By Linda Badger.
A simply gorgeous feast of diverse contemporary dance! In Neon Lights the truly versatile West Australian Ballet Company brought us a program nothing short of world-class contemporary dance based in their own classic roots. With four very unique, short-medium length works, we got a great choreographic tasting plate of varying themes, styles and intentions. With all four choreographers being from different countries and cultures, it was great to see all their various works translated by the company.
WA Ballet is a very unique ballet company, in that the dancers have, refreshingly, a vast variety of physiques and strengths. They are not all seemingly cut out of the typical ballerina mould, but display very strong technique and a flair for contemporary work.
The night opened with a piece by the master, Jiri Kylian. Un Ballo, originally created on Nederlands Dance Theater II, showcased his signature style. We witnessed lengthy lines, beautiful formations and stylistically unaffected movement that was breathtakingly beautiful. The partner and group unison movement created almost optical illusions at times, as candles were strung across the stage just above the dancers’ heads as the lighting. Even though this piece is intentionally about the beauty of the dance and music relationship, it hints at a night out at the ball, with pairs of dancers just enjoying themselves. Some of the dancers struggled to keep the simplicity and presence of this work at the forefront, but overall it was a fairly successful delivery. It would take years of studying to really embody this kind of work, and it is not something Australian dancers get the opportunity to experience much of. Kylian’s work is unsurpassed!
The second work of the night, Strings 32, was by Ivan Cavallari. Strings 32 was based on the different connections we make in life. The intention was shown beautifully through cleverly crafted moments utilizing the prop of retractable rope from many corners of the stage. The rope would stretch and fly back off stage upon being let go. This allowed for so much variety of interpretation, almost like a game. Humour was a strength of this work. The company performed this piece well and their technique was especially strong, with their performance quality really shining through. The use of the prop was quite intricate at times and it was fascinating to see how the theme was woven through this piece, using the strings at times as an extension of the dancers’ bodies, a partner in their movement, as the set or as a prop. Relationships were explored on many levels and by keeping the costuming simple, with the significant use of mostly one prop, the subject matter was able to be explored in depth and expressed beautifully through the movement itself. This work was quite mesmerizing, and beautifully executed, with some gorgeous choreographic moments.
Pre-interval was Spanish choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s work Lickety Split. This work was a cute, humorous, romantic, and slightly silly exploration of the quirky side of relationships. It was so much fun to watch, with a very vintage, eclectic feel. There were many non-sensical lyrics in the music but you got the feeling that in the end it was all going to make sense. The choreographer’s use of quirky humour was a really fun way to break up the night of more serious contemporary dance, and the work left me feeling upbeat and joyful. The dancers got to explore their playful and silly sides. This was the choreographer’s first full-length work, originally choreographed in 2006 for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. It would be great to see some more of Cerrudo’s work in Australia.
The final piece of the night was by homegrown choreographer, Australian Dance Theatre’s Garry Stewart. The Centre and its Opposite, originally choreographed on the Birmingham Royal Ballet, was tailored to classical dancers, using their strength of line and technique as a base for the movement. The work lacked the usual Stewart signature death defying leaps, twists and floor work, but it was still a challenging piece for the dancers. Knowing Stewart’s style, the audience may have been waiting for explosiveness that never came, but the work was a study in movement that would show the strength of a classical company, not their lack of ability to execute his trademark style. The set consisted of the back and sides of the floor being framed by fluorescent tube light-bulbs and the costumes had a Star Trek feel to them, with music that was reflective of Stewart’s usual style. Overall the dancers performed the work well, although the concentration required of them seemed to slip in moments. However, it was a very long program and they were fairly consistent throughout.
In all, the night was entirely successful with the dancers executing four very unique works. This is a very versatile company and one we should be entirely proud of. Standout performances came from the male dancers, who are definitely a highlight and strength of this company. Their movement was so strong and masculine, whilst very emotive and expressive. If you get the chance to see WA Ballet, and this unique program, don’t turn it down.