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Found 10 results

  1. The Australian Ballet 2020 season - A Month in the Country makes its TAB début, Alice Topp from strength to strength, co-productions with the Joffrey and American Ballet Theatre...David McAllister's final season as AD. Queensland Ballet 2020 season - Dracula was a success in WA, Stevenson's Nutcracker now a company staple, and new work including one from HNB principal Remi Wortmeyer. West Australian Ballet has not yet announced their 2020 season but I will add it here when they do.
  2. In the last month, I've seen Macmillan's R&J with Karlsruhe Ballet, Cranko's R&J (twice!) with Stuttgart Ballet, and now QB's R&J. And I still love the ballet! Both versions! Mia Heathcote was Juliet, and Romeo was danced by Patricio Reve, who is so new to the company that he's not yet listed in the program. He is another Cuban dancer, and brought the dash and brio that all Cuban male dancers seem to have to the role. Mia Heathcote was a beautiful, strong, and determined Juliet. (Her father, Stephen Heathcote was Lord Capulet ... nothing like keeping things in the family!) Vito Berlesconi danced Tybalt with the usual glower. I could wish that just occasionally dancers could create a more likable Tybalt, something that could be done while preserving his role in provoking Romeo and killing Mercutio (Kohei Iwamoto) - and not from the rear! But Tybalt could be a much more interesting character than the bully he is generally portrayed as. But it was a great production, and showed the company to great advantage. The marketplace scenes, and the Capulet,s ball were wonderful. So I still love R&J!
  3. I saw Queensland Ballet's Masters Series; Balanchine's Serenade, Kylian's Soldier's Mass and McIntyre's The Shadows Behind Us on consecutive nights last week, each night a similar distance from the stage, but on opposite sides of the theatre. I saw two rather different performances. First off was Serenade, a work that I have seen on Youtube, but never in real life. Superb. Really, different but superb, from both angles. The corps de ballet established a gloriously romantic setting for the action, if that is the right word. Yanela Pinera and Victor Estevez on Friday, followed by Laura Hidalgo and Kohei Iwamoto on Saturday encapsulated beauty and elegance, while Lucy Green, Georgia Swan and Patricio Reve on Friday and Lina Kim, Vanessa Morelli and Dylan Lackey on Saturday represented heartbreak, betrayal and the ballerina's vulnerability. I know this is a long list of utterly unfamiliar names, but these dancers deserve that their performances be recognised. They were wonderful. McIntyre's The Shadows Behind Us was, to my mind, much less successful. Friday night's performance I did not like at all. I was more impressed with the performance on Saturday night, but am not at all sure of the extent to which this was the result of sitting in a different section of the theatre. Trey McIntyre is a freelance choreographer and founder of the Trey McIntyre Project, a full time company based in Boise, Idaho. The Shadows Behind Us consists of 6 (mostly) pas de deux danced to what McIntyre calls pop songs. I am not sure that characterising songs such as 'Sometimes I feel like a motherless child' or 'Our day will come' as pop songs is appropriate, but the distance between the choreography of Serenade and that of The Shadows Behind Us could scarcely have been greater. The latter featured holds and lifts involving men and women grappling each other and throwing or at times dragging each other across the stage. Hmmmm. Finally, I really liked Kylian's Soldier's Mass, different again as it was. Danced by 12 male dancers, it is really unlike any ballet I have previously seen. It celebrates the comradeship and mutual support that develops between young soldiers, and is unrelentingly anti-war. Seemingly simple but actually fiendishly difficult choreography. Overall, a satisfying evening and I will remember Serenade for a long time to come.
