In Act II, set in 1911, Aurora was sent into the sleepwalking world. Photo/Johan Persson
By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation
Matthew Bourne’s contemporary ballet warms up the audience for the annual da:ns festival
Last year the English National Ballet whetted appetites for dance with “Le Corsaire” as part of the Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay’s year-round da:ns series. This year, it was the turn of Matthew Bourne’s “Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance” and after a five-performance run, audiences are now ready for the main course, the “da:ns festival 2016”, which gets underway on October 13.
Completing his Tchaikovsky trilogy, that began with his “Nutcracker!” (1992) and followed with the seminal production of “Swan Lake” (1995) which won him accolades around the globe, the British choreographer and director created a new scenario for “Sleeping Beauty” to mark the 25th anniversary of his New Adventure company back in 2012. And once again he has shown that even if we know this story, music and the ballet by heart, there’s still more to it for contemporary artists to explore and for us to enjoy.
For example, he has added more background to the character of Carabosse and given the romance between Aurora and Leo more stage time. Most importantly though, is how Bourne places as much emphasis on storytelling as choreography. With a 24-member ensemble, most of whom portrayed multiple roles and alternated them in different evenings, his dancers were never like acrobats with special skills, but rather actors who not only lived their characters and breathed their emotions but also moved effortlessly.
Bourne’s story spanned the Edwardian and Victorian eras in the first two acts and set the two latter acts in the present day. There were mythical elements to the production too, giving set and costume designer Lez Brotherston a challenging task. He showed he was well up to the job and Bourne’s theatricality was further enhanced by his designs
As a result, “Sleeping Beauty” is dance for theatre lovers and theatre for dance fans, and this bridge connecting the two siblings of performing arts reminds us why “Swan Lake” brought Bourne a Tony Award for best direction of a musical.
Last month, the Esplanade continued to stir up the audience’s excitement by collaborating with arthouse cinema The Projector in screening dance films, Wim Wenders’ “Pina” and Tomer Heymann’s “Gaga” among others.
With works by Pina Bausch, Sara Baras and Ohad Naharin as major highlights of the upcoming festival, da:ns producer Faith Tan says, “This year, we’re honoured to present great works by three dance masters who have had a deep impact on shaping the world of dance. They go beyond creating works of movement as they give audiences the gift of discovering profound philosophies of life through their dance. Within their long years of making dance, they have inspired countless dancers and artists, and touched audiences all over the world. At da:ns festival, audiences will have the opportunity to experience some of their most significant works live on stage.”
And as always, da:ns festival is taking risks by commissioning new works by two choreographers – Raka Maitra of Singapore’s Chowk Productions and Emmanuele Phuon of Cambodia’s Amrita Performing Arts.
“They are dedicated to creating works that enable the body, choreography and movement to serve as powerful mediums and critical tools of contemporary expression,” Tan says.
Solving the problem of the shortage of medium-sized venues, a former nightclub in the same complex has been turned into the Annexe Studio where Swiss performance artist Martin Schick will share the stage with the audience in “Halfbreadtechnique”.
TEN DAYS AND COUNTING
-The “da:ns festival 2016” runs from October 13 to 23 at various venues of the Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay in Singapore.
- There are many free-admission programmes indoors and outdoors. Ticketed ones are priced between S$20 (Bt 520) and S$120, Book online at www.sistic.com.sg.
- For more details, www.Esplanade.com/dansfestival.