• Jack Lister's Rational/Animal. Photo: David Kelly.
    Jack Lister's Rational/Animal. Photo: David Kelly.

Queensland Ballet: Bespoke

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Queensland Ballet: “Bespoke”
Brisbane Powerhouse, 11 February

Queensland Ballet moved across the river to the home of contemporary performance, the Brisbane Powerhouse, for “Bespoke”, its made to measure program of especially commissioned contemporary dance works.

Three works by three different choreographers, each explore aspects of what it is to be human, thematically tying each to the others. Ballet mistress and creative associate Amy Hollingsworth opened the program with Glass Heart, a visually and aurally striking exploration of empathy, featuring all ten Jette Parker young artists.

Amy Hollingsworth's Glass Heart. Photo: David Kelly.
Amy Hollingsworth's Glass Heart. Photo: David Kelly.

The work soars on the first glorious notes by singer Katie Noonan, who composed the score with electronic music producer, Callun Alexander, both performing live, while Cameron Goerg’s explosive lighting design punctuates and underscores the movement. The work’s impact owed much to this collaboration of artists.

A column of scaffolding set against the exposed industrial brick wall at the back of the space adds visual grit, while the hi-octane movement (the women en pointe), segues comfortably from the traditional contemporary of slides, high kicked extensions, off-centred lifts and throws, to a more classical construct.

Paige Rochester (showing a wonderful sense of release), along with Libby-Rose Niederer and Peter Vassilli in a luscious duet, were all noteworthy.

Jack Lister is the newcomer in the trio of choreographers, but his Rational/Animal explores the almost dystopian themes of primal urge versus rational thought with a confident sophistication belying his youth.

Rational/Animal ties in thematically (whether intentionally or not) with the John Adams’s jazz infused score Fearful Symmetries, which pays homage to William Blake’s poem “The Tyger”, where good and evil sit side-by-side. The work resonates with surrealism and, at times, film noir.

To Adams’s relentless continuum of alternating light and dark tones, driven by the insistent rhythms of the strings and then the horns, the twelve dancers - covered head to toe in grey garb, faces also obscured by stocking masks - match its persistent, unyielding pulse with a relentless energy.

Large projected images of dancers appear and disappear seemingly at random. The lighting design, again by Georg, keeps interest focused, despite the music’s monotonous, repetitious dynamic, as light chops through the haze filled space, capturing one group of dancers, and then another in its beam. Just when you’ve had enough, catharsis does arrive as the dancers disrobe to their undergarments, revealing a gentler humanity.

All the dancers were wonderful; the petite Lina Kim again showing her versatility, and Clare Morehen languidly draping herself over and around Vito Bernasconi in a tender, but sensual duet.

Chameleon is contemporary dance maker Stephanie Lake’s first creation for a ballet company. In her exploration of the pull of the collective versus that of the individual, she has cleverly drawn on the skill set of the dancers, while challenging them to also embrace form beyond the strict confines of the classical canon. The result is witty, more than a little whimsical and was beautifully performed.

The work opens on a spot lit dancer (Laura Hidalgo) slowly framing her arms away from a classical line and back - the port de bras then picked up in unison by all the dancers and abstracted with jerks and thrusts of the head.

A series of short blackouts gradually reveals all 24 dancers variously posed in haphazard bits of assorted costuming. Another visually striking section sees them in a briskly shuffled jog, snaking their way around the space. Breaking away into shorter lengths, reforming and breaking again, the dancers' spilt second timing ensures the intricate patterning flows seamlessly.

Lake, with collaborator and composer Robin Fox, created the most challenging work for the dancers, pushing them out of their comfort zones in new directions, to reveal other dimensions to their performance. It perfectly ended the program.

Hopefully there will be another “Bespoke” season in 2018.

– Denise Richardson

Stephanie Lake's Chameleon. Photo: David Kelly.
Stephanie Lake's Chameleon. Photo: David Kelly.



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