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The Australian Ballet; Aurum, April 2019

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For those of you who have followed my news flashes about the drought, I spent last week in far western New South Wales. Flat, flat, flat. Yellow, yellow, yellow. Dry, dry, dry. Even the Old Man Salt Bushes are dying. What else can I say? Poor fellow, my country. 

But turning to The Australian Ballet's first offering of the year: Verve, a program of three short ballets all by TAB's resident choreographers. First up was Stephen Baynes' Constant Variants. Stephen Baynes has been resident choreographer with TAB since 1995, and Constant Variants was great. Reasonably conventional, but great. Music, setting, lighting and dance worked wonderfully together. Setting was dominated by a number of huge right angles, picture frame corners lit in golds, ambers and greys. The dancers themselves were meagerly lit, yellow light that left part of each dancer in darkness. Music -Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, which set the stage for the variations in the dance.

Main event of the evening was Alice Topp's Aurum. Alice Topp is TAB's most recently appointed choreographer (last year) and  a Choryphee with the company. Aurum was extraordinary. The work is inspired by kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold lacquer. Breakage thus becomes an acknowledged part of the history of the object. Aurum asks us to celebrate our imperfections and discover beauty in our brokeness. As Leonard Cohen says, "There's a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." The vocabulary of movement was far more ground-breaking than was the case in Stephen Baynes'  work. Really exciting. Very simple stage dominated by a backdrop reminiscent of cracks in ceramic, cracks which are suddenly and unexpectedly illuminated in gold at the end of the first movement. Interesting work with shadows. At one point the dancers' huge shadows shrink as they approach the back of the stage. Then the dancers move in one direction while their shadows move off-stage. Sounds 'cheap thrills', but it works! 

Final work of the evening was Tim Harbour's Filigree and Shadow, and I have to confess that I did not warm to this work. Frantic music and movement. The governing metaphor was explained as that of birds in a cyclone. Apparently, such birds fly above the maelstrom below, and, while they may be blown hundreds of kilometers off course, they survive the experience. To my mind, that leaves them in the middle of the Pacific with no land in any direction for hundreds of kilometers. 

A wonderful and engrossing evening, but when I got home I found an email from TAB thanking me for attending and offering half-price tickets if I wanted to go again. Did I?! But no tutus and no nice ballerinas, so audiences must be down. Aaaaaggghh!

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We were lucky enough to see this programme in the Melbourne season last year.


Aurum blew me away, I still haven't gotten over it and am driving up to Sydney next week to see it again. I would order the bill F&S, CV to calm us down then Aurum for a sublime sendoff.


Filigree and Shadow was more engaging the first time it was done, several years ago; I missed Vivienne Wong very much seeing it again. But I do like its energy.


Constant Variants I remember from its premiere season too; it was when I first really took notice of Daniel Gaudiello. I like Stephen Baynes' work and the part-frames stuck in my memory.

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