• Lucas Jervies's Four Ballet. Photo: Ron Fung.
    Lucas Jervies's Four Ballet. Photo: Ron Fung.

Melbourne Ballet Company: Being and Time
Concourse Theatre, Sydney, 12 March

Under the direction of Simon Hoy and founding director Alisa Finney, Melbourne Ballet Company (MBC) is now in its tenth year – a considerable achievement for a small company that presents new contemporary ballets. MBC has the dual benefit of giving audiences the opportunity to see new works based on the classical technique and providing a platform for classically-based choreographers to create new work in Australia. It is valuable precisely because this is not the primary focus for Australia’s larger ballet companies, which are, for the most part, repertory in nature. And for that reason, the increased national touring that MBC are undertaking this year is especially welcome. Unfortunately, advertised guest artist Joseph Phillips was unable to perform due to injury – an occupational hazard for dancers. Despite this potential set-back the program as a whole was strong, and the relatively small cast gave some striking performances.

The “Being & Time” program is a triple bill of new works choreographed by Lucas Jervies, Tim Podesta and Simon Hoy. The thread that links them together is broadly philosophical in nature and the program takes its title from a book by German philosopher Martin Heidegger that was written almost a century ago. In the first work, Lucas Jervies’s Four Ballet, Johanna Lee, Kristy Lee Denovan, Francesca Giangrasso and Alexander Baden Bryce made the complex, and often fast-paced rhythms of Adam Ster’s music come to life through their accented movements. Design is kept to a minimum with flesh coloured costumes (leotards for the women, fitted shorts and a mesh shirt for Alexander Baden Bryce) and stark lighting that focuses all attention on the choreography and the dancers performing it. A recurring motif is the way a firmly held fifth position of the arms and feet suddenly collapses into more heavily weighted, contemporary style positions. But the repetition of it, this constant return to the classical form underscores a deep love and respect for the classical technique at the heart of this work.

Tim Podesta’s Architecture of Loss is more lyrical and dramatic in style. In a way, sections of this work seem to imply some sort of narrative without ever coming right out and stating it. Female dancers Mara Galeazzi, Kristy Lee Denovan and Chloe Henderson were easily identifiable as individuals through their costuming in dresses of different hues. Guest dancer Mara Galeazzi was good, but not significantly better than MBC’s own dancers, as Kristy Lee Denovan and Chloe Henderson more than held their own in separate duets with Robbie Moorcroft.

The program finished with director/choreographer Simon Hoy’s work Dasein. This was the strongest piece all around, and no doubt a big part of its appeal was the successful union of distinctive design and lighting elements after the relative minimalism of the first two works. Costume designer Antonia Leonardi has dressed the female dancers in fitted black shorts and printed tops, reversing this scheme for the only male, Alexander Baden Bryce, clad in printed shorts with a plain black top. The black and white theme is carried further by the large photographic projections (by multi-talented dancer and cast member Francesca Giangrasso), and by the sharply delineated lighting (by designer Craig Boyes) that etch lines across the dancers’ bodies, shifting as they traverse the stage. There was an energy in this work and a fearlessness in the dancers’ execution of Hoy’s slightly off-balance movements that made it visually exciting to watch. Alexander Baden Bryce, Francesca Giangrasso, Johanna Lee, Chloe Henderson and Masha Peker all danced well, but as the lead girl in the second movement, Gemma Pearce was a standout.



Pictured top: Lucas Jervies's Four Ballet. Photo: Ron Fung.

"Being and Time" is playing Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne, 29-31 March.

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