Sometimes, life throws you one of the best coincidences you can hope to find. Before we begin this review, here’s a little backstory: after catching a show at the Esplanade, we were walking past the Esplanade underground area where dancers usually practice and spotted a large group of dancers rehearsing. Not usually one to stop and stare, we were struck with how in sync these guys were, and approached them to find out more about them. It turns out that they were an alumni dance group, rehearsing hard late into a dedicated night each week amidst their crazy schedules to prepare for their upcoming show.
That show is of course, Love At First Squat <3, presented by The Passionate Dancing Elders and supported by the NAC’s Noise programme. Heading into the Gateway Theatre that night, we were wowed by the full house crowd the group played to, consisting of audiences from all walks of life, from the young to young at heart. Love At First Squat ❤ is essentially a dance presentation, but as with most dance type shows nowadays, comes with a loose storyline, as the audience follow the exploits of a quintessential Ah Beng (Benjamin Yeo) as he breaks from stereotype to pursue the high art of ballet, in the pursuit of his one true love Beryl (Beryl Tay).
For creative director Ryan Tan, primarily a jazz and contemporary dance instructor, incorporating ballet into the otherwise primarily street dance routines was a stroke of genius to showcase each and every cast member’s varied talents. With charismatic leads in the form of Benjamin Yeo, Jasmine Lee and Beryl Tay, one was easily charmed by their chemistry onstage and the confidence with which they performed, elevating Love At First Squat ❤ to feeling like a truly professional production. This was helped in part by designers Audrey Sim, Tiffany Sim, Zuhri and Benjamin Yeo, as well as props managers Marcus Leong and Zheng Yi, whose sets, costumes and lighting were expertly done. Not to mention, a strong supporting cast consisting of Zheng Yi, Wee Ming and Marcus Leong as fellow ‘bengs’, and Samantha Lee, Jean Tan and Cheryl Chua as a trio of ‘lians’.
Although not theatre trained, the sheer passion and dedication to their craft allowed the dance numbers to carry the story, well balanced with comedic moments and impressive mass synchronized work (the ensemble consisted of around 70 members). Each number was tightly choreographed and the synergy shared and amount of time the group had put into rehearsals was evident, moving incredibly well as a singular unit and easily bringing us from one entertaining act to the next. Benjamin Yeo was adept at bringing his character of Ah Beng to life, showcasing an earnestness and sincerity in his pursuit of Beryl. Although simple, the story of opposing family dynamics was a familiar one, and certainly, was relatable for us, helping it score points emotionally.
Love At First Squat ❤ knows how to appeal to a wide variety of audiences; in a number set to classic song Mambo Italiano, Meiqi, playing Ah Beng’s mother, led the dancers in a rousing performance that showcased their flexibility, while the content of the song immediately transported us back to an older, simpler time that most likely awakened something in the older crowd.
Meanwhile, An An, playing MJ Laoda, herself a veteran and dancer for O School, impressed as she led the dancers in a complex, well choreographed number that really displayed the dancers’ keen sense of teamwork and onstage chemistry.
The Passionate Dancing Elders should be absolutely proud of themselves for having put on a fantastic show like this, well living up to the passion in their name with the amount of work it must have taken to whip the massive cast into shape and get performance ready. We can only hope that they keep up the amazing work they’ve displayed, and continue to be all the proof you need to see that the arts is very much alive in the hands of today’s youth.
Performance attended 22/12/17