Singapore Dance Theatre

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The Singapore Dance Theatre is Singapore's national dance company, founded in 1988 by the late Anthony Then and Goh Soo Khim. It made its debut in June 1988 at the Singapore Festival of The Arts and received its first arts patronage by the then-Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Ong Teng Cheong.[1] The Artistic Director of the company is Janek Schergen.

Its humble beginnings started with a group of seven ballet dancers in a modest dance studio on the second storey of a creaky colonial bungalow on Killiney Road. This studio space was shared by the Singapore Ballet Academy and the SDT's dancers could only train in between the Academy's rehearsal schedules on normal days. The building's condition was poor and, often, dancers had to be careful with their dance movements lest the floorboards gave way. On rainy days, the studio would experience leaking roofs and had to put buckets at the corner of the studio, to collect rainwater.[2]

in 1991 SDT moved to the Fort Canning Centre in Fort Canning Park. As of 2013, SDT moved to purpose built headquarters on Victoria Street. The new premises has four large studios and better facilities for the dances and staff. On 12 July 2013 the new SDT headquarters was officially opened with the Silver Legacy Gala by presided over by President Dr. Tony Tan. SDT now consists of 37 dancers, predominantly from the Asia-Pacific region. It receives its funding from both public and private sources such as the National Arts Council, and corporate and private donations.[3]

It has six seasons in a year, including performances at the Esplanade theatre and the Fort Canning Green, where its hugely popular Ballet Under The Stars (BUTS) series of outdoor performances are staged. BUTS has, to date, attracted over 180,000 spectators from all walks of life and have become dance aficionados.


The company’s repertoire ranges from classical to contemporary ballet, from renowned choreographers like Choo-San Goh, George Balanchine, Jean Paul Comelin, Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian, Val Caniparoli, Edwaard Liang, Nils Christe, Graham Lustig, Ma Cong, Toru Shimazaki, Natalie Weir, Stanton Welch, Edmund Stripe and Timothy Harbour. The company also takes on the works by contemporary choreographers Kuik Swee Boon, David Dawson, Jorma Elo, Xing Liang and Adrian Burnett. They also have done several full length ballets in their history with The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Cinderella, Giselle, Madame Butterfly, La Sylphide, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote and the contemporary work Reminiscing the Moon, choreographed by Boi Sakti, commissioned for the opening of the Esplanade in 2002.

In 2010 the company performed Giselle in Victoria Theatre and presented a new staging of Sleeping Beauty in December at the Esplanade. SDT adds five or six new works in each season coming from choreographers such as Val Caniparoli, Edwaard Liang, Nils Christe, Kinsun Chan plus the children's ballet Peter and Blue's series created especially for young audiences by the company's Artistic Director, Janek Schergen. SDT presented company premieres of George Balanchine's ballets Concerto Barocco, Serenade, Allegro Brillante, Divertimento #15, Theme and Variations, Rubies and The Four Temperaments between 2009-2017.

The 2011 season's began with Choo San Goh's Romeo and Juliet performed at The Esplanade in March. Masterpiece in Motion 2011 programme was Stanon Welch's Maninyas, Nils Christe's Fearful Symmetries and a new work made for SDT by Edwaard Laing entitled The Winds of Zephyrus. Ballet Under the Stars 2011 presented a Tchaikovsky Festival with Balanchine's Allegro Brillante, Serenade and Swan Lake Act II. Passages Choreographic Workshop performances were presented at The National Museum at the end of October 2011. The season ended with a successful new staging of The Nutcracker. The 2012 season was framed with performances of Swan Lake in March and Sleeping Beauty in December at the Esplanade Theatre. There were several new additions to the repertoire-ZIN!/Nils Christe, Jabula/Natalie Weir, Age of Innocence/Edwaard Laing, Divertimento #15/ George Balanchine and new works from Val Caniparoli (Chant), Nils Christe (Organ Concerto) and Toru Shimizaki (Absence of Story). The annual presentations of Masterpiece in Motion, Ballet Under the Stars and Passages Choreographic Workshop continue. 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the company's foundation. The company moved to new headquarters in February 2013 at Bugis+ on the top floor of the building. The new home includes four studios, staff, meeting and production room. The performance season began in March, at The Esplanade Theatre, with Coppelia, featuring largely new sets and an expanded staging to present the full company. During the year new works were added from Christina Chan, Natalie Weir and Kinsun Chan. The company premiere of Balanchine's Theme and Variations was in August. 2013 also featured performances of Giselle and The Nutcracker to mark their prominence in the company's history and repertoire. A gala performance to mark the 25th year took place on 31 May & 1 June 2013 at the Esplanade Theatre. It featured Edwaard Liang's world premiere of Opus 25 as the centerpiece, created for 32 dancers in the company, to music of Michael Torke. In 2015 SDT's repertoire included Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, plus ten works from the company's established repertoire and new works from Kinsun Chan, Gigi Gianti, Max Chen and Francois Klaus, plus the company premiere of Bournonville Divertissements. The company has been on tour to Malaysia annually as well as other cities in the Asia Pacific region. 2018 marked the 30th Anniversary of SDT, beginning with the Moon and the Stars Gala, held at Capitol Theatre in April, 2018. The performance gala was held in July 2018 with a performance of Choo-San Goh's Double Contrasts, as well as the pas de deux from his ballet Configurations, plus the world premiere of Timothy's Harbour's Linea Adora and the company premiere of Nils Christe's SYNC.


