Talbot Theatre, Thomas Dixon Centre
Initiated in 2017 by Queensland Ballet’s (QB) Artistic Director Li Cunxin to explore adventurous new contemporary choreography, the "Bespoke" season is now in its sixth year – its second year in the company’s new Talbot Theatre.
While keeping to its usual formula of three works, the program’s original purpose to push boundaries and challenge artists and audiences was however less evident this year, with all three choreographers residing clearly on the more balletic side of the dance spectrum. Nevertheless, each work was quite stylistically different.
Miroirs, choreographed and designed by Remi Wörtmeyer, opened the program. Formerly a principal dancer with Dutch National Ballet, he is now carving out a solid international career as a multidisciplinary artist, straddling the visual and performing arts.
A non-narrative work, Miroirs (French for Mirrors) draws inspiration from Maurice Ravel’s suite for solo piano and his exploration of the line between reality and reflection. The suite is played live by pianist Daniel Le, at a grand piano upstage right, in a black box setting with shimmering chains of thick crystal-like beads draped overhead.
The five couples are in silver-belted skin-tight unitards of different dark hues. The movement positively shimmers – sissonne en attitude, multitudinous chainés and tours en l’air are signature steps in the rapid, crystalline movement construct that also oozes elegance.
Principal Artists Mia Heathcote and Victor Estévez were mesmerizing in a final sinuous duet, having both changed into soft grey unitards while Heathcote discarded pointe shoes. The other four couples were all artists from the company ranks and showed the wealth of talent waiting to step up – Brooke Ray and Luca Armstrong, Heidi Freeman and Shaun Curtis, Bronte Keilly-Coleman and Luke DiMattina and Ines Hargreaves and Lewis Formby.
Paul Boyd, Queensland Ballet Academy Ballet Master and Resident Choreographer, created Tartan as a kind of homage to the traditional Scottish dance he learned in his youth. In this work 12 Jette Young Artist dancers joined guest artist and QB alumnus Graeme Collins, who performed the role of an elderly Scotsman reminiscing about his past.
Boyd uses this rather thin premise as the reason for a Scottish knees-up, as the dancers, in kilts of various styles and colour, representing ghosts of the old man’s youth, emerge from under a large tartan-covered table upstage left.
With movement loosely drawn from the Scottish dance vernacular to the often percussive beat of bagpipes and drums, the dancers perform a series of duets and solos with enthusiasm while Collins anchors the dramatic through-line with some gravitas.
A highlight included a cleverly abstracted routine to “Donald Where’s your Trousers?” performed with alacrity by Josh Fagan. And as the Scotsman’s Younger Self, Taron Geyl was also impressive, performing a more contemporary styled upper body movement.
Although rather too long, Tartan was undoubtedly a crowd pleaser on opening night.
The final work also has a theme of aging and death, with choreographer Natalie Weir using Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs, originally inspired by Joseph von Eichendorff’s poem Im Abendrot, as inspiration. (The singer of this recorded music is not identified.)
Again, there are five couples. The lead woman (Lucy Green) in a long, skirted red dress, represents the common thread of humanity connecting us all, while the other four women are the seasons of life, dressed in blue, green, orange or purple. The men, identical in beige pants and tops, together represent Everyman.
The evocative lighting (designed for all three works by Paul Jackson), changes colour to suit each season with a seascape projection a recurring theme.
The opening moments are powerful. As the music begins, the dancers burst from the wings in an unfolding line of sequential movement. Their command of the space, and the patterns and shapes created, are vintage Weir. It has been a while since she has choreographed on the main company dancers, and as collaboration is a key feature of her creative process, the more experienced the dancers, the richer the movement palette.
Green partnered Patricio Revé, who stood out for his extraordinary elevation. A duet of spinning lifts, performed by Georgia Swan and Mali Comlecki, soared with the music, while Lina Kim and Callum Mackie were equally joyous together. Sophie Zoricic with Rian Thompson and Kayla Van Den Bogert with Joshua Ostermann also captured the humanity and tenderness of the theme. It was such a satisfying end to the program.
– DENISE RICHARDSON
'Bespoke' continues until August 5.