Queensland Ballet’s (QB) “Bespoke” promises to be a regular feature of the company’s annual programming. Conceived in 2017 to broaden the creative vision of QB, with a focus on collaboration and experimentation, “Bespoke” is designed to push boundaries, and to challenge artists and audience alike.
Staged again in one of the edgy Brisbane Powerhouse performance spaces, the program was once again produced by QB Creative Associate Amy Hollingsworth. It comprised three contemporary dance pieces, a short film, and a photographic exhibition. The QB Jette Parker Young Artists and QB Academy Pre-Professional Program dancers joined several company artists (the bulk of the company is currently on tour to China), alongside Expressions Dance Company (EDC) as guests.
Parts per Million opened the program. Choreographed by Craig Davidson, with a score by Nicholas Robert Thayer, it looks at patterns of behaviour, the idea of change, and people’s resistance to change. The reference point, according to the program notes, is climate change.
The QB dancers, effectively costumed by Alana Sargent in black pants, tops and a pleated skirt arrangement, move as a group across the stage, drawn to or repelled by a square of white light that is also moved around the space. We then see the dancers walking slowly across the stage from one side to the other on paths of white light, until that grouping also breaks up.
The costumes are gradually pared back to grey shorts and top as the movement develops a strong classical idiom, with developé extensions, turned out retires and the occasional arabesque in the mix. QB’s Sophie Zoricic and Georgia Swan both shine in duets en pointe with Jack Lister and Vito Bernasconi respectively showing lithesome extensions and control.
It was a powerful start to the program, but an under-lit stage and the overly loud, pounding score, which was deafening in its first moments, mitigated its appreciation.
The second work by Jack Lister, B-Sides, was an effective counterpoint to the first work’s urgent tone. Described as being for the “battered yet joyful soul, which ultimately lives in all of us”, it comprises a series of “numbers” to the soundtracks of popular artists of the 1960s, staged in three moveable set pieces, rotated to reveal different brightly coloured “room” interiors of blue, red and yellow. The dancers are dressed to match.
The first yearning duet is to the evocative “A House is not a Home”, followed by “You Don’t Own Me”, a witty exploration of cross-dressing with its repeated motif of hands checking earrings, hair and then decorously placing them on the waist. A duet between two men was also a striking counterpoint to the Burt Bacharach song, “Wives and Lovers”, sometimes described as the most sexist song of the 1960s.
QB’s Young Artists performed B-Sides with technical skill, but greater maturity would have given their interpretation more depth. Nevertheless it was a fun and sometimes thought provoking performance.
Carbon Field by Gabrielle Nankivell was the strongest work of the program, exploring the different states of the element, carbon. The simplicity of this premise was the work’s strength, as Nankivell translated the qualities of each state into movement.
The EDC dancers and Pre Professional Program dancers joined QB and its Young Artists, as together they slid and rolled across the space from one corner to the other. Clad head to toe in pants, tops and socks of black, grey or white, this large mass of moving bodies was simply but very effectively constructed.
Duets of fluid, connected movement fold and unfold. Sargent performed a solo of breathtakingly effortlessness, a smooth continuum of sliding, rolling movement. The score, by Luke Smiles, is a pulsating but evocative undercurrent.
Unfortunately the short film Brute, choreographed by Cass Mortimer Eipper, was not shown this performance because of a technical malfunction. However, the exhibition of photographer David Kelly’s images of six QB dancers, in which their personal interpretations of Arvo Part’s work Fratres have been evocatively captured, was agreeably omnipresent in the foyer spaces of the Powerhouse.
- DENISE RICHARDSON