Anthony Then



Anthony Then (b. 16 June 1944, Singapore–d. 16 December 1995, Singapore), also known as Tony, was a dancer, choreographer and dance teacher who was instrumental in the professionalisation of dance in Singapore. Together with Goh Soo Khim, he founded the Singapore Dance Theatre.1

Early life and education
Then grew up in a dance-loving family. His parents were avid fans of ballroom dancing, especially the tango. When they were children, Then and his five siblings were often asked to perform whenever the family had guests.2

During his time at St Joseph’s Institution, where he received his early education, Then often performed at school concerts as part of the Literary, Debating and Dramatic Society. By the time he was a teenager, Then was familiar with tap dance and Latin dance. At the age of 14, Then enrolled in the newly established Singapore Ballet Academy (SBA), where his sister Yvonne was also a student. There, he trained under the academy’s founders Vernon Martinus, Frances Poh and Goh Soonee.3


Education and career in Europe
After obtaining a Royal Academy of Dance advanced certificate from the SBA, Then received a scholarship in 1965 to study at London’s Rambert School of Ballet.4 Following his graduation, he did a stint with the Scottish Ballet, with which he toured England.5

Then went on to join a number of dance companies in the UK and Europe, including the Western Theatre Ballet Company as a soloist, and later as a dancer-in-residence at the opera houses of Bremen and Cologne in Germany, performing both classical and modern styles.6 Then was also the ballet master, choreographer and technical adviser for the West End musical Pull Both Ends.7

In 1989, while with the Cologne Opera House, Then suffered a knee injury and had to take a break from dancing. During this period, he studied choreology (the notation of dance movements) for two years at the Institute of Choreology in London.8 After receiving his diploma, he taught at the institute for five years before being promoted to head of the jazz faculty.9

After his injury, Then also pursued freelance acting, although he was often typecast in roles that the Western film industry then regarded as “Oriental”, such as servants, slaves and valets.10 He was cast in television series such as the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Doctor Who and Gangsters, as well as films including The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In addition to his acting and dancing interests, Then modelled for various fashion magazines.11

Career in Singapore
In late 1977, Then returned to Singapore to work as director and choreographer of Neptune Theatre Restaurant’s dance troupe, which staged a new show every month. There, besides training the Neptune dancers in various styles such as disco, classical, jazz and contemporary, he also taught them to sing.12 His first Neptune production was held in January 1978.13

After about two years at the Neptune, Then travelled around Europe and the United States in late 1979, taking on the role of ballet master at the Nevada Dance Theatre.14 He subsequently returned to Singapore and, in 1982, upon the Neptune’s request, went back to work on productions with the troupe, though on a freelance basis.15 However, Then mentioned that, “to a certain degree”, he felt “stifled” at the Neptune, as commercialism took precedence over artistic merit.16

In 1983, on the invitation of Goh Soo Khim, who was then principal (now director) of the SBA, Then became a guest teacher at the school.17 The following year, Then and Goh served as artistic directors for the ballet programme in the 1984 Singapore Festival of Arts. For the festival, he choreographed a 20-minute segment titled Variations on a Theme, which showcased different dance styles and techniques.18

Later in 1984, Goh and Then were appointed co-artistic directors of the newly formed Ballet Group under the National Dance Company. The ballet section was formed to complement the existing ethnic dance groups in the company, which had been set up by the then Ministry of Culture in 1970.19 The Ballet Group made its public debut at the 5th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Festival of Performing Arts in 1985 and also performed at the Singapore Festival of Arts the following year.20

In May 1986, the idea of setting up a professional ballet company was mooted, and it was revealed that Goh and Then had been planning for the possibility, which was endorsed by the government.21
 
Formation of the Singapore Dance Theatre
In August 1987, Goh and Then established the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) – the first professional dance company in Singapore.22 Ong Teng Cheong, then second deputy prime minister, was the troupe’s first patron.23 Following the announcement of the SDT’s formation the following month, Goh and Then, both co-artistic directors, began scouting for members to form the troupe; the first seven dancers were introduced in March 1988, and the SDT was officially launched.24

From the outset, the founders envisioned the SDT to be a company that performs a wide repertoire of international works and creates dances with a distinctive local identity. Goh and Then also aimed to bring the SDT onto the international arena.25

