A CLASSICAL, a neo-classical and a contemporary piece mixed with African moves - Singapore Dance Theatre's (SDT) upcoming triple bill will showcase the dancers' versatility.
And versatility is definitely a keyword for dancers today, as ballet companies the world over perform a wide-ranging repertoire now.
"Dancers these days have to be so much more versatile - it's the same for companies all over. It's not just about classical ballet anymore, but increasingly, companies have to be able to perform a wide range of dance," declares Val Caniparoli, this season's guest choreographer from the US who is here to prepare the company dancers for its international repertory season.
"Also, instead of having the luxury of having a few weeks to learn a dance, companies also have a much faster turnaround time now. So they have to learn very quickly," he adds.
"I certainly couldn't do what dancers do now, when I was 18!" quips Nils Christe, SDT's other guest choreographer from Holland.
Caniparoli's Lambarena, which SDT first danced in 1998, is itself a challenging piece which sees a mix of Western classical and more grounded African movements in one work. "Dancers have to be en pointe in one part, and then go down low in another," he shares.
Lambarena received the Goh Choo San choreography prize in 1995, which explains the choreographer's link to SDT. Since then, the dance he choreographed for the San Francisco Ballet has been performed by two or three companies every year. "The fact that it celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015 is proof that it hasn't dated and is still appreciated," Caniparoli shares, adding that his works are in the repertory of some 15 dance companies worldwide.
His choreography style is eclectic, he describes, and he embraces all styles of dance. "It helps perhaps that I had studied music in school, and went into dance only when I was 20 years old. I lied about my age, in fact, to get into the San Francisco Ballet!" he reveals.
Meanwhile, Christe's Organ Concerto was choreographed specifically for the SDT after he had first worked with them two years ago. It premiered at Ballet Under The Stars in 2012, but this time around, it'll be staged with all the bells and whistles at the Esplanade Theatre.
"The look and feel will be quite different because it's staged indoors and the larger stage allows us to give it a grander treatment," he notes.
It was French composer Francis Poulenc's music that provided the inspiration for Organ Concerto, he explains, and the choreography is neo-classical with the dancers dancing en pointe most of the time.
As for choreographing for SDT, Christe first encountered the company when they performed another one of his dances, Fearful Symmetries, a few years ago. "Upon teaching them, and getting to know the dancers, that's when I had the idea of choreographing a work specifically for them," he shares.
Being a company mainly with Asian dancers, the sensibilities of the dancers are naturally different from those of their Western counterparts. "So it's been interesting working with them. It's been challenging for the dancers as well - especially the female ones, because my moves for them are more powerful than they're used to - but they've picked them up well," he says.
The third work SDT will perform in Masterpiece in Motion is George Balanchine's Theme and Variations, a 1947 work that was meant to "evoke that great period in classical dancing when Russian ballet flourished with the aid of Tschaikovsky's music". This is SDT's first time performing the dance.
Masterpiece in Motion will be performed on Aug 23 and 24, 8pm nightly, at The Esplanade Theatre. For tickets from $30-70, please book at www.sistic.com.sg