...with Attitude 2007 | Queensland BalletCover - Clare Morehen & Zachary Chant. Photo - David Kelly

Queensland Ballet’s ‘…with attitude 2007’ is a truly delightful evening. Highly skilled dancers, enchanting choreography, complimentary set and costume design, all achieved with a humble grace that harmonises with its honest beauty. 

Artistic Director Francois Klaus takes pride in his company’s annual showcase of contemporary dance choreographies, and few could contradict his pleasure. In this 2007 showcase, the audience is privileged to receive one new work, ‘Beyond the Barre’, choreographed by Klaus himself, and one reworking of a ballet classic, ‘Petrushka’, choreographed by Natalie Weir.

‘Beyond the Barre’
is Klaus’ exploration of a world defined by mathematics and yet directed by human emotions.  In this piece, the audience not only witnesses a large range of different movement styles, including circus, tango and pedestrian movement, but Klaus also ties in motifs, such as the human chain of DNA, to link the show as a whole. The piece has six clear sections, each defined by the particular emotion that Klaus is experimenting with.  Some of the imagery, such as the singular man wearing the sparkly jacket in ‘Narcissism’, or the elevated dancer who is attached to and controls all the other dancers around him with strings in ‘Domination’, seem at first to be rather obvious theatrical choices. However the moments of beauty in the choreography make up for the apparently simple ideas. Moreso, other sections such as ‘Adulation’ and ‘Spirituality’ show the diversity and creativity of the dancers. In ‘Adulation’ the audience witnesses some delightful and quaint surprising moments, while in ‘Spirituality’ the dancers appear immortalised like ‘the man in the moon’ as they perform flowing movements in a suspended circus ring. The repeated use of geometric shapes in the set design ties in Klaus’ interest in mathematics as the defining factor of the world, yet even he tries to ask ‘is there something more’? With a clever and very brief appearance of a man dressed in a Greek toga at the conclusion of the ballet, the audience is left wondering if he was meant to depict Pythagoras, the mathematic revolutionary, or some sort of God-like figure, with his ability to ‘see all’. Not only was this ballet attractive to watch, but it was also intriguing and enlightening.

‘Petrushka’ is a modern reworking of the 1911 classic composed by Stravinsky. Using the same score, Natalie Weir pares down her ballet to its barest forms, only utilising the whole corps de ballet at the very beginning and end of the performance. 

Traditionally, ‘Petrushka’ sets the scene in a busy fairground. Weir relocates the scene to somewhere reminiscent of a city street, but the elements remain the same – people keep coming and going and no-one ever stops. The choreography of this busy every day life is simple pedestrian movement, as dancers walk back and forth across the stage. The occasional sudden freeze where the dancers maintain a sense of dynamic stillness break the repetitive action, and begin to ask a similar question of ‘is there something more’?  After all, Petrushka is the puppet and yet something else also controls the pedestrians’ lives. In ‘Petrushka’, the lives are controlled by Fate and by the Magician. It is stimulating to see the link between ‘Petrushka’ and ‘Beyond the Barre’.

Most of ‘Petrushka’ continues with four soloist dancers: Zachary Chant as Petrushka; Rachael Walsh as the Ballerina; Samuel Colby as The Magician/Fate; Nathan Scicluna as The Moor; with a brief appearance by Simone Webster as Death. The story remains true to the original: Petrushka is a puppet brought to life by the Magician. He is kept in a small cell but sees the Ballerina and falls in love with her. During his continual attempts to escape his cell, the Ballerina falls in love with The Moor. When Petrushka finally escapes his cell and tries to seduce the Ballerina, The Moor gets jealous. After pursuing Petrushka back to his cell, the ‘right hand of fate’ moves The Moor to kill the young puppet. Weir’s choreography is quite dramatic, and Petrushka’s early solo when he tries to escape his cell is violent and moving. 

In ‘Petrushka’, the movement easily defines the story, while in ‘Beyond the Barre’ the movement was much more open to individual interpretation. The two pieces work well in the one performance for this reason, as it offers the audience two different types of theatrical experiences, and can therefore attract two different types of audiences to the one show.

‘…with attitude 2007’ is both punchy and gentle. It is inventive and yet safe. It is contemporary and yet traditional. It is a brilliant combination of different ballet worlds and deserves recognition.

Queensland Ballet presents
...with Attitude 2007

Venue: Playhouse, QPAC
Date/Time: 28 Sep to 6 Oct
Tickets: $32.75 to $52.75 (inc. fees)
Bookings: qtix 136 246 or qtix.com.au

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