The SDT debuted on 12 June 1988 at the Singapore Festival of Arts with a programme titled Beginnings held at the Victoria Theatre.26

As a ballet teacher at the SDT, Then was described as “firm but gentle”, and known for pursuing the “four ‘D’s” in prospective students: desire to dance, determination, dedication and discipline.27

Choreography
Then adopted a “spontaneous” style of choreography whereby he responded to the movement and reactions of the dancers.28 Artistically, he aimed for a choreography that was “rich in movement – pure dance movements showing the discipline and the technicality of the dance”.29

The first work created by Then for the SDT, Concerto for VII, was performed in October 1988. Set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, one of the components featured seven dancers in leotards painted in gradations of purple by artist Tan Swie Hian; the pas de deux (dance duet) segment, especially, was critically acclaimed. Described as “lyrical and yet precise”, Concerto for VII garnered positive reviews.30


In 1990, he presented Schumann Impressions. Inspired by his collection of over a hundred porcelain dolls, Then choreographed Schumann Impressions as a ballet pantomime in the style of commedia dell’arte (a form of Italian improvised comedy). The classical work, set to Schumann’s Carnaval Opus 9, was said to have a “stylish sophistication”. The work was restaged in 1995.31

In 1992, Then directed his version of the well-loved piece The Nutcracker – the SDT’s first full-length production. The two-hour classical ballet, staged at Kallang Theatre, was composed of a 140-strong cast – comprising a dance community of teachers, students (including toddlers) and professional dancers from more than 40 ballet groups and schools. With costs totalling S$350,000, the SDT staging of The Nutcracker, which marked the 100th anniversary of The Nutcracker, boasted the largest budget for a dance production in Singapore at the time.32 It was restaged two years later, again with Then at the helm. This time, however, the production included 45 members of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and 30 members of the children’s choir Seraphim Voices.33

One of Then’s key emphases was getting dancers to experiment with choreography, as he believed that dancers should be versatile and have another career to fall back on should they stop dancing.34 In 1994, the SDT staged Mixed Emotions at the Raffles Hotel’s Jubilee Hall, where dancers including Mohamed Noor Sarman and Kuik Swee Boon showcased their original dance pieces.35

Death
Then retired as co-artistic director of the SDT in August 1995, and passed away on 16 December later in the year from an undisclosed illness.36

Selected choreography
1986:
Conflict37

1988: Concerto for VII
1990: Motif (with Goh Soo Khim)38
1990:
Schumann Impressions39

