Martin in After the Rain. Photo - David Kelly. Cover Photo - Justin Smith
George Balanchine’s 1928 work, Apollo, seemed an appropriate way to open The Australian Ballet’s new production, New Romantics. To many ballet critics, Apollo is what is said to have started the wave of neoclassical ballet; the start of turned in feet, dropped hands and muscular gestures. It is also where the narrative or storyline becomes relatively more absent and as Balanchine puts it, the score becomes more visible. While Apollo does rely on the Greek mythological narrative of Apollo meeting his muses, Stephen Baynes’ fragmented Constant Variants and Christopher Wheeldon’s moving ballet, After the Rain, are more abstract works that focus on technique, aesthetic and emotion. The overall effect makes for a varied and intriguing programme.
Marking the beginning of his collaboration with Igor Stravinsky, Balanchine retells the birth of Apollo (Matthew Lawrence) and the meeting of his three muses; Calliope; muse of poetry (Miwako Kubota), Polyhymnia; muse of mine (Lana Jones) and Terpsichore; muse of dance (Kirsty Martin). The four dancers join together with their limbs intertwined forming dynamic shapes and structures while each of the muses have the opportunity to show off their individual flairs. This is where Balanchine has the most fun flipping the notions of classical ballet upside-down. Dancers walk on their heels as much as on their toes and hands are flexed rather than soft. There is also a mesmerising pas de deux between Lawrence and Martin.
Set to Piotr Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, Constant Variants features eight dancers predominantly led by principal, Madeleine Eastoe and supported by Andrew Killian and Rudy Hawkes. The stage is dimly lit increasing audience anticipation to the already beguiling set design featuring suspended corners of enormous picture frames. Dressed in rich purples and blues, the dancers respond to the dialogue between the orchestra and the solo cellist (impressively performed by Emma-Jane Murphy). Eastoe steals the show with her impeccable control from her high lifts to her slides across the floor.
It is however without a doubt the final pas de deux in After the Rain that quite literally leaves you breathless. In this performance, Robert Curran and Danielle Rowe grace the stage in this exquisite exchange. The beauty of Wheeldon’s choreography is the way in which it embraces Arvo Pärt’s magical score, Spiegel im Spiegel, and uses its simplicity and control to evoke the sensitive portrayal of two people in love. This is the brainchild of New York City Ballet’s Resident Choreographer who brings this work to Australian shores for the very first time.
The Australian Ballet presents
Venue: Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Season: 1 – 19 May 2007
Times: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm, (except 14 and 18 May at 6.30pm), Saturdays at 1.30pm
Tickets: Adults $125 / $105 / $88 / $69 / $26 (restricted view)
Australian Pensioners $108 / $89 / $72 / $55 / $26 (restricted view)
Youth 26 years and under $93 / $50 / $43 / $43 / $26 (restricted view)
Australian Seniors $112 / $94 / $81 / $63 / $26 (restricted view)
Children 17 years and under $81 / $44 / $37 / $37 / $26 (restricted view)
Bookings: Sydney Opera House Box Office, 02 9250 7777 or sydneyoperahouse.com.au