Besides developing its repertoire, the company is dedicated to nurturing young choreographic talents in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region. Its hugely popular and well-known Ballet Under The Stars seasons at Fort Canning Green have become a viable working space for dance performances. Up-and-coming choreographers now present their creations through the Passages Contemporary Season as well as the SDT choreographic Workshop. In 2010 thru 2013 Passages was presented in a showing at the National Museum in November followed by performances of works made for the company by Jeffrey Tan, Kuik Swee Boon, Xing Liang, Daniel Roberts, Kinsun Chan and Christina Chan.

Currently, the 36 SDT dancers train under Artistic Director Janek Schergen, who was also the ballet master for Choo-San Goh from Washington Ballet. He has staged Mr. Goh's works for the repertoire through the years. In the company's history SDT has also groomed notable dancers and choreographers such as Kuik Swee Boon and Jeffery Tan, a Young Artist Award for Dance recipient in 2000.[3]


As a major grant recipient from the Singapore Government and, in keeping with SDT’s commitment to bringing the finest in dance to the public audience, on-going Education and Outreach programmes are organised to provide people with opportunities to appreciate dance. The SDT continues to make extensive school visits and offer special courses for non-dancers and adult students. Recently SDT has launched several new initiatives. One @ the Ballet, which are open rehearsals in the company's Founder's studio, is held on Saturdays and dedicated to topics that show the inside working of a dance company. The Ballet Associate Course has been developed to offer master classes for young ballet students in a workshop format though the year. The Scholar's Programme is a pre-professional training outgrowth of Ballet Associates that gives students daily training in development towards careers in dance. SDT has also launched a children's series with ballets made especially for very young audiences accompanied by a narrator. These efforts aim to make dance more accessible to the masses. Singapore Dance Theatre hopes to spread the beauty, passion and discipline of dance to as many people as possible, and place Singapore in the minds of international dance aficionados.

On July 16, 2008, Goh Soo Khim formally announced that she would step down from her position as Artistic Director of the Singapore Dance Theatre, effective from July 19, 2008, as the company celebrated its 20th anniversary celebrations with a gala performance at Victoria Theatre. The gala performance presented a repertoire of dance excerpts of the SDT's landmark performances over the last two decades starting with three Singaporean choreographers represented, Choo San Goh's "Beginnings", Living Greens by Mohamed Noor Sarman and Jeffrey Tan's Negro Y Blanco.[3]

In 2008 the company's Assistant Artistic Director, Janek Schergen, was appointed the Artistic Director of the company. His involvement has stemmed from the initial SDT performances in 1988 with the staging of Choo San Goh's ballet Beginnings. Over the next 17 years he staged 11 of Choo San Goh's ballets for SDT plus added six full-length works (Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Don Quixote and Giselle) in new stagings. On 6 February 2009 the main rehearsal studio at SDT's home in Fort Canning was dedicated in Ms. Goh's honour as the Goh Soo Khim Founder's Studio with a performance and a celebration for family and friends following. On the 26 February 2016, The Choo San Goh Studio was dedicated during SDT's Gala evening"The Moon and the Stars" in honour of the choreographer.


  1. ^ Lisa, Lee (1988-01-04). "A first for Teng Cheong and local dance group". Singapore: Business Times. p. 9.
  2. ^ Chong, Grace (2006-06-01). "In love with dance". Singapore: Business Times.
  3. ^ a b c Tara, Tan (2008-07-18). "Ballet company co-founder bows out - Singapore Dance Theatre co-founder and artistic director Goh Soo Khim to step down in December after 20 years". Straits Times.

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