Thursday, January 19, 2006

(D) Jan 15, 2006 - Passion Flower and Triple Bill

Choreographer Carol Ainsworth restaged Marius Pepita and Lev Ivanov’s version of Swan Lake Act II.

KUALA LUMPUR does not have a ballet company to call its own and, as a result, our top ballerinas and danseurs often seek career opportunities overseas.

This is disappointing because ballet is the most established Western dance form in Malaysia, having found its way here in the early 1970s.

But all this may change thanks to the efforts of The Dance Society (TDS), which has kept ballet very much alive and helped to nurture talents.

This year’s charity performance, Passion Flower and Triple Bill, was performed by students selected by 20 dance teachers from across the nation. The charity event, in aid of Hospis Malaysia, was organised under the patronage of TDS honorary patron, Tunku Dara Naquiah Tuanku Jaafar, and held last weekend at the Securities Commission Auditorium in Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur.

Triple Bill comprised three short choreographies and displayed the versatility of ballet.

The first item, Swan Lake’s Act II, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, was restaged by Carol Ainsworth, who was a member of the prestigious London’s Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. She retained much of the choreography (which is in classical form) but made some adaptations to suit the small stage.

Unfortunately, it was still one swan too many. The teenage ballerinas seemed in mid-metamorphosis between ugly duckling and beautiful swan and were still in need of refinement. Though pretty in their white tutus, they could not recreate the element of enchantment necessary to this act. However, the pas de quatre (four ballerinas) was executed with the right amount of playful quality and light-heartedness.

Dream of Green Pastures, choreographed by China-born dancer Zhou Gui Xin, was an impressive combination of modern, ballet and Mongolian dance styles. The two-movement dance started off with an abundance of movements mimicking horses – animals central to the nomadic Mongolian lifestyle – and their riders. It also showcased dancers in half-gallop jumps making circular hand movements and moving across and around the stage at high speed. The energy was reduced in the adagio (slow and sustained movements) section, which was less engaging.

Zhou Gui Xin seamlessly combined modern, ballet and Mongolian dance styles in Dream of Green Pastures.


Well known local performer Too Cyn Dee made an effort to create a ballet with “a twist of Malaysian flavour” with Earth, Wind & Fire. However, the “flavour” was more prominent in the costumes – batik frills, songket skirt and red scarf – than in the choreography. Local flavour should go beyond the ability to gyrate the hips en pointe and the incorporation of gestures from traditional dance. Rather, her style revealed a tendency towards modern ballet with modern dance expressions.

Passion Flower was a 35-minute one act ballet which told a story of love and betrayal. Good friends Maria (Lee Pei Nee) and Elena (Chang Huey Sze) both fall in love with Joseph (Steve Goh). Maria pledges her love with a gift of a special flower – and her accidental discovery of the flower in Elena’s possession results in a tragic outcome.

This performance was choreographed by Ong Hooi Koon and incorporated Latin American music and dance. The simple storyline included some unconventional off-stage drama for the support roles. The most interesting part was a section for three which saw the principal dancer perform with the two lead ballerinas. One could feel the tension of two women competing for a man.

All in, the evening, though not spectacular, displayed a novel effort and a glimmer of hope for better things to come. Would it be too much to ask of TDS to have on their list of “must dos’’ a bigger stage and a live orchestra?

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