Sleeping Beauty – the legend comes alive in Singapore

For me, fortunate to be growing up in London, Christmas time meant many things but above all, it meant a time to catch fairytale ballets without which, the magic of the festive season just wouldn’t be complete. But we are a long way from home Toto, and that white Christmas magic is but a fantasy on our little red dot. Or is it?

There is one way we CAN have a piece of that magical Christmas time pie right here in Singapore. And it is thanks to our very own Singapore Dance Theatre, who in true festive spirit will be staging one of the world’s favourite fairytales, which so many people all over the world have delighted in seeing during the festive season – Sleeping Beauty.

For me, Sleeping Beauty is probably one of the first ballets I recollect ever seeing – whisking me away into a fantasy land of beauty, make believe and otherworldliness and this time Nomads I’m pleased to say I can take you with me! So hop on board, it’s time to discover a magical kingdom of castles, fairies, forests and spells presented in one fantastically enchanting, beautiful, big old lovely present that is the gift of dance, all set against the backdrop of a rich score of music crafted by one of the greatest composers of all time, Tchaikovsky.

For those unfamiliar, Sleeping Beauty tells the timeless tale about a beautiful princess, a spell of 100 years sleep, a charming prince and a true love’s kiss which undoes the spell and awakens the kingdom’s slumber. This ballet ends with a glorious wedding celebration with all your favourite fairytale characters joining in the festivities. Ah how we love a happy ending in this cynical world that we live in!

But to stage such a huge, stunning production is no walk in the park. Sleeping Beauty is considered one of the most demanding ballet productions in terms of size, scale and choreography, and who do you think has to make all those fancy costumes then? Each dancer will take on several roles, and that’s before their understudy roles are factored in.  It takes a well oil machined and disciplined, highly talented dancers under an Artistic Director like Janek Shergen to pull off such an epic production. It is true testament to the ability of Singapore Dance Theatre that they have taken on this timeless classic of a beast (pun intended).

Just listening to dancer Chua Bi Ru reel off a list of roles she will be performing makes us think, not for the first time – wouldn’t it be great if we all had a button which we could press to split ourselves into different parts to finish up everything we had to do, “I will be dancing the role of court couple, Aurora’s friend, peasant woman and nymphs. For court couples, we’re actually guests being invited to celebrate the birth of Aurora, so therefore we are aristocrats; we have to portray ourselves as people of status, noble people. This is the total opposite of a peasant woman who is someone from the country, someone more joyous and not a care about money or social status. And nymphs, this is where the Lilac Fairy shows the prince a vision of Aurora and the nymphs are part of the vision, so all these roles are all quite different. Preparing for each role is really just to know what role I’m portraying and just do it. Of course the music also helps me to do that, and I’m sure once I have the costumes on, it’ll be easier too.”

PHEW! Well she certainly sounds like she has it all locked down!

As if we weren’t already feeling in total awe of the company’s ability to multi-task and pull together to stage this mammoth production, dancer Beatrice Castaneda then comes along and finishes us off as she explains, “Sleeping Beauty is a demanding production to put up because it requires the different departments of a ballet company to work together to achieve a smooth and wonderful performance for the audience to enjoy. The ballet consists of a prologue and three acts, each completely different from the other in costumes, scenery, music and dances. The costume department brings to life the clothes of the time period for the characters, making sure it is as historically correct as possible and that they are dreamy enough while all still being fit to be danced in. There are more than 150 costumes that need to be refitted and cleaned.”

And it doesn’t end there as she continues, “The production crew has to work on huge sets for every part of the ballet and on quite a number of props involved. Dancers learn several dances for the roles they are cast for and understudying – most dancers are learning at least 2 roles. There is about a 5 week period where each department works on its own. Finally about a week before opening night, everything is incorporated together. The shows are the fruits of the hard labor that everyone has contributed to the production.”

Hmmmm don’t think we’ll be complaining about a tough day at the office for a while then!

But no matter how challenging, surely it must be a ballet dancer’s dream to be dancing such an all-time favourite which has been watched and adored by so many world wide for over a century? And so the dream of watching to dancing came true for dancer Jason Carter, “Yes, Sleeping Beauty was one of the few ballets I saw during my youth, I remember thinking to myself whilst watching it, One day I want to be on that stage. Sleeping Beauty inspired me at a young age to want to dance.”

So if you’re a newbie to ballet, is Sleeping Beauty a good ballet to make your first step into the wonderful world of ballet delights? It seems a resounding yes, as Beatrice Castaneda puts it so perfectly, “In Sleeping Beauty, I feel like there is something out there for everyone. It’s a classic fairy tale, a story of good versus evil, a love story. One could simply enjoy the beautiful and grand music of Tchaikovsky. One could marvel at the dazzling costumes and artistry of the scenery. One could watch the amazing dancing of the dancers of Singapore Dance Theatre. Taking it all in would be an overwhelming and breathtaking experience.” We’re sold.

Sleeping Beauty is showing on 13 – 16 December at The Esplanade, Thursday & Friday, 8pm; Saturday, 1pm, 8pm; Sunday, 1pm, 7pm. Tickets are S$90, S$75, S$50, S$30 (excluding booking fee) and available through SISTIC here.

Photos courtesy of Dennis Ng

Emily Seow

Chief Editor

Emily heads the editorial team on City Nomads by being a stickler for details, a grammar Nazi, and a really picky eater. Born and bred in Singapore, she loves cats, the written word, exploring new places, and all things Harry Potter. Easily bribed with good cocktails.

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