Millepied’s “Hearts and Arrows” closed out the evening./Photo: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay
Millepied’s “Hearts and Arrows” closed out the evening./Photo: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay

A mild introduction to Millepied

Art November 20, 2017 01:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation
Singapore

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A well-known American dance company makes it Southeast Asia debut



THANKS in part to the short distance between the two countries, I had been able to attend every single edition of the Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay’s annual dance festival since its inception in 2006.

But following two aborted landings, two refuellings in Batam, Indonesia and the lack of communication between a Thai Airways pilot and Changi Airport, my flight to the recent da:ns festival took a total of seven hours. As a result, I missed “Dance Clinic”, a highly anticipated new work by Singapore’s Choy Ka Fai in which Thailand’s Pichet Klunchun participated. A few days later, I made sure my da:ns streak continued by returning to watch the Southeast Asia premiere of Bordeaux-born and Los Angeles-based choreographer Benjamin Millepied’s company LA Dance Project.

I watched this company for the first time at the Edinburgh International Festival 2013 when it had only seven dancers. Today it has a few more and is also more diverse. That was one year after Millepied moved to the City of Angels and co-founded this company. The company’s mission “to promote new collaborative work by emerging and established artists, and to revisit influential multidisciplinary dance collaborations from the past” was as evident then in the Scottish capital as it was here in the island state. 

Millepied’s “Hearts and Arrows” closed out the evening./Photo: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay

The programme started with three duets by Martha Graham, which had never been presented together. This was followed by Millepied’s 2006 duet “Closer”, set to Philip Glass’s familiar “Mad Rush”, and the two offered a nice pairing to begin the evening. The mood and tone changed but not completely, with 2013 group piece “Murder Ballades”, featuring choreography and costume design by Justin Peck, New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer, which give the company a chance to show their technical range. 

After an intermission, the company performed what was meant to be the highlight – Millepied’s 2014 work “Hearts and Arrows”, for which he was commissioned by a jewellery company. With the stage stripped bare to show the lighting rigs and set to Glass’s “String Quartet No 3”, the often angular movements looked too title-literal and sponsor-loyal. 

All in all, it was a pleasant evening but one that lacked surprises as whoever chose this quadruple bill probably underestimated the sophistication of the dance audience in this region. 

Los Angeles was never known as a dance city and LA Dance Project’s busy touring schedule and the rising attention they’re getting is proving otherwise. That said, the audience might also want to see more input of other California or US-based artists. Otherwise, the Project could easily be based in Europe.

COMING UP THIS WEEKEND

The late Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa’s internationally renowned production of “Macbeth” will be at the Esplanade Theatre from Thursday to Saturday. 

Tickets are from SG$28 to $128 (SG$40 and 50 for students and seniors), available at www.Sistic.com.sg. 

Find out more at www.Esplanade.com/events/2017/macbeth.