Talbot Theatre, Thomas Dixon Centre
Queensland Ballet’s annual “Bespoke” season also unofficially opened the company's new Talbot Theatre, part of the stunning redevelopment of the company’s Thomas Dixon Centre headquarters. The evening was therefore a double celebration of collaboration and creativity – the philosophies underpinning the “Bespoke” program and, undoubtedly, also the creation of this remarkable centre for dance and the arts.
“Bespoke” is always an intimate affair of three short, usually contemporary works, with minimal scenic elements, that seek to challenge both dancers and audiences alike with fresh ideas. Tethered opened the program – a dark brooding work by Petros Treklis taking inspiration from the paintings of Isabelle Vialle to explore ideas of the darker unknown and our other selves. James Brown’s score, with its throbbing, knocking beat, introduces us to these otherworldly creatures or shadows – the dancers head to toe in soot-grey boiler suits that cover their faces, hands and feet.
Tethered has an almost cinematic quality. The first moments are seen through a veil of falling dust particles. An interloping Man, the long-limbed Joshua Ostermann, in white satin pants and top, is pulled, pushed and lifted from one group of creatures to the other in a compelling ebb and flow of movement.
With the later entrance of Sophie Kerr as the Woman, also in white, this appears to be a battle between good and evil forces. Ostermann and Kerr, both Jette Parker Young Artists, showed an easy, articulate grasp of the movement.
Choreographer Stephanie Lake declares that she is not particularly didactic about the underlying meaning of her works, wanting instead to transport audiences, to stimulate imagination, and to "make them squirm in their seats". Biography, a beautifully crafted, whimsical work of several seemingly unrelated sections to different music tracks, did all of that.
Very much a work for the ensemble, the dancers have obviously informed much of its construction, and it is the richer for it. The audience is transported from the start as the 12 dancers, male and female, in beige coloured boxer shorts, singlets and socks, serenely couru en demi-pointe in straight lines across the stage. The serenity is punctuated by random moments of break-out mania as, one-by-one, each strikes a strident pose before continuing as before.
There are sections where motifs of pugilism prevail, illuminated by overhead projections of rectangles of light. Later the dancers use large black boxes as a conduit to cross the space, before rearranging them into a long bench. The seated dancers create a continuum of gestural movement, including leg crossing and uncrossing, to J. S. Bach’s Ave Maria – simple, but surprisingly poignant.
The work concludes potently with a definite “squirm in your seat” egg moment (no spoiler alert), followed by a visceral stomping section in gumboots to the haunting voices of the Ukrainian Folk Choir.
The final, very celebratory work is Greg Horsman’s A Rhapsody in Motion, an exploration of the wonderfully danceable Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninov. Composed for piano and orchestra, the score has been thematically divided by Horsman into three movements clearly exploring a dancer’s rite of passage from the mastery of technique to the development of artistry.
In a coincidental nod to Les Études, at curtain up we see 12 couples (including four soloist couples), set across the expansive stage, each beside a small barre, which they later manipulate over and around themselves with crisp sometimes acrobatic movement. A pas de huit follows for the soloists, and as the work progresses the women’s revealing costumes of leotard and tights of differing reds is softened by the addition of skirts of chiffon, then half-tutus.
Horsman has created movement that is almost a visual representation of the Rachmaninov score, adding another dimension to its rich complexity while challenging the dancers with the movement’s dazzling but demanding detail. And all the dancers are up to the challenge. Soloists Lucy Green and Alexander Idaszak, Yanela Piñera and Joel Woellner, and Isabella Swietlicki and Liam Geck were all splendid, while Laura Tosar (recently promoted to company Soloist) and Patricio Revé sublimely captured the essence of the familiar slow, romantic section of the score.
The season runs until July 30, with only a few seats left. Catch it if you can, to see both “Bespoke” and the company’s fabulous home. More info here.
– DENISE RICHARDSON