Queensland Ballet has been nominated for an Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Performance by a Company for Strictly Gershwin, a ballet that serves as a tribute to George Gershwin and the big band era of the ‘30s, with choreography by Derek Deane. The production, which reached sold-out crowds during its 10-show run this past late May-early June, brings together the magic and glamour of the golden age of Broadway and Hollywood’s silver screen. Strictly Gershwin features appearances by guest singers and tap dancers, and music includes favorites such as “I Got Rhythm”, “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “An American in Paris” and many more.
“It’s very satisfying, very exciting to see the company as a whole being recognised by the dance community in Australia,” Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin tells Dance Informa. “From my point of view as Artistic Director, I think our dancers have improved phenomenally over the last few years, and they’re dancing at a very high standard. This was such a demanding production that required outstanding technique and ability, and our dancers took to it with such energy. It’s wonderful to see the dance community recognise that, too.”
Cunxin had many reasons for wanting to bring Strictly Gershwin to the company’s repertoire. He calls it a unique and beautiful work that fuses a variety of artforms and many different styles of dance, including classical ballet, tap, ballroom, Latin and jazz. He says that the recognisable music of Gershwin, too, makes it an audience favorite, noting that the ballet brought in new faces to the theatre because of its wide appeal.
“The Gershwin music is iconic, is inventive, is full of heart and soul and wonderful characters,” Cunxin says. “When you hear the music, your heart sings, and it evokes so many emotions. Gershwin music speaks to everyone in a different way, yet it holds a special place in so many hearts. When you then combine that distinctive music with singing and dancing, it creates a whole new experience that’s very memorable. I do think audiences left the theatre smiling and feeling happy and lighter!”
In addition, Cunxin says the ballet challenged the Queensland Ballet dancers, as it required more than just classical ballet movement and pushed them out of their comfort zone.
“To deliver this production to such a high standard, our company had to be versatile and be ready to embrace the challenge,” Cunxin comments. “It was a great development opportunity for us as a company and for our individual dancers – an invaluable experience. Even Derek [Deane] said that he thinks our company performs this production the best he’s seen. To perform such a demanding and technically difficult production to such a high standard is a remarkable achievement, and I couldn’t be prouder of our company.”
The Australian Dance Awards, presented by Ausdance Victoria and Arts Centre Melbourne, will take place on Sunday 24 September in The Playhouse at Arts Centre Melbourne.
For tickets to the Australian Dance Awards 2017, visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2017/dance/the-australian-dance-awards.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.