Dance

DANCING UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKIES BY VALERIE LAWSON

This is a fascinating ,enthralling book extensively researched and vividly written by renowned dance critic and journalist Valerie Lawson . Lawson uses letters, interviews and personal anecdotes from dancers, directors, impresarios , producers, and critics to bring the history and characters alive . The horrendous drain of one night stands on the exhausting long tours ! The backstage scandals and dramas!

With a forward by David McAllister of the Australian Ballet , and a well laid out table of contents , the book while large and heavy is beautifully illustrated and also includes a terrific bibliography and helpful index at the back .

The preface briefly acknowledges the very early history of ballet in Australia but the book really begins with the tours of the famous Anna Pavlova ( with her signature solo ‘The Dying Swan’) in 1926 and then her 1929 tour, where the Taits and JC Williamsons ( ‘The Firm’ ) first feature and we learn how she influenced a young Robert Helpmann. The merits (or lack of) the ballets presented are discussed. Continue reading DANCING UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKIES BY VALERIE LAWSON

RAZOM (TOGETHER) @ NIDA’S PARADE THEATRE

Melanie Moravski Dechnicz first met Mykola Kanevets when he was visiting Australia from Canada. Kanevets was in Australia facilitating a workshop in Ukrainian dance. That meeting marked a turning point in Dechnicz’s life. She went on to study with a number of top Ukrainian choreographers and innovative dance teachers and spent time training at Virsky, Ukraine’s prestigious dance company in Kyiv.

Today, Dechnicz heads Australia’s premier Ukrainian dance company, Lehenda. Collaborating with her old mentor from Canada, she helped to bring Kanevets and his Canadian-Ukrainian dance company, Cheremosh, to Australia.

Both dance companies, Cheremosh and Lehenda, together (“together” in Ukrainian is razom) staged a dazzling feast of Ukrainian dance in Sydney on the 12th of July at NIDA’s Parade Theatre. Continue reading RAZOM (TOGETHER) @ NIDA’S PARADE THEATRE

BETWEEN TINY CITIES @ THE STUDIO

BETWEEN TINY CITIES was devised and choreographed by Nick Power, a Sydney-based choreographer whose early career was marked with ten years in a remote First Nations community called Lajamanu in NT. There he was mentored by elders of the community about Walpiri culture and here that he realised hip-hop has its own history, rituals and connection to culture , which eventually led to his creation of this production. The show is Power’s response to a four-year dance exchange program between Darwin’s D*City Rockers and Cambodia’s Tiny Toones youth program. There is warmth ,humour and some amazing dancing.

The audience enters and stands behind the clearly delineated circle on the floor that is the performance space. Dancers Aaron Lim and Erak Mith are extraordinary. Dressed in casual t-shirt and leggings with sneakers, they blend contemporary dance , hip hop , Indigenous and traditional Cambodian dance in a thrilling ,compelling mix full of incredible dynamic energy and fluid grace. They watch each other intently the whole time, at times mirroring each other, sometimes melding and becoming a fluid, moving sculpture like a wrestling match. The show begins in slo -mo but soon becomes very energetic and fast paced. At times it is a teasing dialogue ‘anything you can do I can do better ‘, at other times it is a considered discussion reaching towards mutual understanding . Continue reading BETWEEN TINY CITIES @ THE STUDIO

ROH Live: ROYAL BALLET MEDUSA TRIPLE BILL

As part of ROH Live screenings , we were privileged to see a most intriguing contemporary triple bill superbly danced by the Royal Ballet – Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Within the Golden Hour ‘, Crystal Pite’s ‘Flight Pattern’ and ‘Medusa’ , a new work by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.Two revivals and a world premiere .

The programme opened with a glorious revival of Wheeldon’s ‘Within the Golden Hour’, created on San Francisco Ballet in 2008 and first performed by the Royal Ballet in 2016. It is abstract yet lush, shimmering and exquisiteLY redesigned with semi transparent golden , floaty costumes by Jasper Conran .

Wheeldon acknowledges he was influenced by Klimt’s ‘golden period’ in creating the ballet , and Australian audiences might think of Kristian Fredrikson ‘s costume designs for Graeme Murphy’s ‘Shéhérazade’ . Peter Mumford’s lighting is splendidly enhancing and atmospheric with most effective use of shadows and silhouettes Ezzio Bosso’s ‘Music for Strings’ throbs and glimmers, blending towards the end to the andante from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto.

There are seven pairs of dancers who come together in assorted combinations. Wheeldon’s athletic ,challenging choreography is fluid and sinuous and includes difficult high lifts, slithery floorwork and male pas de deux as well as possible references to Latin-American ballroom.

It also requires a long , stretched ‘line’ and big showy jumps at times particularly for the male dancers. The first section for the whole ensemble sees them writhing sculpturally. Then there are assorted pas de deux and other combinations : for example a tender, fragile ,dreamily lyrical pas de deux and a darting dragonfly like female quartet which are contrasted with a coolly elegant and regal pas de deux by another pair of dancers.

