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Interview: Elaine Heng and Timothy Coleman of Singapore Dance Theatre’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’

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Romeo and Juliet

Singapore Dance Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet played at The Esplanade from March 13th to 16th, 2014. Two of the production’s dancers, Elaine Heng and Timothy Coleman, talked to us about the show and their craft.

ELAINE HENG

Could you tell us how and when you started dancing?

I started dancing just like every other kid! I was first enrolled into a ballet class in kindergarten as they provided them before school started. My mum asked me if I wanted to give it a try and I thought ‘why not?!’ I then joined the Singapore Ballet Academy (SBA) when I was six and stayed there till I left for London to train overseas.

How did you come to dance for the SDT?

I grew up at SBA so I was constantly exposed to SDT from a young age. I watched their productions and was also very fortunate to be part of their productions as a student a number of times. How I came to dance with SDT… I auditioned for the Company and was offered a job. It was too good an offer to refuse!

Elaine Heng

Elaine Heng

Could you tell us about your role in Romeo & Juliet?

I’m dancing a couple of roles in this production depending on the performance day and timing. I’m a Montague and Capulet for certain performances and Fate for the rest of the performances. I think the Montagues and Capulets need no further explanation but the role of Fate is quite interesting. Fate is embodied by a dancer and brings Juliet to Romeo whilst knowing that them being together will lead to eventual deaths – this is the only way the two families will ever realise their foolishness and come to terms with one another. Fate guides Juliet in many pivotal moments of the ballet (mostly in Act 3) and propels the story forward till Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.

Why should audiences come watch this production?

Firstly, Prokofiev’s score is amazing! Romeo and Juliet is a timeless classic and this production is slightly different from the usual!

Is this dance version any different from the Shakespeare version?

The plot is essentially similar except that the role of Fate is introduced in Goh Choo San’s version of the ballet.

TIMOTHY COLEMAN

Timothy Coleman

Timothy Coleman

Could you tell us how and when you started dancing?

I started dancing when I was six. My sister began taking classes at the local ballet school twice a week. I always went and would hang around the studios while she did class. The ballet teachers noticed this and, not wanting to miss the opportunity to get another boy doing ballet, convinced me to give it a shot. Here I am still doing it over 20 years later.

How did you come to dance for the SDT?

I danced in my hometown of Townsville, Australia, until I was 17 when I received a scholarship to attend a full-time ballet school in Newcastle. I stayed in Newcastle for 18 months before I had the opportunity to attend a summer program in New York City. It was only a six-week program but was a huge turning point in my life. Not only did I meet Heidi, now my fiancé, I was also offered a job in San Diego, California. After a few years together there, we successfully auditioned for a job with Sacramento Ballet (also in California) where we stayed for four more years. By this time we had decided that we would like to move closer to home and one of the companies we set our sights on was Singapore Dance Theatre. Thankfully two positions had just opened up the week before we auditioned and we got the jobs. We have very much enjoyed our time here.

Could you tell us about your role in Romeo & Juliet?

In SDT’s upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet, I will be dancing the role of Mercutio. Mercutio is a really fun role to perform. His character goes through varied scenarios in the ballet – the ballroom, the fight in the marketplace and the death scene – that allow me to really immerse myself in different aspects of his character as the ballet goes along.

Mercutio is a character who really enjoys having fun. He very much enjoys the company of women, drinking with Romeo and Benvolio, and even a spot of swordplay. He is a very confident and cheeky guy who delights in gate-crashing the Capulets’ ball and teasing Tybalt. The flip side of his character comes out when Tybalt taunts him in the marketplace and challenges him to a duel where he comes off second best. Mercutio’s journey through the ballet culminates in his death scene where he tries to hide the fact that he is mortally wounded from the many onlookers. As a role, it includes some great dancing as well as the full gamut of dramatic acting.

Why should audiences come watch this production?

I think audiences should come and see this production because it is undoubtedly one of the greatest love stories there has ever been. Not only that, but the music by Prokofiev, is one of the most emotional ballet scores ever written. There is so much drama in the music and when that couples with the dancers giving it their all, it is really a powerful experience for the audience.

Is this dance version any different from the Shakespeare version?

The main difference between Goh Choo San’s ballet and Shakespeare’s play is the inclusion of the character of Fate. From the very first lines of the play, it is clear that the concept of ‘fate’ is a central theme in the story and I think giving that concept physical embodiment as a dancer is a very effective one. Fate appears on the scene when pivotal moments in the story are about to occur. She draws Romeo and Juliet together, for instance, and pushes Juliet to take the poison that results in both her and Romeo’s death.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.