French literary great Honore de Balzac once called ballet “a way of surviving”. It is a pithy description of an artform to whom generations of devotees regard as the link between life and art. Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, who is most recognised for her role in The Dying Swan, asked on her deathbed for her swan costume to be ready — her last wish must have been to continue dancing in the afterlife as well.
The ar t of ballet, born i n Renaissance Italy, i s almost 400 years old, and continues to hold its audiences enthralled — by the dancers who have to train their whole lives for potentially short careers, by how much strength is required to look so feather-light, by how beautiful their costumes look compared to their tat tered shoes…. The lis t of captivating contrasts goes on.
What exactly i s the charm of ballet? We speak to four ballet dancers — Tan Yuan Yuan, Goh Soo Khim, Chihiro Uchida and Wu Mi — for their perspectives on the multiple facets of the dance. Their conversations cover music, dramaturgy, costumes, make-up, modernity, East-West cultural differences, gender politics and the future of ballet.