Masterpiece in Motion – An Interview with Satoru Agetsuma | The Flying Inkpot
Masterpiece in Motion 2022
Quiver – Timothy Rushton (World Premiere)
Ibsen’s House – Val Caniparoli (Company Premiere)
Organ Concerto – Nils Christe
29 and 30 July (8pm), 31 July (3pm)
The then-Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) was founded in 1988 and its official name change to Singapore Ballet was announced in December 2021, signifying the company’s maturity and aspiration. Its 2022 season, Metamorphosis, is a symbol of this new chapter, and its upcoming Masterpiece in Motion features new works and international repertory which represent the diversity and heart of what the company has to offer.
Aileen Tang chats with soloist Satoru Agetsuma, 25, to find out what he personally thinks of Masterpiece in Motion and why he didn’t previously think he could be a romantic lead.
The Flying Inkpot: Let’s start with a little about yourself. When did you join SDT, and what made you decide to come to Singapore?
Satoru Agetsuma: I joined SDT 2017 as an apprentice. I was then a student at the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne, and I met someone who had danced in SDT. He told me about all the good memories and experiences with SDT’s performances and things like the rehearsal times and tours. I started to be interested in the company and then I came to Singapore for the audition in Singapore, and Janek [Schergen, Artistic Director of Singapore Ballet] gave me a contract. It was a very smooth process and I’m really lucky to be able to join [the then] SDT.
TFI: You’re dancing in 2 works for Masterpiece in Motion – Quiver and Organ Concerto. How different are the 2 works, and how do you switch from one to the other – mentally and physically – in the same evening?
SA: Quiver and Organ Concerto are both categorized as neoclassical works, but I think they have very different vibes. Quiver has a lot of hand gestures and unique poses, and Organ Concerto has more flow in the movements and the piece is more dynamic to the whole piece. But both works are incredibly musical., so I try to “catch” the notes and stay with the music (Ed: Quiver is set to Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major and Organ Concerto to Poulenc’s work of the same name). The little details make a huge difference. I don’t actually have particular things to “switch”. I usually try to think about what the next step or next move is – if it’s a turn, it’s the lift – and then I just do it with the right dynamics and right movement. That’s how I get through many pieces in one evening.
TFI: Singapore Ballet presents a variety of performances each season – from well-loved classics to exhilarating new works and experiences for younger audiences. Masterpiece in Motion is kind of nestled between the two large classical ballets in March and December. What does it mean to you personally?
SA: Personally, I feel like Masterpiece in Motion is something which allows me to explore and to dig into some things more. It’s like when we do the same ballet twice, but we try to do the second time better than the first time. Even with the new pieces, I try to [expand] my comfort zone so I can do the movement a little bigger, or maybe try to approach the movement in different ways. It’s challenging for me.
TFI: What would you say is the place of Masterpiece in Motion in Singapore Ballet?
SA: I think Masterpiece in Motion is when we discover new things. You can find your favourite pieces and new ballets, and even your favourite dancers! So if you have your favourite dancers, you can see how far they explore [new things] because we don’t just repeat the classical ballets or standard ballets – you can see all of us going in new directions and using our bodies in new styles. That’s why I think Masterpiece in Motion is so unique.
TFI: What has been your most memorable performance with Singapore Ballet?
SA: Romeo and Juliet [in 2020]. I think that was my most memorable ballet and it’s also the most recent full-length ballet that we’ve done. It still leaves me with a warm feeling. I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much, funnily enough! I just didn’t feel like I’m a Romantic Ballet person. Romeo and Juliet is a romantic love story that has so much emotion and so much acting. I always thought I was more like a Don Quixote with tonnes of jumps. I love to do like big jumps and things like that, so I didn’t think I would be able to act and become someone else on stage – and to tell the story as someone else.
But once I got to dance [both] Mercutio and Romeo, it was just fantastic! And every moment I was on stage was literally so magical. I think everybody on stage has so many emotions going on – so much happiness and sadness and anger. Every ballet has characters of course, but Romeo and Juliet cannot be compared with the others because there is so much and it’s so important to tell it as an emotional story. It was just so good, and I really want to do it again.
TFI: Is there a ballet or a role that you’ve always wanted to dance but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
SA: Solor in La Bayadère. Solor is one of the most technically and physically difficult roles. That was the first full-length ballet I saw in Australia while when I was in school there, and it left a really huge impression on me to get into professional ballet. I love the music [by Ludwig Minkus] and I love the story. That’s always been my dream role.
You can read The Flying Inkpot’s interview with Satoru alongside fellow dancer Kwok Min Yi, Artistic Director Janek Schergen and conductor Joshua Tan at http://www.flyinginkpot.com/2019/11/interview-with-singapore-dance-theatres-janek-schergen-kwok-min-yi-satoru-agetsuma-and-joshua-tan/
Tickets for Masterpiece in Motion are available from SISTIC: https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/masterpiece0722