QUT Gardens Theatre
Reviewed October 7
It has been two Covid-interrupted years since Queensland Ballet (QB) last staged a season of “Bespoke”. Usually an annual event, it is always keenly anticipated – a curated program of short contemporary dance works by different choreographers that celebrates collaboration, and challenges dancers and audiences alike with fresh ideas.
An intimate affair with minimum scenic elements, “Bespoke” not only showcases dancers in movement that deviates from the classical canon, but also allows a linear snapshot in one program of the company ranks from Young Artist to Principal.
This year the QB Pre-Professional Program students also performed – in the opening work, Caravanserai, by Paul Boyd. Inspired by the ancient Silk Road and the inns, (or caravanserai) scattered along it, Boyd’s work is in seven movements for 14 dancers – the women in flame-coloured, flowing harem pants and tops, the men bare-chested and in black fisherman’s pants.
Scenic elements help evoke the exoticism of the middle east, as draped swags rise and fall to denote each movement. The lighting, designed by Cameron Georg across the whole “Bespoke” program, effectively creates the work’s different moods.
Opening moments of languid, sinuous movement successfully develop into a clear exploration of themes such as Ceremony, Celebration and Unity, the latter creating friezes of evocative shapes and patterns that are visually striking. A percussive, athletic section (Bartering) also demonstrated considerable prowess by the men.
The lead couple (Sophie Kerr and Joshua Ostermann) each had a commanding presence, with Ostermann’s joyous solo ably showing off-balance leaps and spins.
QB’s Jette Parker Young Artists performed Fallen, by the company’s resident choreographer Natalie Weir. Taking inspiration from the Wilhelm Müller text to Schubert’s Winterreise, Weir explores issues of solitary confinement, loss and despair.
A man (Isaak McLean) sits on a chair centre stage. In a sinuous duet, his alter ego, (Callum Mackie), representing his emotions, emerges from behind. The women, in long dark blue dresses, act as a Greek chorus, the expressive patterning mesmerising to watch, and a familiar feature of Weir’s work. The frenzied entrance of dancers running down the diagonal to and away from the seated McLean was one such powerful use of the group to evoke emotion.
Pas de deux sections with Kayla Van Den Bogert and Kieren Bofinger were vintage Weir – physically demanding, expressive in their physicality, and beautiful to watch.
Mind Your Head by Jack Lister is an entertaining peek into the intersection between the worlds of pro-wrestling and classical ballet. There’s not much between them apparently! Wearing outlandishly bright, multi-coloured outfits designed by Zoe Griffiths that appear to marry the show business pizzazz of wrestling with the cult of the super-powers, the seven QB dancers seemed to enjoy themselves from beginning to end of this light-hearted romp.
In the smoke-filled space intermittently pierced by shafts of overhead light, there was much posturing, posing and one-upmanship. The soundtrack included music by the legendary Benny Goodman and Sandy Nelson, whose drumming underpinned a percussive section of rapid thrusting, upper cut and “killer punches”, all impeccably timed for maximum visual impact.
The duet, to The Flamingos’ classic, “I only have eyes for you”, was another clever mix of fight moves and dance – all delivered very tongue-in-cheek.
The final work of the program was Rani Luther’s From.To.Here, which explores the very contemporary issue of mass migration. In four movements, the work for 16 company dancers explores stories of despair, hope, belonging and peace, all performed to a specially commissioned, expressive score by Robert Davidson.
Opening with a huddled mass of pulsating bodies centre stage, From.To.Here captures the quintessential heart of migration with movement that is constant and fluid, interrupted by soaring break-out lifts by different dancers. It is a pattern that is effectively repeated, and which draws you into the work.
Principal artists feature here, including Neneka Yoshida showing her usually refined precision. Her duet with Patricio Revé was quite captivating, As was Lucy Green with Camillo Ramos in their final, wistful duet.
From.To.Here. is a poignant, heartfelt work, and the perfect end to this well curated program. The season runs to the 17th of the month. Catch it if you can.
– DENISE RICHARDSON
All photos are by David Kelly.
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