In the midst of a growth spurt in Singapore’s dance field, extensive theatre programs, and Singapore International Festival of Arts, comes the ever-reliable Ballet Under The Stars. Singapore Dance Theatre’s well-loved outdoor dance event offers two weekends of dance. With the first weekend offering up the contemporary repertoire, and the second, iconic classics, there is plenty to satisfy your appetite in this 22nd edition.
Always an excellent introduction for those new to dance and a pleasure for seasoned enthusiasts alike, Ballet Under The Stars takes the ballet from its European royal roots to our tropical humidity. Going to the ballet is tons of fun when armed with your picnic baskets and bug spray!
First Artist and local dancer Elaine Heng has performed in the heat for five years. A soulful ballerina whose stage presence exudes old world charm, she shares her excitement for this year’s program.
When does preparation for Ballet Under The Stars start and what is a typical day like?
Preparation for Ballet Under The Stars started about six weeks ago, although it varies from year to year depending on our schedule. A typical day preparing for BUTS isn’t any different from other rehearsal days. Class runs from 10-1130 followed by rehearsals from 1145-2 and 3-530. Some people squeeze time in to head to the gym or have physiotherapy sessions before, between or after work.
What do you find inspiring in studio processes? Do you have particular examples?
When you feel the growth, discover something new, feel there’s improvement or if the person you’re learning from really inspires you. I’ve been lucky to work with many different choreographers and coaches. For one, Nils and Ana (Nils Christe and Annegien Sneep) being here at the moment already makes studio time very inspiring. However, if I had to choose a particular time in my career so far, it would have to be working with Cynthia Harvey for Don Quixote 2014. I watched her on video growing up and couldn’t believe I was getting coached by her for roles! I learnt an immense amount then, and she gave me a huge amount of confidence to believe in myself.
How have BUTS evolved over the years? How have you evolved as a BUTS performer?
BUTS used only to be over one weekend which also meant that we had a lesser workload! Back then we would only have to rehearse at most three ballets for BUTS amongst the other shows that we were rehearsing for. Since 2013, however, BUTS has expanded to being held over two weekends; 1 weekend each of contemporary ballet and classical ballet. Essentially the workload has doubled!
I can’t say I’ve evolved as a BUTS performer specifically except that I’m more mentally prepared, used to the heat, knowing I’m going to be losing buckets of water. I’ve probably grown more as a performer in general since I started out. A little wiser as to how to cope with nerves and just enjoy myself on stage.
What is it like to perform for picnicking audiences?
I perform the same whether at the Esplanade or BUTS because they are paying audience all the same. But I’ve got to admit that the atmosphere is more relaxed as people are often enjoying the performance over food and wine!
What is the experience backstage for BUTS?
HOT and STICKY! It’s a makeshift stage so our dressing rooms are just behind it and everything happens there. All the girls share one dressing room unlike when we are at the theatre. Our dressing room is so close to the stage also means we have to be very quiet while the show is running.
Lastly, what’s special to you in this year’s program? Anything we should be mainly looking out?
The highlights for me would come more from the 1st weekend’s programme as I’m getting to dance new roles and new ballets. Every new role is an exciting opportunity. Nils Christe and Annegien Sneep are also back to stage Organ Concerto which was created on the company in 2012. Having them back in the studio, they bring a great atmosphere. They have razor sharp eyes, but it really pushes you to be better. Great fun! The other ballet new for me is Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence which I’m looking forward to. It’s another style altogether!