Brindabella | BalletlabPhotos - Jeff Busby

Silhouettes of instruments and musicians cast on a ruby red drape. A dissonant string overture. So begins this epic and flamboyant tale of men finding beauty deep in their psyche. Balletlab’s new work Brindabella puts a gender-bending slant on a classic myth, Beauty and The Beast. An artistic collaboration between Ballet Lab Director Choreographer Phillip Adam, Brooklyn-based choreographer Miguel Gutierrez and composer David Chisholm. Four Dancers. Three Acts.

Set against the backdrop of idyllic mountain range, The Brindabella’s, a dreamy tale jump cuts between fantasies, love, masculinity and femininity as dancers grapple with the beasties within. Directors Adam’s was inspired by Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film, La Belle et la Bete, a surrealist fantasia based on an ancient theme – men coming to accept and embody a beauteous femininity. Adam’s vision is equally surreal; it segues between a renaissance setting, bush land, garage rock performance and fetish club scenarios.

In the classic version, a Prince tells a Beautiful woman that he was tricked by a fairy spell, and turned into a beast. And that it is only her love for him, despite his abject ugliness, that can break the spell. In Adam’s vision the Beast is cast as a troika of men, preening princes in the first act (La belle) and then, fumbling, tumbling, grumbling and stumbling with romantic love and ugly inner demons in the following two acts (Lamour and Le bete). The pivotal fairy spell is reimagined as a series of temptations, gay clubbing and the cult of celebrity – everyone wants to be a rock star. And the ugliest factor of all - men coming to terms with the will to grace.

The Beauty (Brooke Stamp) plays muse. Brindabella opens with the queenly figure holding court; the embodiment of strident female power. Her three young suitors are too selfish to notice. Dancers Derrick Amanatidis, Luke George and Tim Harvey slither in her presence. The trio, more concerned with obsessing on superficial reflections, dance with mirrors rather than courting their queen.

Act Two Lamour witnesses the foursome in a series of love acts. A ritualized strip tease, choreographed as synchronized running, for a brief while its hypnotic. A metaphor for romantic love. Repetitive. Circling going nowhere, loosing clothing along the way, always ending up in the same place, exhausted at the end, and no closer in meaningful relationship to another.

Act Three Le bete. Inner city rock gig, grunge, and BDSM meets performance art, before the final, misty scene of redemption. It is here in a meditative vignette, that the men are touched by darkness, the deep dark shadow of inner beauty, and find inner feminine grace.

We have Surrealism to thank, as the visual movement that stripped bare ordinary objects, images and gestures of their mundane significance, to reveal psychological truth and create compelling images deep from within the psyche. Balletlab Director Adam’s has this dreamy otherworldly lexicon down pat. And Brindabella is as much a visual feast of surrealistic jump cut tableaux, as it is a deep insight into the male psyche. Walking as dance. Running as dance. Ceremonious and ritualized. (If somewhat laboured at times). Trees become dance partners; a bicycle becomes a fetish icon, customized in studded black leather, black dildoes and shiny chrome accoutrements. Feathery plumes become windows towards transcendence. And so it goes.

The choreography is boastful, lively, churlish, clumsy, homoerotic and serene, occasionally mesmerizing. As the movements tells the story of male transformation. And Balletlab’s accomplished dancers find themselves shifting between divergent art forms. Ballet, character acting, a greek chorus, vaudeville, singing, striptease, interpretive dance, yoga assanas and butoh. It is this baroque sensibility that Adams courts in his directorial lexicon, and is breathtaking to observe in contemporary dance. Though at times falls a little unevenly as the dancers cope with the palette of many genres. Perhaps this was also due to opening night jitters.

Composer David Chisholm, has scored haunting string overture, ensembles and reprises, garage Rock band riffs, electro to a xylophone lullabies. (Will make a great CD!!)  Designers Benjamin Cisterne and Ben Cobham set Brindabella as a minimalist fairy grotto, cast against tall treetops, the domains of indie rock and urban kink. Deliciously rendered baroque costuming, fur, flesh, fetish wear conceived by Designer Doyle Barrow.

Running, tumbling, falling, wounded, transcendent production.  Brooke Stamp is poetry incarnate. Always adrenalin charged. It is refreshing to see a new take, on an old story. Moreish.

Balletlab presents
Venue: The CUB Malthouse, Merlyn Theatre, 111 Sturt St, Southbank
Date/Time: Wednesday 5 – Saturday 8 December, Wed – Sat @ 8pm, plus Sat @ 2pm
Bookings: 9685 5111 Tickets:  Full Price $30.00 Seniors / Pensioners 25.00 Students 20.00
See BalletLab’s Brindabella and Lucy Guerin’s Aether both for $40.00!!!

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