Adelene Stanley, the only Singaporean dancer in Inala – A Zulu Ballet, talks about her role in the international production, before its Southeast Asian debut this month

Fresh out of the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London, Adelene Stanley, at age 18, became the youngest dancer—and the only Singaporean—to be part of the original cast of Inala—A Zulu Ballet, which premiered at the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival.

The brainchild of London-based theatrical producers Sisters Grimm and award‑winning choreographer Mark Baldwin, the production combines South African culture and music with classical ballet and contemporary dance, and features the South African Soweto Gospel Choir, performing alongside current and former dancers from The Royal Ballet and Rambert.

“It’s the exciting mix of art forms that creates the magic on stage,” enthuses Stanley who, as an original cast member, helped to workshop ideas during the initial stages of the production, working closely with Baldwin. Inala, or Zulu for “abundance of goodwill”, went on to enthrall audiences across 21 cities in the UK, Russia and France, as well as the British royal family.

For Stanley, however, nothing holds a candle to performing in front of a home audience, when the production makes its Southeast Asian premiere, from June 19 to 22, at the Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands.

After the first Inala tour ended in 2016, the School of the Arts Singapore graduate moved back home to become a full-time dancer with homegrown contemporary dance company, Frontier Danceland, for two years. She now teaches dance and movement therapy, while building an impressive portfolio working with renowned choreographers such as German Sita Ostheimer and Israeli Shahar Binyamini. 

How does it feel to be performing Inala at home?
Adelene Stanley (AS) I can’t be more thrilled. Inala is something that I’ve invested so much of myself into, and it means a lot to me that my friends and family here will finally get to see it. Performing in Singapore will sit in a very special place in my heart.
What were some of the learning points from the first tour and how will you do it differently this time?
AS It’s been five years since the first Inala show, so I’d like to think that I’m much better at controlling my nerves. But I need to step it up when it comes to the maintenance of my body, as I’m not as young anymore and my body definitely knows that. So I’m going to take extra precautions, listen to my body more, warm up and cool down properly, and take proper rest when I’m not performing.
How has your overseas experiences been instrumental in your growth as a dancer?
AS The experiences I’ve gained overseas have been extremely valuable, and could not be replicated in Singapore. It’s a different culture, work life, and an amazing opportunity to soak it all in. Training and working in the UK and Europe has opened my mind and offered me more tools and even more contacts within the industry to connect with. There’s so much exchange that happens in the arts (outside of Singapore), and tapping into that gives you a whole lot more perspective.

How can you help non-dancers get in touch with their bodies through movement therapy? 
AS Movement therapy allows you to rediscover your body in a safe space, free of judgement, and draws out emotional release. This is a class based on dance improvisation, and is designed to unlock the humdrum of daily life; to reconnect the body and mind in a session that allows movement through space.
Where do you see yourself next?
AS A dream of mine has always been to choreograph a play or musical, and help with the creative direction. So hopefully, one day I’d be able to do that. I’d also love to draw more links and do more collaborations between fashion and dance, as well as theatre and dance. Aside from performing, I’d love to start my own studio, with movement therapy as the main core. I think in a society like Singapore, people would appreciate a class that offers the calm and Zen of yoga and the physicalisation of a dance class. 

Inala—A Zulu Ballet takes place till June 22.

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