both West End and Broadway stages, its long-awaited Southeast Asia debut was still afresh and a lot of fun.
Almost a decade ago, I was enthralled by the immaculate beauty of classical ballet when the Royal Ballet performed “Swan Lake” at the very same Esplanade Theatre as part of the Singapore Arts Festival. It’s been my standard for classical ballet criticism ever since, not only for “Swan Lake” but also other classical works. Bourne’s “Swan Lake” has been available on video and DVD for many years and a 3D version was recently released in cinemas. Having watched both, seeing it in Singapore underscored the fact that a recording can never match a live experience.
In an interview, Bourne calls this seminal work contemporary dance theatre, not ballet. This is probably why it connects so well with audiences in different countries. It tells a dramatic story far more than in other “ballet” versions and the story focuses more on the Prince, rather than Ondine. That asks the audience to think more about what they are watching. Bourne’s “Swan Lake” reminds us once again that dance on stage is not a competitive sport. No matter how excellent your skills are, your performance may not connect to the audience without a feasible concept behind it.
Bourne has had newer works and I’m not the only member of the audience who found themselves hoping that the Esplanade would bring more of them to Singapore in the years to come.
The da:ns festival audience was also in for another treat that same weekend with “Forecasting”, a solo dance performance in which Croatian artist Barbara Matijevic physically interacted with the edited footage found on YouTube, prepared by her 1er Stratageme company co-founder and Italian dancer Giuseppe Chico. Available in English, French and Italian versions, the Singapore performance was in English, and most clips came from the US.
The 50-minute performance showed how astonishingly precise Matijevic could be in adjusting her physical movements to the video images, while at the same time and in a clearly sarcastic tone, cheekily commenting on the contents of videos people upload to YouTube in this internet era. It was hilarious throughout although one needed to be in the front and centre rows of the audience to clearly see the videos from the MacBook.
The writer wishes to thank the Esplanade’s Gina Koh for all assistance.
THE DURIAN KEEPS DANCING
- Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will stage “Rice” on February 28 and March 1 as part of Huayi: Chinese Festival of Arts. Tickets are from S$38 to $108. See www.HuayiFestival.com.
- The English National Ballet performs “Le Corsaire” from May 14 to 17. Tickets are $60 to $220 ($30 to $100 for students). Visit www.DansFestival.com.
- For tickets, see www.SISIC.com.sg.