Photography by Belinda
Melbourne Ballet Company, under the directorship of Alisa Finney, stepped onto the scene last year with a triple bill that promised big but unfortunately, did not deliver. Called Project One, it was an overly ambitious show staged at the Gasworks Theatre that did not display the company in very flattering light. The works were too long, under-rehearsed and disparate, creating the overall impression of an erratic ballet school recital rather than the launching of what was claimed to be the next professional ballet company in Melbourne.
Thankfully, Project Two: Balanced Perspectives worked much better, partially due to the scaled down nature of the production, a smaller cast and a shorter, tighter program. With only two works and an hour running time, Project Two was a double bill that tipped its hat to contemporary form while still maintaining a high standard of classical technique. The intimate space at Chapel Off Chapel supported the size of the pieces and the dancers appeared much more at ease with the material than they did in Project One.
Keine Ahnung (translated as No Idea) created by Swiss choreographer Damien Gmeur opened the evening. It was a curious piece, with a pair of ballerinas reading the newspaper down stage as the audience walked into the theatre. The duet built into trios and quartets with male dancers, Timothy Farrar and Anthony Ashwood. Farrar used to dance with The Australian Ballet and his performance experience stood out and helped sustain the quality of the work.
The newspaper made a symbolic return midway through the dance as the women slowly tore it into shreds as the men danced behind them. What this all meant was a bit ambiguous, as much contemporary work is (the dance was aptly titled!). As a 10 minute piece, it succeeded in evoking a certain mood and also challenged the dancers out of their balletic comfort zones. More creative costuming and further exploration of the newspaper element could have stretched that challenge further.
The centrepiece of the evening, In One Day, was choreographed by Simon Hoy and Robert Kelly. In Project One Hoy presented a 50 minute narrative dance about the Iraqi war which was heavy handed and too literal. Here he took a different approach, with a more abstract and uplifting work whose only heaviness was the music, itself - The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. Such grand and famous music creates a lot of expectation, but to their credit, Hoy and Kelly did very well to bring out the textures and dynamic of Vivaldi’s composition with complex and thoughtful movement.
In skimpy white tops and shorts, the dancers moved in and out of ever-changing formations - lines, circles, spirals, floor and standing work, partnering and soloing. The choreography kept moving, and it was clean and tight, even in tricky unison sections. Characteristic of much abstract, contemporary ballet, it had movement with a clean flow and symmetry interspersed with quick, tricky dynamic sections of difficult movement sequences. It was a strong, solid 40 minute work, with especially good performances from Sophie Fletcher (also formerly of The Australian Ballet) and Sharon Fernandez.
A new dance company takes time to evolve and should build up slowly and steadily. Project Two is a definite improvement for Melbourne Ballet Company. By working within their means, both technically and financially, and building on their strengths they will no doubt find success and create a reputable standing for themselves on the Melbourne dance scene. Look out for their Project Three later in 2008.
Melbourne Ballet Company presents
Balanced Perspectives: Project Two
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran Melways: Map 2L Ref J10
Dates: 13 March – 15 March
Tickets: $35 Full, $25.00 Con and Groups 10+ (+ booking fee)
Bookings: 03 8290 7000 or www.chapeloffchapel.com.au