Again, Queensland Ballet's (QB) annual “Bespoke” season explored collaboration and the expansion of boundaries. Staged at the Brisbane Powerhouse, the State’s hip centre for contemporary culture, the program also aims to challenge conventional assumptions about how dance should be delivered and seen. QB’s Jette Parker Young Artists joined 13 company members in the creation and delivery of the program.
It is difficult to get new works of differing styles working well together as a program, but QB has succeeded here, creating a satisfying balance across three pieces that explore the collaboration of elements of costume design, music, digital technology and virtual reality with dance.
The Appearance of Colour by Loughlan Prior (Royal New Zealand Ballet resident choreographer) has as its genesis the first transmissions of colour television, and explores the tonal differences between white, black and colour, in a continuously shifting palette that underscores the movement.
Most of the colour is digitally projected onto the floor of the space, initially with different patterns of black rippling across its white surface in expanding circles, lines or other amorphous shapes. It enhanced rather than detracted from the movement, which is effectively repetitive, upright and angular in the opening moments.
The dancers, for this piece QB Young Artists, wear different costumes of the same monochromatic grey, and hold small illuminated squares of white light in one section, making patterns in the space. They then cleverly integrate them to reflect the shape of the movement itself.
The movement becomes lively and crisp as a riot of colour floods the space – the dancers running across en masse to the rhythmic, orchestral score (John Metcalf). Engaging all the senses, this work was a stunning start to the program.
Lucy Guerin’s pointNONpoint has the most abstract conception of the three works, exploring the blurring of identities in movement, thereby opening myriad different focal points for the viewer. A secondary exploration of the mechanics of the pointe shoe is reflected in the work’s title.
Beginning with one dancer (Sophie Zoricic) and expanding incrementally to a cast of 23, the costuming (Andrew Treloar) simultaneously develops from Zoricic’s simple tunic in a shimmering voile to tunics with tail-like extensions and face-covering collars.
The movement is clearly defined – much of it gestural – with some of the dancers’ fingers painted blood red, drawing attention to the gesture. Half the dancers are en pointe, including the men, although the costumes make differentiation difficult, and much (perhaps clichéd) use of the pointe dynamic is made with the percussive beat of pointe shoes contrapuntally set against the staccato movement on flat.
Eventually the movement evolves into a mass of swirling bodies and diverse movement, which, as intended, draws the focus in multiple directions. A satisfying ending has the dancers slowly draw together in harmony centre stage.
Amy Hollingsworth created From Within in homage to its dancers. She worked with them extensively during her time at QB, and it is therefore a celebration of their individuality, their talents and their humanity. A virtual reality experience, available in the foyer, is an integral part of the work, and provides a more immersive perspective.
The earthy tones of both the brick back wall of the Powerhouse stage and the dancers’ everyday clothing create visually warm opening moments. A white chair sits alone and spot-lit upstage right throughout the piece.
The individuality of each of the dancers is allowed to shine not only through their movement, which is expressive, expansive, and easy to watch, but also their voices, heard in a soundscape created with care and skill by Will Hughes.
Vanessa Morelli was mesmerising in a short solo to Lennon & McCartney’s Blackbird, which she had also pre-recorded. Sinuously fluid arm and upper body movements expressed the poignancy of the lyrics. And her voice was sublime.
The final section, to Bjork’s It’s So Quiet, was a breakout moment for each of the dancers, and brought the work and the program to a rousing conclusion.
All the QB dancers tackled the contemporary style with zeal and acumen, but along with Zoricic and Morelli, Lucy Green, Rian Thompson and Jack Lister all seemed in their element.
The season ends November 16. It’s well worth a look.
– DENISE RICHARDSON