METAMORPHOSIS: BALLET AT THE QUARRY
West Australian Ballet
Quarry Amphitheatre, City Beach
Date reviewed: February 9, 2024
State Theatre Centre of WA Courtyard
Date reviewed: February 10
Kicking off Perth Festival is the West Australian Ballet’s “Metamorphosis: Ballet at the Quarry”. This year, the West Australian Ballet is presenting four unconnected works of contemporary dance, with the overall show broken up by one interval. While there is no strong theme emerging from this quadruple bill program, the minimalist costume and lighting designs in each piece (by various designers) resulted in attention remaining, at all times, on the beauty of the human form rather than any concept or emotion.
Two of the works, Wonderers and Extension to Boom, are choreographed by George Williamson. While Wonderers is a short, moody piece consisting of both ensemble work and a pas de deux (on this night, by Candice Adea and Adam Alzaim), Extension to Boom is much more expansive, in both length and casting.
In Wonderers, six dancers are sporadically lit up by individual downlights (designed by Jason Fassl), accompanied by a sound-score of heartbeats and drumbeats (created by Edmund Shaw). The dancers remain fixed to the spot for some time, expressing mostly smooth, upper-body movement. Contrastingly, Extension to Boom consists of colourful costumes (by Jonathan Hindmarsh) and busy music (Concerto for Two Pianos by Bryce Dessner). Both works provide strong and fresh choreography but the frenzied music, fast-paced movement and multi-coloured costumes in Extension to Boom bordered on overwhelming at times. Nevertheless, the conclusion of this piece was striking and memorable, with lights and music cutting out in the middle of a climatic moment.
The headline performance, Metamorphosis, was the highlight of the evening. This piece by David Dawson also comprises both ensemble work and a pas de deux (on this night, by Dayana Hardy Acuna and Oscar Valdes). The choreography incorporates stillness, which provides balance and reprieve from more intense moments of bodies swirling around each other. The simple costume design by David Dawson and Eddie Grundy (white leotards or leggings) is effective in pulling the focus to the physique of the dancers, and the uniformity of the costumes highlight the pockets of synchronicity throughout this piece.
Dayana Hardy Acuna and Oscar Valdes each presented Dawson’s choreography in their own way, without compromising their partnering. Hardy Acuna’s long extensions gave the pas de deux fluidity and composure, and Valdes’ character and passion ensured he was equally memorable. Notably, Mayume Noguromi, who featured in the ensemble of Metamorphosis, was a standout. Noguromi danced with care and deliberateness, bringing personality, elegance and strength to her performance.
In 3 min 40, a short pas de deux choreographed by Gakuro Matsui, was pleasant but unremarkable. I appreciate the bravery of Matsui in sharing this work, being a reflection of his emotions during the pandemic, but the choreography felt a little tired, as did the storyline.
As always, the ensemble work throughout the night was strong. This was especially so in Extension to Boom, which demands musicality from the dancers. Further, the white uniforms used in Metamorphosis would have made mistakes abundantly noticeable, but the ensemble presented this piece with precision.
This year’s season of “Ballet at the Quarry” showcases some demanding works of contemporary dance, but the vision for the overall production was unfortunately unclear. Each performance was polished; however, none provoked further thought or emotion, nor did they leave a lasting impression, leaving this year’s season on the safer side of the creative scale. “Metamorphosis: Ballet at the Quarry” is a sound start to the year for the West Australian Ballet, and there is space to develop a greater sense of direction.
Also part of Perth Festival is Perth Moves, a 10-day program of free workshops open to the public, presented by STRUT Dance. With the classes set in the heart of Northbridge (in the Courtyard of the State Theatre Centre of WA), the program seems, so far, well attended by eager participants. I attended a waacking class by visiting French artist, TINE, who took the attendees through the basics of this style. Being late on a Saturday evening, the class felt vibrant and enthusiastic. Not only does the Perth Moves initiative deliver a strong variety of dance exposure to the public, it also educates and allows those less familiar with the dance world to dip in their toes. The classes range from line dancing, to krump, to yoga and meditation, and there are classes for those with limited mobility (“seated dance”), providing greater accessibility and inclusivity. The classes are not only informative, but they seem to bring people together through shared movement. It is a stroke of genius by STRUT Dance, and I look forward to this program remaining a fixture of Perth Festival in years to come.
- ALANA KILDEA
Metamorphosis, Ballet at the Quarry, continues until March 9. Perth Moves continues until February 18.