Towards the end the dancers cascade off the stage, then return for the final short segment and are still dancing when the curtain falls.

The middle work was the hotly anticipated world premiere of ‘Medusa’ by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui with Natalia Osipova in the eponymous role. While Osipova was sensational , it is perhaps slightly disappointing .This is Cherkaoui’s first commission for the Royal Ballet. The music blends Purcell arias at times ironically commenting on the action with the atmospheric ebbs ,flows and bumps of electronic composer Olga Wojciechowska .

Based on the story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses , the ballet tells the story of how Medusa was a beautiful priestess who was dedicated to and served in the temple of the goddess Athena .Medusa was raped by the god Poseidon, and a jealous Athena took revenge by turning Medusa (one of her favourites) into a monstrous creature, a hideous Gorgon with writhing serpents for hair. Anyone who looked Medusa in the face was instantly turned to stone, until Perseus succeeds in killing her which sets free her soul transformed back to beauty.

Osipova tries to depict both sides of Medusa – the stunning priestess, who offers a scarf as a good luck token to Perseus , and the furious Gorgon, with fierce kicks and a basilisk stare. While the ‘snaky’ headdress is rather striking it is not scary rather just looks messy, somewhat of a disappointment .

Cherkaoui’s choreography is eclectic,  blending deconstructed neoclassical ballet and pointe work , street style moves , writhing floor work and capoeira-style kicks with blade sharp feet and deadly neck twists.

Olivia Cowley was coolly elegant as Athena who punishes her acolyte because she can’t punish the god. Ryoichi Hirano in an asymmetric indigo kilt like outfit ( Samurai inspired.? ) and dramatic blue stripe was commanding as Poseidon who calmly observes Athena’s punishment of her priestess. The transformation is achieved behind a huge scarf, (The scarf is a recurring visual motif – we see Medusa with one at her first dance with Perseus, her transformation, and her death).

The soldiers – Perseus et al – are led by tremendous Matthew Ball but hampered by the rather discordant ,unflattering semi transparent boiler suit costumes. Other soldiers wear mesh fencing masks made to look like stone , with plumes resembling Ancient Greek helmets, their faces hidden. Perseus removes his at one point – does Medusa recognise him? Does he recognise her? It is suggested that Medusa lets Perseus kill her so her soul can be free,
The ending is rather enigmatic and inconclusive  with Medusa transformed back to her beautiful self and on the temple steps with her bowl .She is sad and reflective.

Crystal Pite’s ‘Flight Pattern’ is stark and bleak but very moving. The dancers are all in grey costumes and often move in surging , pulsating patterns,  at times like flocks of birds . To Górecki’s haunting Symphony of Sorrowful Songs Pite has produced a work inspired by the world wide refugee crisis , motherhood and loss. It is mostly a huge ensemble work (36 dancers in the cast!) who writhe, leap ,fall, but we occasionally see churning individuals break out from within the group, all harbouring their own sense of loss, destroyed hopes and other back stories. Towards the end we see one couple , Kristen McNally and Marcelino Sambé,, who have already lost their baby.

McNally mourns in anguish. to the lament of Mary on the death of her son (sung by soprano Francesca Chiejina). McNally also has to symbolically bear the weight of everyone’s loss, as represented by the huge, heavy load of coats that end up piled in her arms. Her partner Sambé explodes in a solo of feverish anger.. The black walls of the set open to let the crowd of refugees in, but close to exclude the couple. McNally rocks back and forth, lamenting. Snow is continuing to fall behind the wall and now the refugees no longer have their coats. Have they reached their destination? The ending is inconclusive. A melancholIc, poignant work.

A very thought provoking triple bill full of glorious dance.

Running time just over 3 hours including two intervals.

https://www.eventcinemas.com.au/EventsFestivals/RoyalOperaHouseLiveCinemaSeason20182019#cinemas=64

 

MATTHEW BOURNE’S CLASSIC ‘SWAN LAKE’

 

Now regarded as a classic, this is the third time that Matthew Bourne’s SWAN LAKE for his New Adventures company has been filmed – in this case , it was the revival for the Christmas season last year at Sadler s Wells.

First seen in 1995 , it is still as brilliant, startling and moving as ever. At the time it was revolutionary and cutting edge, a period when an anti virus drug for AIDS had just been discovered and fear was still rampant .From its starkly dramatic opening it is a dark, timeless love story of love, death and rigid control. Oedipal/Freudian undertones can also be read into the narrative .

There have been some slight changes and streamlining for those familiar with the work and Lez Brotherston’s designs. The Girlfriend’s pink dress has been slightly toned down, there are no cars or paparazzi as the VIPS arrive for the ball, there is no ‘young Prince’ to start and end the work, the world weary fan dancer/ stripper at the Bar is now in blue. Continue reading MATTHEW BOURNE’S CLASSIC ‘SWAN LAKE’

SHARP SHORT DANCE : REGISTRATIONS NOW OPEN

Applications are now open for the 12th annual Sharp Short Dance, a dance festival presented by FORM Dance Projects at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres from 12th to 16th November.