1992: The Nutcracker (restaged in 1994)40



Author
Kaylene Tan



References
1. Tribute.sg. (n.d.). Anthony Then. Retrieved from Tribute.sg website: http://www.tribute.sg/artist-profile-anthony-then#artist-profile-anthony-then; Dance doyen Anthony Then dies at age 51. (1995, December 19). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
2.
 Tribute.sg. (n.d.). Anthony Then. Retrieved from Tribute.sg website: http://www.tribute.sg/artist-profile-anthony-then#artist-profile-anthony-then
3. Tribute.sg. (n.d.). Anthony Then. Retrieved from Tribute.sg website: http://www.tribute.sg/artist-profile-anthony-then#artist-profile-anthony-then; Singapore Ballet Academy. (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from Singapore Ballet Academy website: http://singaporeballetacademy.com.sg/about/
4. Tan, G. E. (1987, July 5). The dancer who took his chances. New Sunday Times, p. 15. Retrieved from Google News website: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WmNPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Q5ADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6598%2C899119; Cynhrr. (1980, May 30). And Then came Tony. New Nation, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Chew, M.-L. (1978, January 26). All the world’s a stage for Anthony. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Ngui, C. (1983, April 20). 4 Ds that Anthony wants to instil in his dancers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chew, M.-L. (1978, January 26). All the world’s a stage for Anthony. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, G. E. (1987, July 5). The dancer who took his chances. New Sunday Times, p. 15. Retrieved from Google News website: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WmNPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Q5ADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6598%2C899119
7. Ngui, C. (1983, April 20). 4 Ds that Anthony wants to instil in his dancers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
9. Chew, M.-L. (1978, January 26). All the world’s a stage for Anthony. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, G. E. (1987, July 5). The dancer who took his chances. New Sunday Times, p. 15. Retrieved from Google News website: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WmNPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Q5ADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6598%2C899119
10. Ngui, C. (1983, April 20). 4 Ds that Anthony wants to instil in his dancers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
11. Tan, G. E. (1987, July 5). The dancer who took his chances. New Sunday Times, p. 15. Retrieved from Google News website: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WmNPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Q5ADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6598%2C899119; Chew, M.-L. (1978, January 26). All the world’s a stage for Anthony. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Dancer Tony returns to improve the stage shows. (1977, October 5). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, G. (1979, July 4). On trip to upgrade Neptune dancers. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Schoon, J. (1978, January 6). All set for Tony’s big, big show. New Nation, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Cynhrr. (1980, May 30). And Then came Tony. New Nation, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, G. (1979, July 4). On trip to upgrade Neptune dancers. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
15. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
16. Ngui, C. (1983, April 20). 4 Ds that Anthony wants to instill in his dancers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU); Singapore Ballet Academy. (n.d.). Faculty: Miss Goh Soo Khim. Retrieved from Singapore Ballet Academy website: http://singaporeballetacademy.com.sg/pdfs/GoSimKhimBio.pdf
18. Teoh, L. (1984, May 19). A night at the ballet. Singapore Monitor, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Teng Cheong to be patron of first professional ballet company here. (1988, January 3). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chan, E. C. (1984, September 17). Flying leap forward. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. De Souza, J. (1985, October 28). Dance phenomenon. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; S’pore ballet may turn professional. (1986, May 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. S’pore ballet may turn professional. (1986, May 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
22. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1993). Singapore Dance Theatre: 5th anniversary: 23–26 June Victoria Theatre: An evening of contemporary ballets. Singapore: The Theatre, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 SIN); Ambassadors of ballet. (1989, September). On Pointe, 2. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 OP)
23. Teng Cheong to be patron of first professional ballet company here. (1988, January 3). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Lee, L. (1988, March 21). All for the love of danceThe Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, J. (1988, March 5). And now, a professional dance group. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Teng Cheong to be patron of first professional ballet company here. (1988, January 3). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, pp. 10, 17. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
26. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998). Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU); Lee, L. (1988, June 18). Bold Beginnings for dance group. The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Dance Theatre. (2013). Momentum: 25 years of Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 MOM)
27. Ngui, C. (1983, April 20). 4 Ds that Anthony wants to instil in his dancers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, L. L. (1990, April). Anthony Then. On Pointe, 6. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 OP).
28. Tan, L. L. (1990, April). Anthony Then. On Pointe, 6. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 OP)
29. Ngui, C. (1983, April 20). 4 Ds that Anthony wants to instil in his dancers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU); Tan, L. L. (1990, April). Anthony Then. On Pointe, 6. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 OP); Holmberg, J. (1988, October 29). A new season for Dance Theatre. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Khor, C. (1988, November 16). Graceful blend of modern and classic. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lo, T. Y. (1988, November 10). Stark, forceful movements in Wilderness dancescape. The New Paper, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. A classical season. (1990, October). On Pointe, 3. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 OP); Khor, C. (1990, December 8). Night of slip-ups. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Khor, C. (1995, May 25). Classical dances.that refresh. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Gwee, C. (1992, November 29). First crack at the traditional. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Khor, C. (1994, December 22). Cracking blend of dance, song and music. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Ngui, C. (1983, April 20). 4 Ds that Anthony wants to instil in his dancers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Phan, M. Y. (1994, October 13). Dances on human ties and emotions. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Phan, M. Y. (1994, October 13). Dances on human ties and emotions. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Dance doyen Anthony Then dies at age 51. (1995, December 19). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Anthony’s tragic love triangle. (1986, June 17). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. A celebration in dance. (1990, July). On Pointe, 3. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 OP)
39. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998) Touches: 10 Years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
40. Gwee, C. (1992, November 29). First crack at the traditional. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




Further resources
Joining the fun. (1992, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tony on his toes. (1975, June 4). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

S’pore’s Tony in film role. (1975, September 3). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 19 June 2015 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Personalities
Arts

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2015.