Dikir Barat and Ballet Under the Stars

BUTS Giselle Chreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot

There is a wonderful column in The New York Times called “Metropolitan Diary.” For decades, it “has been a place for New Yorkers, past and present, to share odd fleeting moments at Bloomingdale’s, at the deli around the corner, in the elevator or at the movies. Since its debut, overheard conversations have shifted from the backseat of Checker cabs to Crown Vics, from pay-phone booths to cellphones and from the IRT to the JMZ. Still, punch lines delivered by surly waiters, witty train conductors, lively bus drivers, erudite window washers and adult children facing off with an overbearing parent continue to surprise us.”

Glenn Collins, the third editor of the column, one of nearly a dozen diary editors, called it an “elegant cocktail of the city.”

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I’ve experienced many spontaneous, magical, and memorable “Singapore moments”: releasing sky lanterns over Kallang Airport, wandering up and down Bras Basah Road on a misty night; watching the sun set over West Coast Park Beach. These “only in Singapore” moments continue to remind me that this city still surprises—still enchants—nearly three years on.

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On Sunday afternoon, we stumbled upon a dikir barat performance at Causeway Point in Woodlands. I had never seen a performance of this energetic genre, a traditional Malay musical form that involves solo and group singing, hand clapping, and synchronized body and hand movements. I was so moved by their talent and gusto. Upon returning home, I Googled like mad and learned that dikir barat is performed widely in Singapore and that many school CCAs hold regular competitions. I would have never had a chance to see this regional art form in New York City and, as hokey as it sounds, I feel so blessed to have witnessed it here. Sunday’s showcase also made me realize, once again, how much I don’t know about this corner of the world and how much I have left to learn.

On Sunday evening, I attended Singapore Dance Theatre’s “Ballet Under the Stars.” (By far, one of the best things about living in Singapore is the weather and that concerts and cultural events can be staged outdoors year-round. There is something so special about seeing a live performance on a tropical night.) That evening’s show was “Giselle,” a quintessential Romantic ballet in two acts. It was a joy to spend the waning hours of the weekend in one of my favorite city parks and watch my toddler be mesmerized by the grace and beauty on display.

(Additional credits: Photograph via Singapore Dance Theatre.)

One response

  1. I was there with my little girl for the Ballet under the Stars on Saturday. Beautiful, wasn’t it? But boy was it tough explaining Giselle to a four-year-old.