With more than 150 participants taking part in 2018, this year’s Sharp Short Dance is set to be even bigger as some of the nation’s most exciting young dancers and choreographers battle it out for top honours across all genres of dance. 

From tap to Bollywood, indigenous to hip hop, classical to contemporary, participants will present their short, new works to a panel of renowned industry judges. They will also have the unique opportunity to network with peers and industry experts throughout the festival. Continue reading SHARP SHORT DANCE : REGISTRATIONS NOW OPEN

‘WONDERLAND’ @ THE CREATIVE ARTS CENTRE ANNANDALE

“A dream caused by the surrender of a butterfly into the fog . . . ”

Bonnie Curtis’ innovative and adventurous “Wonderland” is a one-of-a-kind, interactive experience that suspends the limits of imagination and reality.

Enter this surreal, alternate universe where you get to choose the story.

Be led on an unreal adventure where each choice brings you into a new, dreamlike world, filled with madness, mischief and delight.

What path will you choose?
Continue reading ‘WONDERLAND’ @ THE CREATIVE ARTS CENTRE ANNANDALE

PALACE OPERA AND BALLET : CINDERELLA

Hugely spectacular ,with amazing set designs and a giant cast, full of superb dancing ,this is a revival filmed New Years Eve 2018 of the Paris Opera Ballet in Nureyev’s version of CINDERELLA.It is a tribute to the company’s former Artistic Director who would have been celebrating his 80th birthday.

Nureyev’s version uses the lush, intense Prokofiev score – the Orchestre Pasdeloup is dynamically, thoughtfully conducted by Vello Pähn . During the overture there are great closeups of various Orchestra members .

The huge set designs by Petrika Isonsesco are amazing, full of tiny detail. At Cinderella’s home there are grand windows , on the film set a huge King Kong and allusions to Metropolis with the huge cogs of machinery. Plus the ‘ballroom’ scene has a huge staircase for CInderella’s entrance .

In his version Nureyev has transposed the story of Cinderella to the Hollywood of the1920’s or thereabouts with allusions to Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, the Keystone Cops etc.

In this version Cinderella is trapped, a servant in her own home, her father a henpecked drunkard, the place instead being dominated by her autocratic stepmother and bitchy, bullying sisters. She dreams of escape,  of becoming a film star and meeting her handsome prince as word is passed around of an audition for a film and the stepsisters are coached. Continue reading PALACE OPERA AND BALLET : CINDERELLA

MATADOR @ THE STUDIO

 

MATADOR  is a combination of burlesque and circus which has become popular in the last few years. It is often performed in Spiegeltents which give these type of performances an intimacy and vibrance that you cannot get in the larger venues where burlesque and circus used to inhabit.

Although it does not have the mirrors of a Spiegeltant the Studio at the Opera House has the intensity and rapport that these smaller venues capture.

Bass Fan, creator of this production, has produced a visual feast cleverly  interspersing the circus aerial acts with the hip thrusting of various members of the ensemble featuring fourteen dancers. Continue reading MATADOR @ THE STUDIO

BURN THE FLOOR GALA @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE : ONE DOUBLE PASS

From the Rumba to the Waltz, Cha-Cha through to Swing and Samba, the BURN THE FLOOR: GALA performance is an energetic roller-coaster ride transporting audiences through dance history.

Hosted by the sensational Tristan MacManus Dancing with the Stars Australia judge, watch as the world’s best ignite chemistry and heat up the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall stage in an Australian exclusive with this exhilarating performance.

Sydney Arts Guide has one double pass to give away to the 3:00pm performance on Saturday 28th June 2019.

Only the winner will be contacted by email.  Send your email to       editor.sydneyartsguide@gmail.com  –   with “Burn the Floor Gala promotion” as the subject heading.   

Editor’s Note – UPDATED – This giveaway promotion has now closed, and the winner has been contacted by email.

 

 

BANGARRA : 30 YEARS OF SIXTY FIVE THOUSAND @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

At least 65 thousand years ago, the first people came to the continent we now call Australia.

These intrepid forebears, of the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander nations, established the world’s longest surviving culture.

Many distinct languages, evocative pictographs, exquisite art, specialized tools, intricate land curatorship, elaborate cuisine, detailed curative methods, profound narrative story-telling, deep spiritual insight, extensive song-lines of trade, inspiring human inter-relationships . . . a stunning timeline rich in creativity and resilience.

Among countless defining watersheds, that mark breakthrough moments in this epic, gutsy odyssey through the millennia, is 1989. Thirty years ago, Carole Y. Johnson, Rob Bryant and Cheryl Stone created Bangarra Dance Theatre, thus founding one of the world’s authentically indigenous and genuinely inter-cultural beacons of global art. Continue reading BANGARRA : 30 YEARS OF SIXTY FIVE THOUSAND @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE