Quarry Amphitheatre, Perth
West Australian Ballet’s (WAB) Ballet at the Quarry season is an annual favourite amongst audiences, and before the show even begins, we know why. The open air of Quarry Amphitheatre, with its magnificent limestone walls and mesmerising view of twinkling city lights on the horizon, promises 16 magical summer nights as part of Perth Festival 2022. What excites me the most about this year’s season, Platinum: Ballet at the Quarry, is the flourishing choreographic confidence within the company, with two of the works (Truth and Concerto Impertinte!) courageously created by WAB’s talented dancers themselves.
Brazilian-British choreographer Daniela Cardim’s Reset begins the show, created in close collaboration with the dancers. Composer Gabriel Prokofiev’s classical-electronic alchemy infuses the air with an atmosphere of quirky fun and competitive powerplay, as Matthew Marshall’s edgy and colourful lighting design pierces through the space. Clean and minimal, Cardim’s choreography was executed by standout dancer Alexis Tuzil with sharp athleticism. A spicy highlight was the women’s sassy struts en pointe that traverse the stage; a satisfying image that effortlessly reaches the epitome of cool.
WAB Principal dancer Matthew Lehmann’s original work Truth,in the making since 2020,is a poignant and impassioned pas de deux that signifies a well-deserved achievement for the accomplished performer as he embraces his role as choreographer. Accompanied by Ludovico Einaudi’s Experience, the use of this composer’s music as the cornerstone of Truth’s emotional narrative could prove divisive for audiences; Einaudi’s famous/infamous piano melodies are praised as tear-jerkers for the masses but equally criticised as being rife with sentimental clichés. That being said, it somehow works in the context of an outdoor performance. With the dancers’ moss-green costumes catching in the wind as they gut-wrenchingly lay their hearts of their sleeves, Einaudi’s cinematic score will manage to sweep all but the most reluctant romantics up in Truth’s Hollywood-esque drama.
An ode to female empowerment and existing unapologetically, the aptly named Concerto Impertinente! (Italian for “impertinent concert”) is gracing our stage with perfect political timing for the “impertinent” women of Australia who aren’t afraid to ignore politeness in favour of radical change. Under the creative direction of Artistic Associate Sandy Delasalle, this work is a gutsy collaboration between four of WAB’s dancers – Nikki Blain, Chihiro Nomura, Kiki Saito and Claire Voss. The dancers each individually developed their own choreography at home during Perth’s first pandemic lockdown of 2020, and this shines through in the unique personalities and flair of their movement. Galvanised by Felix Mendelssohn’s vivacious score, together these women present a powerful ensemble; strong, fierce and unified.
The power of the ensemble is reinforced in the final work of the night, Take Me With You, a re-mounted work by Polish choreographer Robert Bondara. Originally a duet when first created in 2016, this work has grown considerably in size. Set to the percussive beats of British band Radiohead, Bondara’s reflection on the elusive effort to grasp the meaning of life reaches its crescendo when all 31 dancers descend on the stage in formidable unison. In challenging pas de deux, the dancers move deftly through innovative partnering sequences, slick and aloof, before later collapsing and falling in breathtaking synchronicity. Soloist Julio Blanes has the commanding, brooding presence of a Byronic hero, his subtle and intricate movements revealing a mysterious, lonesome character.
By the end of the evening, the clouds had shifted to reveal a glowing silvery moon and a clear sky glistening with stars. As I gazed upwards at the Milky Way, I was reminded that First Nations people have danced on this land for thousands of years. With 2022 marking the West Australian Ballet’s 70th anniversary, Australia’s oldest ballet company holds just a tiny fragment of our country’s long and rich history of dance.
Platinum: Ballet at the Quarry runs until March 5, and if you are like me, there is no better way to spend an evening under the stars watching the superb dancers of West Australian Ballet.
- ISABELLE LECLEZIO
All photos by Bradbury Photography.