Not many people in the arena of modern dance and ballet can boast that they have performed and created beautiful dance pieces for the likes of New York City Ballet, Broadway's "Fosse" and the Nederlands Dans Theater—some of the world’s most renowned ballet troupes.
And not many people (men especially) can say that they’ve learnt to pointe, pirouette and do the arabesque before they can even tie their shoelaces.
He's Edwaard Liang, the 35-year-old choreographer of the ballet "Distant Cries," which the Singapore Dance Theatre invited down to Singapore as part of Masterpiece in Motion, a celebration of dance featuring a triple-bill showcase by dance greats Nil Christe, Stanton Welch and Liang. We sat down with Liang for a little tête-à-tête.
Did you really start taking ballet class at 5? How did you become interested in it at such a young age?
Yes. I started because my sister was taking ballet and we were driven around together. I was also taking karate and other things but ballet seems to be the one got my attention and it just stuck.
Who are some of the biggest influences for you as a dancer?
It’s hard to say who had the biggest but it should be all the dancers I used to watch when I was little. People like Misha, Gelsy Kirkland and Sylvie Guillem. I think as a dancer you’re influenced by everyone you watch, meet and get to work with.
When did you first start to think about working as a choreographer?
I started opening my eyes as a choreographer while I was dancing with Nederlands Dans Theater. They love to push their dancers to create and be creative. That’s where I tried my hand at my first work for their annual workshop.
You’ve worked with some of the world’s finest troupes around: New York City Ballet, Broadway's "Fosse" and the Nederlands Dans Theater. What was the experience like?
I feel really blessed to be able to have had so many beautiful varied experiences. Each company I feel like it was such a wonderful learning and growing experience. That was my goal as a dancer, was to be able to try everything.
Can you tell us something about The Winds of Zephyrus which will be performed at Esplanade Theatre as part of SDT’s Masterpiece in Motion?
I just wanted to create a ballet that evoked the sense of the elements and scenes of wind, air and water. A ballet piece that was abstract, using the company to their best abilities.
Patrons have been delighted in your rejuvenating interpretations of ballet and unflagging passion to make them more relevant to audiences growing up with different values, different classical references, different interests and desires. How supportive have audiences and the media been of your works? Does that propel you forward?
I have been very lucky and grateful to keep working and have so much support. Of course it’s always wonderful to be supported. But, I would be doing this regardless. I love what I do. I do find a need to express myself like this.
What would you be doing if you weren't a dancer and choreographer?
I love eastern medicine and acupuncture. Maybe that. (With a laugh)
Is there a style of dance you want to learn more about, even if you don't see yourself performing in that style?
I want to be able to learn all types. I think it will only make me grow. I would love to try my hand in musicals, music, videos etc. Whoever will hire me J
Where do you see dance going in the next ten years?
I wish I had a crystal ball – I am happy to wait and see and just enjoy moment to moment of this art and process.
I just started a new work for the San Francisco Ballet and will be helping open the Bolshoi Theatre for the Bolshoi and will be working on a full length Romeo & Juliet piece.