Laurretta Summerscales soars in Singapore’s Superstars of Ballet Gala

Joy Wang X.Y reports from the Mastercard Theatre at Marina Bay Sands
May 1, 2016

Galas at their best are moving feasts, a confectionary of delights. At their, well not so great, they can be closer to a fast food buffet. Whatever a gala is, it always offers a gluttony of fouettés. And there it was on Sunday evening, in various diverse configurations – single-doubles, doubles-doubles – but only Laura Hecquet’s which opened wide into à la seconde and sustained that lateral shape fractions longer before whipping into the turn, did the wonderful, complicated thing of being ‘in competition’ and not quite of it. Otherwise, Hecquet and Karl Paquette danced an Esmeralda primarily contained in the lower body and far too square. Hecquet’s hips had the barest hint of a wiggle in the échappés.

Sabina Yapparova’s Sylph opposite an earth bound Alexis Saramite, was decidedly more coy. What she lacked in elevation (neat jumps that didn’t quite embrace the air) she made up in elfin grace and soft elbows. Still even if her arms were a slight too ornate for the Bournonville, it was a pleasure after Esmeralda to see a rounded, breathing upper body. Yapparova reappeared as Giselle’s spectral incarnation next to Dinu Tamazlacaru’s Albrecht, but the laboured tempi in the adagio and, the general emotional untranslatability of Giselle in galas didn’t work in their favour.

Iana Salenko and Daniil Simkin who danced the Corsaire pas de deux are two cool clinical dancers who can probably do almost everything. He does so with enough sculptural heft and she with enough Nordic regalness to remind us that they are more than the sum of their tricks. Simkin returned in Les Bourgeois which I think I have seen one too many times (at some point its suave charm becomes rather dour) and Salenko in Cranko’s balcony Romeo and Juliet pas de deux with Tamazlacaru. Despite isolated moments of beauty it didn’t quite sweep with the heady current of ardent passion, the supported turns failing to generate love’s force. Space (or the lack of) could have been the culprit here.

In general, the first half worked better. The second, more adventurous in nature, fell short of what it promised. Some pieces, like Petit’s L’Arlesienne lacked continuity. Others (outside of the need to keep to the French theme) appeared peculiar choices. Preljocaj’s Le Parc, for one, was danced with such muted passion by Valentine Colasante  and Karl Paquette that Colasante’s unbound hair had more phallic potency than the dance itself. Colasante and Yann Saiz were seen to much better effect in an excerpt from Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated where they gave its metronomic rhythm and mechanical propulsions a palatable edge.

The in your face brazenness of Flames of Paris was rather lost amidst the niceties of Jurgita Dronina and Issac Hernandez’s loveliness. Earlier in the evening however they had given a standout performance in The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux. Her enchanting precision in step allied to a sweet vulnerability, outlined in the clearest of dance terms the tender pride of a princess turned queen. Hernandez, a courtly partner, was all purposeful accents and velvety landings.

From Laurretta Summerscales and Yonah Acosta there were two heavyweight classical pieces – Diana and Acteon and Don Quixote – both done with style and panache. He can do all the technical stuff; she can too and does so with genuine pleasure, a broad spontaneity matched by plush, generous dancing. There is a crucial difference between doing something big, bombastic and the audience feeling the visceral impact of that doing. A dancer can throw off multiple tricks, chortle off indecent number of fouettés and leave you completely cold. But a dancer can also throw off multiple tricks, chortle off fouettés and leave you in screaming delirium. The fact of the tricks and fouettés doesn’t guarantee our emotional expatiation; the intelligence of its execution does. That is the difference between illusion and trick, between stunt and art. It is why we continue to watch galas, even though we all know that dancers are ideally seen in full lengths, and that galas, often name-dropping affairs, are inaccurate measures of a dancer’s worth. We watch because dancers at this level, dancers like Summerscales can transform the most ‘gotcha’ things into something ecstatic.