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50th Anniversary Gala

by Suzanne Yanko

A Gala was promised, and a gala we had. The Australian Ballet’s 50th Anniversary celebrations had earlier this year drawn on dance talent in this country for a performance that (with notable exceptions) was more about democracy than brilliance – but this performance showcased the Ballet and its international peers.   The opening Overture made the most of the huge stage and had all the elements of a gala: a set with chandeliers and starry skies, and the dancers in costumes that suggested a ball. The company would need to wait until after interval to show off its chorus work, but this glimpse of it set a mood of happy anticipation.   It was slightly odd that, in a program dominated by traditional works, the first visitors (from Stuttgart) danced a more modern work. Little Monsters featured the music of Elvis Presley and a clever duet in which the dancers appeared as one figure with extra limbs (almost in the way of Eastern statues). It was clever and expressively danced, but one could not help but feel that the audience was more kindly disposed to the Pas de Deux from Giselle, presented by artists of the National Ballet of China, that came next. It was all there: the graceful wraith-like ballerina, the technically confident pursuer, the glorious Music: of Adolphe Adam.   Similarly, the San Francisco’s Ballet’s White Swan Pas de Deux from Swan Lake was enthusiastically received as proper gala fare, nicely programmed to follow the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux beautifully danced by the Australian Ballet’s Kevin Jackson and Lana Jones. Amber Scott and guest Damian Smith won the audience over with their gentle Pas de Deux from After the Rain and Adam Bull and Julie Kent distinguished themselves with the Bedroom Pas de Deux from Manon.   The Tokyo Ballet’s Love Pas de Deux from Bizet’s Carmen was ballet seduction at its best, with Mizuka Ueno’s expressive eyes as noteworthy as the perfectly matched dance of the partners. It was comparable to the Wedding Pas de Deux from Don Quixote, performed by the Stuttgart Ballet just before interval. This, however, was a dazzling display of technique as each dancer executed brilliant solos – almost as if in competition – until it seemed they would never stop. And we wished they never would!   But this was the Australian Ballet’s night and after interval, the stage belonged entirely to the company – with soloists Lucinda Dunn, Ty King-Wall, Brett Simon and Adam Bull. This was for the 100th performance of Etudes, with choreography by Harald Lander. The music was by Carl Czerny, best known as a composer of rather torturous piano exercises – and unfortunately, not comparable to composers like Tchaikovsky and Adam.   Yes, Études was impeccably danced (and in its opening sequence a reminder of the hard grind that goes into the making of every professional dancer) but it was not the stuff of celebration as the first half had been. This aside, the Australian Ballet had more than proved its worth on the night, and – thanks also to the quality of its guests – its place in the international world of ballet.   Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5   The Australian Ballet 50th Anniversary Gala Performed by Artists of The Australian Ballet Études Choreography: Harald Lander Music: Knudåge Riisager (after Music: by Carl Czerny)   Performed by Kevin Jackson and Lana Jones Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust Music: Piotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky   American Ballet Theatre Performed by Julie Kent Manon excerpt Choreography: Sir Kenneth MacMillan Music: Jules Massenet   National Ballet of China Performed by Zhu Yan and Sun Ruichen Giselle excerpt Choreography: TBC Music: Adolphe Adam   The Tokyo Ballet Performed by Mizuka Ueno and Naoki Takagishi Carmen excerpt Choreography: Albert Alonso Music: Rodion Schedrin   San Francisco Ballet Performed by Damian Smith After the Rain© excerpt Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon Music: Arvo Pärt   Performed by Sofiane Sylve and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba Swan Lake excerpt Choreography: after Lev Ivanov Music: Piotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky   Stuttgart Ballet Performed by Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo Little Monsters Choreography: Demis Volpi Music: Elvis Presley   Don Quixote excerpt Choreography: after Marius Petipa Music: Ludwig Minkus orchestrated by John Lanchbery   Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre 31 October – 3 November  

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