• Robyn Hendricks and Callum Linnane in 'Concerto'.
    Robyn Hendricks and Callum Linnane in 'Concerto'.
  • Benedicte Bemet as the Black Swan.
    Benedicte Bemet as the Black Swan.
  • Yuumi Yamada and Chengwu Guo in 'La Favorita'.
    Yuumi Yamada and Chengwu Guo in 'La Favorita'.
  • Karen Nanasca and Nathan Brook in 'Clay'.
    Karen Nanasca and Nathan Brook in 'Clay'.

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Reviewed November 25

Given that the final two programs of the Australian Ballet’s planned 2022 Sydney season had been cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, the unexpected introduction of the AB’s Celebration Gala was most welcome. This gala program comprised a series of 10 pas de deux ranging from classical to contemporary, from serious drama to joyous abandon. On opening night these were danced by a cast of 14 dancers, giving Sydney audiences a chance to see a selection of principals, senior artists and soloists under the spotlight in full costume but without sets.

In the opening duet, La Favorita (choreographed by Petal Miller-Ashmole), soloist Yuumi Yamada confidently held her own, dancing alongside experienced principal dancer and virtuoso powerhouse Chengwu Guo. A future principal herself one day perhaps?!

Rina Nemoto impressed in both the White Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake (danced with Jarryd Madden as Prince Siegfried) and Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain (with Nathan Brook). Nemoto is an immensely expressive dancer, but not in the flamboyant sense, as nothing is ever forced or overdone. There is a purity and honesty about her work that sits closely to the emotional heart of classicism, and she has aesthetically appealing lines without anything being too hyperextended or extreme. Her White Swan shows great promise and in the more contemporary After the Rain both she and Brook danced superbly, finding moments of stillness and serenity in themselves and then extending them out to include the audience.

Callum Linnane and Robyn Hendricks have a special rapport onstage and they danced two duets (the first from the late Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto and the second from Act II of Yuri Possokhov’s Anna Karenina). The understated simplicity of MacMillan’s choreography for Concerto was an excellent showcase for these two elegant dancers, while they also performed the high drama of the pas de deux from Anna Karenina with maturity.

Benedicte Bemet looked sensational in two of the most spectacular tutus of the evening – the first for Black Swan and the second for Nutcracker. As Odile in the Black Swan pas de deux, her trademark sweetness, wide-eyed charm and sincere love of dance was convincingly tempered by something a bit darker and more dangerous. Brett Chynoweth made more than an excellent foil. His fine dancing showed no sign of the long lay-off from performances these dancers have suffered over the past two years.

Approximately a week before opening night the Australian Ballet posted a studio rehearsal video on AB’s Facebook page of Bemet and Chynoweth in these very roles being carefully coached by Artistic Director David Hallberg and Ballet Mistress Fiona Tonkin, and I must say that it was all the more satisfying to see them in costume onstage in this work after having seen them being coached through the details not long beforehand.

The contemporary works also demonstrated some fine dancing, with Imogen Chapman (she of the amazing arabesque) and Cristiano Martino in a duet from Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, and Karen Nanasca and Nathan Brook in Alice Topp’s "Clay" (excerpt from Logos). Brook’s versatility and dramatic prowess demonstrates just how well earned his double win at last year’s Telstra Ballet Dancer Award was. Hopefully he (and his colleagues) will have many more opportunities to perform in 2022.

Sharni Spencer and Christopher Rodgers-Wilson successfully portrayed the excitement of young lovers in the pas de deux from Act II of The Merry Widow and Bemet and Guo danced the final duet from Act II of The Nutcracker with great exuberance, marred only slightly by some curiously lopsided gargouillades from Bemet.


All photos above by Daniel Boud.

comments powered by Disqus