State Theatre, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Alice Topp’s much anticipated new work Logos forms the heart of The Australian Ballet’s triple bill program "Volt". At each side of it, renowned British choreographer, Wayne McGregor, dazzled with Chroma, made in 2006, and Dyad 1929, made on the Australian Ballet in 2009. Topp credits having worked with McGregor as inspiring her to begin seriously making her own choreographies. Last year she also had the chance to work with Company Wayne McGregor dancers, resulting in the opening moments of Logos. She is now a rising star and Logos represents is another step in cementing her place as a very fine choreographer.
In Logos, Topp creates a real sense of journey and arrival. She provokes us by asking [in the program notes]: “How do you wear your monsters? When do you start wearing another’s monsters as your own?”. Through successions of pairs, solos and small groupings, moods intensify and morph, through notions of threat, fear and finally resolution. The explorations are very human and approachable. The costumes also reflects the emphasis on the individual as they channel their own internal struggles and pain. The music by Ludovico Einaudi sweeps us from one deeply felt episode to another. Logos begins with a piano solo that accompanies a duet (danced on opening night by Callum Linnane and guest artist, Leanne Stojmenov). This is filled with both beauty and foreboding. The last moments are danced in silence as is the beginning of the next duet. This is a delicate and emotion-filled space in the score. The choreography is intricate and entwining.
The set and lighting design by Jon Buswell are remarkable - ingenious but understated. A large frame leads us into a blurred reflection of the dancers and multiple perspectives are captured by the clever angling of the reflective surface, where glimpses of the orchestra and varied planes are visible. The work ends with a swirling of clouds, as the frame collapses toward the audience and rain falls upon the stage.
The two McGregor works are self-assured tour de forces. The fabulous Chroma offers dancers’ bodies as conduits for art - softly-hued pixels working against bold colour saturations. The dancers are born of a larger artwork. They enter or retreat via a huge, blindingly bright frame. There is bright, brassy music and specky leg extensions. The mood softens and darkens. Scrolling hip rolls and wiggles meet fluid undulations and ballistic hyper-extensions. The mood is mostly dispassionate - as though the bodies are mere tools of an abstracted artwork, set against the striking hard surfaces of the changing colour washes of the screen/frame. Chroma is fast and relentless and sharply exciting.
Dyad 1929 is similarly filled with McGregor “attitude”. A response to Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, it is an exercise in adventurousness and change. The dance is set to Steve Reich’s Double Sextet - a dizzying canonic battle between two facing sextets, where rhythm and metre veer dramatically. This is very challenging music to dance to and the result is exhilarating. It is bright and jazzy, break-neck paced and exquisitely executed by the company. I am a great fan of the snappy, brashness of the work, including its lighting design by Lucy Carter and terrific yellow, black and white costuming and design by Jon Buswell. Again, the cast of predominantly principal dancers smashed it.
There was a real sense of exhilaration in the audience on opening night - a sense of celebration that we were all there, tinged with an edge of risk. This is a great program for such times. If this is to be my last ballet performance for a while, it will sustain me - it is consummate contemporary ballet.
- SUSAN BENDALL