  4. The drought is over. Well, the metaphoric ballet drought is over. The real drought still has much of western NSW in its grip. In fact, the parents of my nephew's partner (is there a word for that?), from Wagga in the west, were in Sydney a couple of weeks ago during a particularly heavy rainstorm. And they just sat on my sister's balcony, watching and listening to the rain. Nearly broke my heart. But the ballet drought ... nothing from December to March, is over. And given the heaviness and sadness of the last 10 days, it's a real relief. Thank god it was Liam Scarlett's Dangerous Liaisons. If it were his Swan Lake, I don’t think I could have taken Seigfried holding the lifeless body of Odette. But it wasn't Swan Lake. It was Dangerous Liaisons. Dangerous Liaisons is the first work that Scarlett has created on the Queensland Ballet: and this only 6 years since Li Cunxin took over an insignificant little provincial company. My admiration for Li Cunxin is boundless! As Michelle Potter, an influential critic, stated, QB is a national treasure. Anyway, as I'm sure you know, Dangerous Liaisons is about Sex. And sex. And sex. The audience gets a foretaste of what's to come when the curtain rises on the funeral of the husband of Madam de Merteuil, the female protagonist. The guests leave and Madam de Merteuil has it off with the Compte de Gercourt, her lover, right there on the coffin. The first night audience gasped and laughed ... nervous laughter if ever I've heard it. The audience the following night was rather more blase, but it was a shock. Things went on from there. First night I gave up trying to follow who was doing what to whom, but second viewing gave me more of a handle on the plot. The dancing was extraordinary as Valmont (Alexander Idaszak) tossed and threw Merteuil (Laura Hidalgo) around in what can only be described as desperate, vicious sex. The contrast with the calm, restrained PDD as Cecile (Yanela Pinera) and Danceny (Rian Thompson) fall in love was striking. Apart from the dancers, however, mention must be made of Tracy Grant Lord's costumes. The nobility dressed in sumptuous costumes which became a vital aspect of the dance as they billowed, flashing vividly coloured underwear, before being ruthlessly crushed. The young and innocent dressed in whites, creams and pastels, gentle creations that served to underline the fluidity and purity of line of their dance. As Madam de Merteuil, Laura Hidalgo was mesmerising; imperious, utterly immoral and utterly sure of her right to command. Every gesture, every step expressed her complete and vicious self-absorption. Music is by Saint-Saens, and Martin Yates, the arranger, characterises what he did as plunder Saint-Saens' work. Each character is associated with a musical theme (something which really helps distinguish who's who) but these are woven into a rich orchestral score which sounds as if it were created ab initio for the work. Overall, Liam Scarlett has created a lasting and extraordinary work, richly textured, a work which tells a complex and difficult story succinctly and clearly, if you take the time to absorb the many strands that make up the tale.
  5. Li Cunxin, formerly principal dancer, Huston Ballet and The Australian Ballet, and now AD Queensland Ballet, is interviewed by Geraldine Doogue for Compass, an Australian program exploring the many facets of belief. It's a fascinating insight into a great dancer and an inspiring personality. https://iview.abc.net.au/show/compass/series/32/video/RN1711H034S00
  6. Liam Scarlett's A Midsummer Night's Dream is a magical delight. The ground is of course well covered, by Ashton and Balanchine as well as others, but Scarlett manages a unique take. The narrative is pared right back (as with Ashton): Oberon and Titania quarrel over the foundling boy, played by Jules Missell with a cheeky sparkle that is not hidden by his enveloping onesy. And, perhaps to reassure those of us who had wondered just why Oberon wanted the boy so badly, Titania and Oberon finally unite in returning the boy to the place in which he was found. Meanwhile, the four lovers and the mechanicals together become explorers searching the forest for heaven only knows what, and Puck makes mayhem as he tries to remedy lovers' quarrels. Rian Thompson makes a surprisingly endearing Bottom. I don't know if it is appropriate to talk of chemstry between Bottom with his asses' ears, and Titania, but if it wasn't chemistry I need another word. I have in the past not warmed to Principal Dancer Victor Estevez, but as Oberon he was riveting. His Oberon was commanding and authoritative, with something of the wizard about him. He dominated the rather cramped stage with great leaps and glorious arm gestures, high and wide. In contrast, Laura Hidalgo's Titania was gentle and romantic, while not sacrificing her authority. Their pdds included multiple beautiful high lifts that emphasised their affinity with the air and the magical. The fairies were delightful, dressed in deep blue powderpuffs (I really can't call them tutus), skimming across the stage and huddling in tight, excited groups. Kohei Iwamoto gave us an irrepressible Puck, bounding back from each setback with an endearing shrug and a startling leap. The human characters, in contrast, were much more earth-bound, not withstanding the romanticism of Hermia, beautifully danced by Yanela Pinera, and Lysander (Joel Woellner). Great chemistry there! The slapstick that characterised Helena (Mia Heathcote) and Demitrius (Alexander Idaszak) belied the complexity of their choreography, while the rustics were, well, rustic. The set itself, the work of Tracy Grant Lord, emphasised the difference between magical and mundane. It was a wonderful set, think Avatar's Pandorra, overseen by the outline of a huge full moon, and offering lofty vantage points from which Oberon could survey his realm, while Puck variously slid down a pole from his erie, and, on one spectacular occassion, swung down on a rope. The mortal characters were restricted to ground level. My main gripe was with the character of Helena. In the second decade of the 21st century, do we really need a bespectacled, man-chasing nurd? Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses? Please!! In spite of this, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a wonderful ballet, and one that Li Cunxin is proudly taking to China in November. I just hope that while it is not scheduled for Brisbane in 2019, it makes a return to the lineup in 2020.
