The Australian Ballet: "Chroma" -
Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House, 28 April -
Billed as “Mozart meets the White Stripes; classical meets contemporary”, the Australian Ballet’s current triple bill seeks to deliver interesting diversions of the classical vernacular, based around the acquisition of the title work, Chroma, by British choreographer Wayne McGregor, which he created in 2006 for the Royal Ballet.
Inspired by the designs of architect John Pawson with his reductionist ideas of the “essential” space, Chroma is a stylishly white work. It marries Pawson’s cool, clean, architectural design with generous lighting by Lucy Carter and a cinematic, at times teasing, score by Joby Talbot and Jack White III. The choreography itself is toying, contorting and really quite humorous as it twists, extends, breaks and pops classical ballet vocabulary.
Apart from Amber Scott and Lana Jones, who have an ease, presence and genuine quality which are a standout, the work’s potential was not realised by the opening night cast. Movements which should have been executed with fluid abandon and precision, echoing McGregor’s ambition for an environment “where the grammar and articulation of the body is made crystal clear,” ended in wobbles and hitches, while preparations were all too apparent. Also, the inadequate size of the Joan Sutherland Theatre stage does not do justice to the design nor to the dancers’ shapes and movements. The scale is all wrong. Perhaps by the time Chroma opens in Melbourne, nerves will be calmed and the choreography liberated by the size of the State Theatre stage.
Art to Sky is resident choreographer Stephen Baynes’ new work set to Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana. His program notes reveal a deep understanding and sensitivity to the music, which unfortunately is not translated into a substantial piece. Star-gazing men and unattainable, elusive women are dressed rather unflatteringly in tunics, skirts and jerseys that could have been pulled from the lost property box, while an elaborate archway hovers mid air at the back of the stage like a piece of set drawn from the old storage stockpile. But Madeleine Eastoe was a pleasure to watch as she danced effortlessly through her pas de deux, and Chengwu Guo’s confidence and technique lightened the stage with a natural charisma.
The evening concludes with Petite Mort and Sechs Tanzes by renowned Czech modernist Jiri Kylian, the ultimate master of movement, theatre and design. Part of his Black and White ballet series, these works are classics and the company knows them and dances them well. In particular, the women danced with an innocent sexuality that suits Kylian’s work of this period; choreography that demands a simplicity in attention and detail, but is given breath by the fleshy and youthful, yet exacting bodies that envelop the movement. The men, however, tried a little too hard to inhabit their roles, particularly in Sechs Tanzes, the theatricality of which can easily lend itself to over-acting. An exception was young dancer Christopher Rodgers-Wilson, who exuded a natural grace and manner that was eminently watchable.
Overall “Chroma”, the evening, is a rather odd curation of work as we journey from current contemporary ideas, through a backward souvenir of pointe shoes and romanticism to a two-course Kylian dish that, for my palate, ought to be consumed in a restaurant on its own.
- Emma Sandall