Home » Let’s Dance

Let’s Dance

by Suzanne Yanko

The Australian Ballet has done a worthy thing by curating a program of Australian dance in celebration of its own 50-year contribution to the nation. Audiences are notably shy of triple bills, preferring big productions of favourites like Swan Lake. So I was interested to see how they would take to eight ballets, only one of which (the last) was presented by the Australian Ballet itself. The news is good. A packed State Theatre was open-minded and keen to see the range of dance before them – although one could not argue that it was of consistent quality. Also, while it was not a factor in the success or otherwise of the dances, there was a lot of music that might be new to ballet audiences (from electronic to country) and strobe lighting that might be quite painful to some. What it came down to, however, was that it was the quality of the dancing that determined the success of each item – and some was not up to scratch. I do not have the qualifications to be an eisteddfod judge, however, and prefer to mention some works that matched the celebratory occasion well. It was a clever move to begin with West Australian Ballet’s Ombra Leggera, a two-hander in which Daryl Brandwood and Andre Santos warmed up the audience with their almost clown-like innocence – and supple movement to the music of Meyerbeer. Expressions Dance Company, with Don’t was notable for its mastery of classical contemporary style, telling a story and mystifying the audience with its use of large letters to form words: STAY, DONT (sic). Taking many way out of their comfort zone was Garry Stewart’s clever Be Your Self in which a narrator (who deserves an award for her memorisation of a complex neuro-scientific script) described in detail our biological make-up as others danced it out. Words like clever and complex come to mind – but the sound and light effects became a distraction. Queensland Ballet’s excerpts from Cloudland, danced to music such as ‘Almost Like Being in Love, drew us back into a more familiar world. There’s always a danger that such works can seem schmaltzy in comparison with more radical dance, but this should not be the case here, as we were treated to dancing that was simply beautiful to watch. The Sydney Dance Company never puts a foot wrong, and so it was with their choice: excerpts from 2 One Another to music by Nick Wales. This was classic SDC territory, in the words of choreographer Rafael Bonachela: “a world of layers, both visual and metaphorical … the individual reacting and being stimulated by others and the group”. Perfectly realised. There was, of course, excitement and anticipation about what the Australian Ballet itself would present to close this night of diversity. It was a world premiere of a simple, classic ballet: Sweedeedee. (It also seemed very Australian, maybe because of the set featuring huge sheets on the clothesline – you’d need a decent-sized backyard for that!). Tim Harbour, the choreographer, described it as a “folksong about families … easily recognised and unadorned”. Many things lifted this performance to the heights: perhaps the sadness underlying the story, undoubtedly the music: Chick Corea, Leonard Cohen, Michael Hurley’s Sweedeedee. It may have been the sentimental effect, for Australian Ballet fans, of having Steven Heathcote return to the stage with his own daughter, Mia, playing the girl, well supported by Justine Summers as the woman, and Lennox Niven as the boy. In a night of interesting, and often absorbing contrasts, the Australian Ballet showed its great strengths: it’s all about having the best dancers you can find – and if there’s a real story with the right music, then it doesn’t have to be Swan Lake. There was no doubt last night why this has been our preeminent company for 50 years – and why that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 The Australian Ballet presents Let’s Dance SWEEDEEDEE (2012) The Australian Ballet Choreography: Tim Harbour Music director: Chong Lim Lighting and stage design: Benjamin Cisterne Costume design: Lexi George BE YOUR SELF (excerpt 2010) Australian Dance Theatre Choreography: Garry Stewart FUGUE (2012) Dancenorth Choreography: Raewyn Hill DON’T (2012) Expressions Dance Company Choreography: Natalie Weir ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE and NO MOON AT ALL from CLOUDLAND (2004) Queensland Ballet Choreography: François Klaus 2 ONE ANOTHER (excerpt 2012) Sydney Dance Company Choreography: Rafael Bonachela MOMENTARY (a work on DVD 2005) Tasdance Choreography: Anna Smith OMBRA LEGGERA (2011) West Australian Ballet Choreography: Ivan Cavallari Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre June 7 – 16 June

You may also like

Leave a Comment