Iconic groups return to Esplanade

Dance lovers have a lot to look forward to with two iconic dance groups returning for performances at the Esplanade.

Legendary butoh troupe Sankai Juku is set to perform its ethereal work Kagemi: Beyond The Metaphors Of Mirrors here on April 30 and May 1, and well-known German ballet company the Stuttgart Ballet will stage Onegin on Oct 31 and Nov 1.

The two productions are part of the Esplanade's da:ns series, an ad hoc series of stellar dance productions, separate from the arts centre's da:ns festival, which is usually held in October.

Sankai Juku was last here two years ago for the festival, performing another work Tobari - As If In An Inexhaustible Flux, and the Stuttgart Ballet in 2007 with Romeo & Juliet.

Associate producer Faith Tan, head of the da:ns programming team, says: "Both companies are leaders of dance because they possess not only great technical precision in their genre, but also a strong embodiment of how the dance can move audiences with deep feelings that can be expressed by movement."

For Kagemi, Sankai Juku's 65-year-old founder and artistic director Ushio Amagatsu will perform with six dancers under a floating sea of white lotus leaves. Ticket sales have opened and Category 1 ($75) tickets are already limited for the April 30 show.

The production premiered in Paris in 2000 and is an exploration of mirrors as a metaphor for life and identity.

Amagatsu explains over e-mail that the term "kagemi" is a possible etymological origin of the word for mirror in Japanese - "kagami".

"Kage (shadow) and mi (look) relate to self-recognition. If we look back into the history of the forms of mirrors, there were 'water mirrors' that people had to look down into. Then, when people started to craft mirrors themselves, they were able to reflect their images standing up in vertical positions.

"I found it interesting to think about the changes in the concept of looking at oneself in reflection, from the water mirror which was very fragile and ambiguous, then, the bronze mirror which still was not very accurate, and then to the glass mirror which we 'think' is reflecting the accurate images."

He founded Sankai Juku in 1975, and its name translates to "studio between mountain and sea".

On the other end of the spectrum, away from Sankai Juku's abstraction and layers of metaphor, is the Stuttgart Ballet's tragic and beautiful Onegin, choreographed by the group's former artistic director, the late John Cranko. Tickets will go on sale from March 12.

Based on 19th-century Russian writer Alexander Pushkin's poem of the same name, Onegin is at once a tale of love and tragedy. The protagonist Eugene Onegin rejects the love of the young Tatiana, only to have a bitter taste of his own medicine when he falls for her many years later. As the inexorable march of time pushes on, this narrative examines love, passion and the rigidity of social constructs in the lush world of Imperial Russia.

The Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra will accompany the ballet troupe with the music of Russian composer Tchaikovsky.

Tamas Detrich, the Stuttgart Ballet's associate artistic director, says the audience will be compelled to feel deeply for the two central characters: "The audience suffers with them, there is no escaping their emotional turmoil.

"Cranko choreographed this ballet so brilliantly that you don't need to know the book it was based on, you don't even need to read the programme. The story is told so clearly and is instantly understandable.

"Cranko's gift for storytelling grabs the audience and captivates it. Each act ends on such a dramatic note that we are dying to know what happens next."


Book it


Who: Sankai Juku

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: April 30 and May 1, 8pm

Admission: $25 to $75 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Book it


Who: Stuttgart Ballet

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: Oct 31 at 8pm, Nov 1 at 3pm and 8pm

Admission: $60 to $200 from Sistic. Tickets will go on sale from March 12.

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