Ballet Q&A - Mohamed Noor Sarman


Mohamed Noor Sarman

Ballet Master of Singapore Dance Theatre

Mohamed Noor Sarman is the Ballet Master of Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT). He joined SDT as part of its pioneer batch of dancers, when the company was first established in 1988.
“My full time career in SDT as a dancer has been 20 years. I started dancing in 1988, and then I was appointed assistant to the choreographer, the late Mr Anthony Then, for the first production of the Nutcracker to assist him with the rehearsals with the kids.”
In 1997, Mohamed Noor was appointed Assistant Ballet Master, while dancing professionally with SDT, and in 2009, he was promoted to Ballet Master.

So what does a Ballet Master do?
“As a Ballet Master in SDT, I’m responsible to give company class in the morning, from 10am to 11.30am. This is to prepare the dancers, (for them) to have a proper warm up so that they are ready for the necessary rehearsals on that day. Apart from that, I also help to stage dance pieces or ballets, and help Mr Janek on stage. And of course it’s a wide spectrum, whereby it’s not just teaching (the dancers); you have to guide and support them too.”
What does it take to be a Ballet Master?
“Seriously, I’m still discovering (that) myself too. One of the ex-dancers said to me that ‘you have a very good eye, I think that you can be a good ballet master’, so maybe that’s one of it. And usually, you are a professional dancer, so you start from the bottom to know everything. Of course there are some little extra qualities to become not just a ballet master, but a good ballet master.”
“I think it’s not just teaching; it’s a total being of who you are as a ballet master. There’s a lot of qualities (required) because people look up to you. The obvious things are like you have to be musical, you have to be able to see, guide and correct the technique, and be able to make the dance better. To help, sometimes I have to push, sometimes I have to know when not to push; sometimes I have to learn how to be quiet, sometimes the dancers need some space… it’s a lot of understanding, and it all comes with experience.”

Mohamed Noor joined Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) only barely 8 months after the company started, and SDT will be celebrating their 30th year anniversary next year.
“SDT is my life, it’s what I am today. Not only the company has grown, I have also worked with many before me who are amazing and I learnt from them, and who are now gone. At the moment it still offers me a lot of things, and I’m very thankful for that.”
“SDT has moved three times from where we started at Killiney Road. For me, I’m just lucky to be able to experience this journey with the late Mr Anthony Then, Ms Goh Soo Khim, Mr Janek Schergen, and of course, working with a lot of foreign choreographers and teachers, exposed me to a lot and gave me a lot of knowledge. And as a dancer myself, I had the chance to do a lot of things – dancing with water and harness, from modern to classical. I’m just happy to be part of it, no regrets at all.”
“It’s the 30th anniversary of the company (next year) and 30 years I’m in the company. I’m just blessed that I’m still around, I’m still able to help the dancers, to continue giving support and guidance, and to do more of what I have done before.”
“Next year we have new ballet from Timothy Harbour, which he did for us, and then we are going to Kuala Lumpur again and bringing a lot of good stuff for the repertoire. We also have Sleeping Beauty and Giselle, and so we have something to look forward to.”

Mohamed Noor shares with us his thoughts on the future of dance in Singapore.
“I guess it’s better and brighter, because we have our own company in Singapore, so that’s somewhere to go to. There are also a lot of other modern (dance) companies, so compared to where I was before… I was just lucky to be in a place, where I can be in Singapore and do the things I like, and (it) become a career, and now it went further. It happened to me, and it can happen to anybody. I hope the future dancers have a place to be in.”

Photography by ADI Global Media