This was a night of pure contemporary ballet in a new venture from the WA Ballet. No sets, few props, and simple costuming and lighting allowed the dance, and the talents of the dancers, to come to the forefront.
This is the first time the WA Ballet has performed at The Regal Theatre. Whilst the large wide proscenium stage is highly suited to ballet, The Regal lacks the warmth and atmosphere of most other Perth venues. The seats are uncomfortable, and the rake of seating ensured I couldn’t see the feet of the dancers. The décor and facilities are dated (badly), and inside it lacks the ambiance that makes other theatre’s buzz. It is no match for the ballets normal performance space (His Majesty’s Theatre).
Thankfully, once concentrated on the performance, it was easy to forget the theatres foibles. There were six pieces during the night, varied in style and theme, all of them impressive in their own right.
The night opened with a fairly traditional Pas de deux performed by Jennifer Provins and Benjamin Marett. Choreographed by Marcia Haydée, it was a “free reconstruction of an original work choreographed by John Cranko” according to the program. Whilst I enjoyed it, in hindsight compared to the rest of the works it felt like a warm-up piece, with the dancers’ void of emotion and feeling.
Step Lightly opened in silence, with the six dancers rolling slowly onto stage. It was the calm before the storm, as the rest of the piece was strong, definite and passionate. The music came from The Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria, a female acapella group of untrained woman singing traditional folk songs from Bulgaria. Five separate songs were grouped together for Paul Lightfoot’s and Sol León’s choreography about nature and human relationships. It was sharp, interesting (apart from the rolling which I just found frustratingly slow) and I loved the choreography. It was in perfect sync with the tribal, powerful songs.
Catherine Goss’s Arba’a also began in silence, followed by some spoken word and then Britten’s Corpus Christi Carol (sung here by Jeff Buckley). This was a short, sad piece performed by Tim O’Donnell and principle artist Jayne Smeulders about loss and grief.
It was here that I began to lament the lack of live sound. Whilst no one can recreate Buckley, hearing Britten’s Carol live would have added to the poignancy of the piece. This could be said of all the pieces, as live sound would have added that extra special element that turned a wonderful evening to an incredible evening.
The standout works for the night were undoubtedly Petr Zuska’s two pieces: Bolero and Maria’s Dream, brought back for a return season after rapturous responses during the Ballet at the Quarry season. Although Ravel’s Bolero is monotonous and repetitive, the performance was crisp, varied and vibrant. The dancers really came alive in this piece.
It was Maria’s Dream that delighted the audience however, particularly the younger patrons. Opening with four men (Benjamin Marett, Sergey Pevnev, Marco Pagetti, and Douglas McCubbin) sitting on a park bench, they were soon joined by Jennifer Provins and the piece became fast, aerobic and comical. It was an easy to watch character piece showcasing the outstanding talents of the five dancers, who excelled in the leaps and moves that at times bordered on slapstick.
The final piece for the evening was Lacrimosa, choreographed by Natalie Weir and showcasing a large corps de ballet. Of all the pieces, I felt that this was the least developed. The dancers weren’t as in tune with the music as with the previous works. However, the Pas de deux with Megan Futcher and Daryl Brandwood was touching and heartfelt.
Overall it was a highly enjoyable evening. It is not often I watch ballet as I find the traditional performances are often uninspiring, but this was an uncomplicated and undemanding night. It was a spectacular night showcasing the remarkable talents of the WA Ballet.
West Australian Ballet presents
Ballet at the Regal
Venue: Regal Theatre | 474 Hay Street, Subiaco WA
Dates: 31 July – 2 August
Tickets: $45- $76
Bookings: Ticketek on 132 849 or visit waballet.com.au