Queensland Ballet International Gala
|Added:||08 August 2012|
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Optus Playhouse, August 3
This was the Queensland Ballet’s 15th International Gala, and the last for departing artistic director François Klaus, whose initiative it was to stage this popular annual program. It was also therefore a celebratory evening, but also nostalgic, as Klaus took the opportunity to revisit some of his more favourite works.
Klaus has also redefined “international” as being more about reputation than location, as three of the guest artists were Queensland Ballet (QB) Professional Year alumni – independent artist, Paul White, Chantelle Kerr (soloist, SemerOper Dresden) and Daniel Gaudiello (principal dancer, Australian Ballet).
There have been some fine galas over the years, but this has to be one of the best, not least because we saw the QB dancers shine more alongside guest artists in duets and pas de deux.
From curtain-up the company set the bar high, with a joyous, exuberant performance of the energetic Benny Goodman number "Sing Sing Sing" from Klaus’s popular Cloudland. Excerpts from some of his other works then peppered a stylistically diverse evening of solo, pas de deux and ensemble numbers.
The passion ran deep in pas de deux from Carmen, Othello and Romeo and Juliet and, although each was seen out of context, the dancers were able to immediately draw the audience into the drama of their performances.
Clare Morehen and Keian Langdon were both convincing as the hot-headed Carmen and Don Jose, as was Meng Ningning as the hapless Desdemona to Nathan Scicluna’s manically jealous Othello.
The Act 3 pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet showed Rachael Walsh and Piran Scott perfectly matched as the star-crossed lovers in a performance that was sublimely drawn.
In counterpoint to this romance were two contemporary duets – William Forsythe’s New Sleep, and "Intimate Distance" from Jiri Bubenicek’s Unerreichbare Orte, both danced by Kerr and Jon Vallejo, also from SemperOper Dresden. Lithesome in simple black rehearsal garb, both dancers nailed the articulated, angular and thrusting movement, typical particularly of Forsythe, with panache.
A totally off-beat performance came from Paul White, who instantly galvanised the audience with his rear-ended, feet first entrance under the closed house curtains. In a nod to commedia dell’arte, a mask ultimately rendered as nearly human his rubber-limbed, androgynous and almost marionette-like figure.
Classical tradition was represented first by The Sleeping Beauty Blue Bird pas de deux with Natalie Kusch (soloist, Vienna State Opera) and QB’s Yu Hui. Although the tempo was rather slow, Kusch gave a light, effortless and very warm performance, showing glorious extension and line. Yu displayed his usual effortless ballon and clean batterie.
A highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the show-stopping Le Corsaire grand pas de deux, where Gaudiello had the audience in the palm of his hand from his first gloriously extended arabesque entrance. Both he and his partner Kusch were technically faultless in a performance that sizzled.
Three ensemble works anchored the program. Nils Christe, a regular contributor to these galas, mounted Diner Dansant, an acerbic but witty look at today’s young social set. The dancers postured vacantly, showing little soul, around a fully laden table, in a work that showed the usual Christe finesse.
QB dancer Gareth Belling’s Bittersweet, a lyrical work in grey to Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons, was a new addition to the company repertoire and his rapidly expanding oeuvre, showing continued growth as a choreographer.
Another joy was seeing and hearing the magnificent William Barton on didgeridoo and guitar in an excerpt from Timeless Dances, a visually rich work with lighting that at times renders the dancers’ bodies almost luminous.
Programming the order of divertissements in an evening such as this is half the battle in creating a cohesive whole out of often disparate elements. Klaus pulled it off with his usual aplomb, although Ubergang with Morehen and Hao Bin, a “transition” from the penultimate work (no doubt to allow time for costume changes), lacked substance and weakened the Finale. However, Klaus again created a potpourri of dance, which for this, his final gala, skilfully encapsulated the very best of his QB years.
– DENISE RICHARDSON