Concert Hall QPAC
April 27, 2018
As with any theatregoer, where a reviewer sits in the theatre can influence their perception of the performance, which is why reviewers are usually given reasonably "good" seats in order for a comprehensive appraisal to be more easily given. It is a privilege to get such seats, but it goes with the responsibility to be fair and fearless in one’s judgment.
Therefore, being seated towards the back of the QPAC Concert Hall dress circle (a space not well designed for theatrical performance), some 50 plus metres from the stage, did affect my perception of the opening night of Ballet Revolución – it was well nigh impossible to see the detail of the dancers’ physique or performance. In addition, there was no program to facilitate identification and provide background notes.
Ballet Revolución debuted in Australia in 2011 to critical acclaim and has since toured the world over. Australian choreographer Aaron Cash, along with Cuban choreographer Roclan Gonzalez Chavez, conceived and choreographed the original. This two-hour fusion also has multiple dance styles from ballet to commercial jazz, to hip-hop, much of it with a Cuban flavour, and performed by a team of 20 highly trained Cuban dancers. It is the company’s third tour of Australia.
There is no denying the appeal of the Cubans - their passion for dance oozes from every pore. Combine that passion with the first rate training available in Cuba, and you have a recipe for dance brilliance. Here, the athleticism of all the dancers especially the men – high legs, sharp turns, and strong, high elevation – was clearly evident.
The show is in two halves, and consists of a series of short dance pieces, but with no discernible dramatic or thematic through-line to link them all together into a cohesive whole. The second half did work better than the first, with both halves delineated mainly through the costume colour – predominantly black, with different coloured highlights for the first half, and white or pastel shades in the second.
The lighting, comprising multiple moving and overhead spots that change colour and patterns, sometimes seemingly at random, provides the only scenic influence in the performance, and is the main demarcation between each dance piece. Recorded music mainly from the contemporary pop genre includes that of Prince, Justin Timberlake and Adele.
Sitting so far away from the performance did allow a good appreciation of its broader aspects, particularly the patterning of the choreography and ‘togetherness’ of the dancers. And almost without exception we saw tightly executed group formations by all. However, less care was sometimes given to the finish of the more flashy jumps, and turns, which somewhat lessened their impact.
Choreographically, the work as a whole was weak, with repetitions of structural conventions such as canon, and far too many high developés a la seconde, jeté élances, and pirouettes a la seconde to be any longer effective. Many opportunities for creativity were clearly missed. With little to tie one dance piece to the next, my attention wandered.
Nevertheless, there were highlights. A very strong number for 12 bare-chested men was convincingly executed, while a fascinating short contemporary dance piece featuring a woman sheathed in lycra, captured by a triangle of poles held by three men, was inventive, but disappointingly didn’t develop much beyond the initial concept.
The second half opened strongly, where one male dancer’s brilliance shone all the way to the back of the auditorium. He had an exquisite use of his back and head in epaulement, and beautifully placed turns, which finished with pinpoint accuracy. A pity I can’t give a name.
I wish I had seen the original Ballet Revolución, as this season, advertised as an all-new production, unfortunately had the air of being put together in haste. It is however playing to packed houses, which might inspire new audiences for locally produced dance.
– DENISE RICHARDSON