  7. Queensland Ballet's latest offering is Ben Stevenson's Cinderella, a work that was the first presented by QB in 2013, just after Li Cunxin took over as Artistic Director. Since then, QB has staged Ben Stevenson's Nutcracker every year, and his Swan Lake in 2017. In this way, Li Cunxin continues to honour his mentor, the man responsible for bringing him to the US, the first Chinese dancer to come, and then recruiting him to the Huston Ballet, where he became a principle. So Cinderella has a history with QB. And anyone who has read my previous posts about QB will know of the enormous respect I have for Li Cunxin and what he has done for QB. Which brings us back to Cinderella. And unfortunately, I have to say that this production left me unmoved. The dancing itself was of the standard we have come to expect from QB dancers, but chemistry between the two leads (Yanela Pinera as Cinderella and Joel Woellner as the Prince) was totally lacking. It also needs to be said that the principles were not helped by the choreography, which was simple and straightforward, without any real challenges that I could see. (This made it an excellent choice in 2013, but much less of a one today.) Prokokiev's music is complex and challenging, but the choreography totally ignores the dark sub-text that lurks constantly just below the surface, opting instead for comedy. This is chiefly seen in the ugly sisters, danced by the (male) principles Camilo Ramos and Vito Bernasconi. Pure slapstick, which is fine in small doses, but what we get here is a deluge. Cinderella herself moves from lightness and joy to darkness and weeping with unnerving rapidity, especially in the first act. One dancer to watch, however, is Liam Geck, who danced the role of the Jester with elan and real connection with the audience. Lots of fancy jumps, but these did not get in the way of Geck projecting a cheeky sense of fun. Great set design (Thomas Boyd) and costumes (Tracy Grant Lord). The Australian Ballet is presenting Ratmansky's Cinderella in December, and I look foward to seeing how he handles the balance of light and darkness in his version of the story.
