Dancers are used to performing in theatres, not temporary tents with portaloos, changing weather, and wildlife! Performing outdoors can be an adventure, but there is something extra special about it too. How awesome to watch a butterfly weave in and out of the wings, and feel the excitement as daylight fades and show time approaches? It almost makes up for the mud and the bathroom situation (!).
These are the challenges of dancing outdoors in tropical Singapore…
Rehearsals on a hotplate.
Performing under the night sky certainly is glamorous, but rehearsing squinty-faced in the sun is not. Working on stage becomes goofy when you need sunglasses to see, your skin is burning, and your feet are melting into the dance floor. This is Singapore – it is hot – and during daytime rehearsals we were blinded and melted. Sunset couldn’t come soon enough.
No sinks. No mirrors. Just the stuffy backstage tent and the porta-loos out the back. Not exactly luxurious preparation conditions! The dancers got ready for the show beforehand, at our company studios, before walking through the park (and the grass and the mud) to the stage just before the show. Our costumes were waiting for us there, but everything else we carried ourselves.
The audience isn’t dressed up and seated formally, gawking up at you from neat rows. No – they are sprawled across the grass, eating picnics, and chasing down their kids (who are probably busy climbing onto the stage). It is a different crowd – a much more casual crowd. That can take getting used to as a performer, but seeing so many groups of families and friends enjoying their evening, arriving hours early to reserve their ‘spots’ on the lawn, you can’t help but love it too.
Usually we perform in the dry, climate controlled, airconditioned air. The nights in Singapore are always beautifully warm, perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the night, but dancing under hot stage lights with the heat and humidity is something else. We sweated buckets. Little coolers of mini water bottles were stored in the wings, so we could take quick sips between entrances and not die. It is a miracle that we had any makeup left on at all, or didn’t rip our soaked costumes trying to peel them off during quick changes. (But at least it minimised the porta-loo visits!)
There is only so much humidity a pointe shoe can take. They were dissolving on our feet. A lot of pointe shoes were prepared for the company for this show, and some of us felt we needed even more.
Bats on the stage?
Yes. There were bats flying across the floor – nothing stranger than to walk out from the wings with a bat circling around near your feet! Thankfully they cleared away once the lights came on full.
Yes there were some curious visitors, both in the day and night – but nothing much, relatively, only the occasional butterfly, bee, or moth. (If this was Australia, every creepy crawly in town would have stopped for their moment in the spotlight.)
Great performances have an inspiring energy that reminds us why we dance. How beautiful to be out with the stars under the night sky, sharing our art-form with a big and festive audience! To dance amongst the rich green of a tropical park is unique and beautiful – what a great evening out in Singapore!
If we were fast to take off our costumes and collect up all our makeup and shoes and belongings from backstage, we could make it to the bubble tea shop before they closed! (Thankyou A-gan Tea for being open late!) Our post-performance favourites were lemon & wintermelon (with grass jelly), gold citron (with basil seed), and roselle (with aiyu jelly).
It was the perfect way to refresh and rehydrate before getting on the train home, and start trying to wind down before another day.