Australian Dance Reviews

The Australian Ballet School – Summer Season

the Arts Centre, Playhouse, Melbourne
December 9 2011

By Grace Edwards.

The Australian Ballet School’s Summer Season provided a last chance to catch a glimpse of the graduating class of 2011, showcasing the talents of the School’s young dancers in a light-hearted and diverse programme.

After an introductory piece, Overture by Leigh Rowles, the students performed Jiri Kylian’s Symphony in D. Restaged by guest repetiteur Arlette van Boven and performed to the music of Joseph Haydn, this piece was packed full of in-jokes and witty points of physical humour, requiring an unusual kind of maturity as well as a good sense of comedic timing. The students appeared to enjoy themselves immensely and acquitted themselves well on both charges.

The next challenge was David Lichine’s Graduation Ball. First performed in Sydney by the original Ballet Russe in 1940, it was the only one of the company’s works to have its world premiere in Australia and was regarded as one of the tour’s most popular. Set in a Viennese girls’ finishing school in the 1850s, this ballet depicts an evening of frivolity between the young ladies and cadets from a local military college at the annual ball. This ballet was a wonderful choice for a student performance, as the pantomimic quality of Graduation Ball provided the dancers an unusual opportunity to expand their repertoire of dramatic skills. The leading girls, Benedicte Bemet and the pigtailed Donna-Mae Burrows, were well-cast in their mischievous roles. Others deserving of mention include ‘drummer boy’ Marcus Morelli and ‘competition girls’ Sophie Zoricic and Miyu Katayama, all of whom pulled off their technically difficult solos and passages with finesse.

The final piece for the evening was Aurora’s Wedding. This single-act version of The Sleeping Beauty was first performed by the Australian Ballet to mark the official opening of the Victorian Arts Centre Theatres Complex in 1984. The usual highlights included the duet between Puss In Boots and the White Cat, as well as the Bluebird and Lilac Fairy variations. This difficult classical showpiece did find the weaker spots in some of the soloists’ technique; nonetheless, the school as a whole tackled the ballet with maturity. In the lead roles of Aurora and the Prince respectively, Benedicte Bemet and Brodie James shone. Along with fine clarity and precision in her classical technique, Bemet handled beautifully the softer aspects of her performance, such as her port de bras, often overlooked by younger dancers focused on technical requirements. James, meanwhile, proved an admirable partner.

If the Australian Ballet School’s Summer Season 2011 can be taken as an indication of the calibre of the nation’s next generation of professionals, there is much that we can look forward to in the near future.  I wish the best of luck to those dancers who are graduating. They have received a solid foundation from which to expand their horizons and I look forward to following their careers both locally and internationally.

Photo: Dancers Jill Ogai and Joel Di Stefano in Symphony in D

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