  8. Well, yes, it's La Bayadere, but not as you know it. Not, that is, if you have in mind Makarova's production for American Ballet, which has been presented by many companies internationally since then. The Australian Ballet is one such company, and their production of La Bayadere was the first in a series of steps that resulted in my present obsession with ballet. At the time however, I sat throughout the evening in horror. 'Haven't these people read Edward Said' was all I could think of. 'Don’t they know about Orientalism?' Greg Horsman (previosly ballet master, Northern Ballet, then ENB, now Ballet Master at QB) has significantly reduced the spectre of Orientalism in his reworking of the story. The time is early nineteenth century and Solor is son of the Rajah of Cooch Behar, a kingdom that has been locked in battle with the British. Peace is agreed, to be sealed by the marriage of Solor to the Governor General's daughter, Edith. Gamzatti is nowhere to be seen. Of course, Solor ia actually deeply in love with Nikiya and is horrified by his father's order. He consents, however, believing that he and Nikiya can elope. At their engagement party however, Nikiya, unaware of what is afoot, comes to dance, and, unable to resist, Solor embraces her. Confronted by her fiance's real affections, Edith stabs Nikiya to death. The following scene, the kingdom of the shades, is pretty much straight Makarova/Petipa, and leads into the wedding celebrations, where Solor, drunk on wine (and opium) collapses and is taken to his room. Edith tries to seduce him, and on being rebuffed, screams that she is responsible for Nikiya's death. In a blind rage, Solor strangles her and is in turn shot by British soldiers, falling through a window to his death. Obviously, with such a radical remaking of the story, there is a great deal of new choreography, and Greg Horsman has done a good job of integrating the original and the new. Principals Victor Estevez and Laura Hidalgo as Solor and Nikiya imbued their roles with tenderness, lyricism and passion. The role of Edith was the disappointment of the evening. Lucy Green is in general a fine dancer, but this time she had a petulant, self-centred brat to present, more suited to one of the ugly sisters in Cinderella than to an avatar of the aristocratic Gamzatti. The highlight of the performance, the kingdom of the shades was reasonably well done, though the staging, with the shades passing in front of a glorious yellow full moon, was wonderful. The music, under the direction og Nigel Gaynor, was outstanding, the score being extensively re-arranged and attempts made to in incorporate some aspects of Indian music, especially in the Prologue. Overall, a successful production.
  9. Young Mr Scarlett continues to keep busy - this news is contained in the Press Release here: https://madmimi.com/p/5cccf8?fe=1&pact=419170-135326198-8326731442-db0c166fa5ea16b2efebbe03229c331b6d5d08e8
  10. As most of the readers of Balletcoforum are unlikely to have had the opportunity to see the Queensland Ballet’s production of Liam Scarlett’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, I thought people might be interested in a report, especially given the immanent premiere of his Frankenstein with the RB. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a project jointly sponsored by the Queensland Ballet and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, initiated while Ethan Steifel was artistic director of the RNB. For two small ballet companies to have secured the services of one of the hottest names in choreography in recent years is testament to the foresight of Ethan Steifel, and continues the trajectory that Queensland Ballet has been on since Li Cunxin (Mao’s Last Dancer; that Li Cunxin) took on the role of Artistic Director in 2012. I saw the ballet halfway through its run in Queensland. Magical is a word that gets thrown around a lot, especially with regard to Midsummer Night’s Dream, but this production really is magical. Set designer Tracy Grant Lord presents a forest of multiple levels, so Oberon surveys happenings in his domain from on high, and Puck is discovered an eyrie stage right. And this forest is no tame European knoll. Think Avatar’s Pandora, all phosphorescent purples, mauves and greens, with slender white blooms framing the action like candles. While the story remains faithful to the broad trajectory of Shakespeare’s play, the scenario has been updated. The whole back-story – Athens, Theseus, tyrannical father, wedding festivities - has gone. In their place a group of explorers (lovers and mechanicals together), complete with tents and butterfly nets, blunder about in the forest. The changeling boy is a young man (surely not more than three years old!) in a blue onesie clutching a stuffed horse and played with great aplomb by Fin McCarthy. Victor Estevez is an imperious Oberon, with Lauren Hildalgo his equally self-willed Queen, although their squabble over the changeling boy brings them both momentarily down to the all too human level. Their fairy entourage is delightful, skimming across the stage with rapid footwork, but with expressive use of upper body creating an appealing vulnerability, more bumblebee than butterfly. I found the lovers less appealing. Lots of slapstick, and, and this really is a gripe, I thought we were beyond having a plain girl in thick black-rimmed glasses (Clare Morehen’s Helena) desperately pursuing a man who is not interested (Demetrius, danced by Vito Bernasconi). Bottom (Rian Thompson), on the other hand, was definitely cute, and his pas de deux with Titania was curiously innocent – a beautiful counterpoint to the deliciously sensuous closing pas de deux as Oberon and Titania are reconciled (and the changeling boy is lead off stage, to be, as we are informed in the program notes, returned from whence he came). Puck (Camillo Ramos) gets everything wrong with huge enthusiasm and equal bemusement when mayhem ensues. Overall, definitely an amusing plus (in spite of plain girls in black-rimmed glasses) and I look forward to QB’s next presentation.
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