Morphoses | The Wheeldon Company

Morphoses | The Wheeldon CompanyLeft - Fools’ Paradise. Cover - Commedia. Photos - Erin Baiano

There is one dance production included in the Sydney Festival’s 2009 program and it is a must see: not because it’s the only production: because it is spectacular.

Founded in 2007 by Christopher Wheeldon and Lourdes Lopez, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company was established with the aim of broadening the scope of contemporary ballet through fostering innovation through collaboration. Based in both New York and London, this trans-Atlantic company has stretched its legs in several countries already, receiving critical acclaim for its ambitious and creative collaborations with dancers, choreographers, designers and composers. The mission of this company to encourage all artists involved to have a say in the company’s identity. It signals a new expression of ballet and a new perspective on international collaboration. A view to start a new conversation in an art form drenched in legacy, heritage and tradition.

Whilst seat-finding, anticipation builds as projected footage of a dancer preparing continues in real time: larger than life and alone on the steps. When lights and projections dim, Christopher Wheeldon with microphone in hand introduces himself in a calm, casual way, with a succinct spiel about the origin and development of each piece: whether it be interactions with a composer, designer or costume designer. The show itself comprises of a suite of four pieces: Commedia, Slingerland Pas de Deux, Distant Cries and Fool’s Paradise: which he credits the collaborators simultaneously removing and highlighting the Auteur.

Commedia. Taken from the Italian tradition of nomadic performance Commedia dell’Arte, this piece is an introduction into the inspired collaborations within The Wheeldon Company. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, with music by Igor Stravinsky, Costumes by Isabel Toledo, Set by Ruben Toledo and lighting by Penny Jacobs. Commedia DellÁrte themes, characters and the tradition of improvisation, are not seemingly present, although there is a nod in the direction of the costumes: harlequin patterned costumes and cloth half masks etc. However, the subtle Commedia reference is really to the composite of performers who’s training and experience stretch around the globe, and encompasses a multicultural nomadic troupe of dancers. A demonstration that ballet is not confined to European tradition, but exists as a breathing, pulsing exchange between countries. It is a show case of the performers’ ability, both individually and as an ensemble: displaying great agility and technique.

Slingerland Pas De Deux. Beautiful duet to the String Quartet No 1 by Gavin Bryars is just spectacular. With choreography, lighting and costumes by William Forsythe this is a breathtakingly intimate piece in which the dancers Aesha Ash (USA) and Damian Smith (AUS) are simply stunning.

Distant Cries. Opening the second half of the programme, this piece starts sans music. A female solo dancer Silji Schandorff (DEN) in a small pool of light is eventually joined by male dancer Robert Curran (AUS). Choreographed and lighting by Edwaard Liang, costumes by Marc Zappone with Music by Tomaso Albinoni, this piece is sweetly book-ended by fluid movement, encased in silence.

Fools’ Paradise. Completing the programme with a ensemble of 10 performers, Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, with music by Joby Talbot , Costumes by Narcisco Rodriguez and lighting by Penny Jacobs. Starting with a trio of dancers, they thread between each other, and within a moment, performers accumulate on the stage. Petals of paper fall like butterflies or snow flakes, as the performers, weave and lift, sweep and twirl, move and freeze, in delightful interspersed pictures. Sensual and strong, this is physical beauty in its poetic manifestation: powerful, beautiful and serene.

Morphoses is ballet at its most inviting, magical and sensual, embracing and allowing the audience to develop its relationship with dance in a new way. It signals change in perception, and encourages a growth through reinvention. The international scope allows points of departure from all cultures, traditions and visual and aural backgrounds which presents an unpretentious, exquisite experience.


2009 Sydney Festival
Morphoses
The Wheeldon Company

Venue: Theatre Royal
Dates/Times: January 22-24, 27-31 at 8pm, January 25 and February 1 at 2pm
Duration: 1hr 35mins (including 20min interval)
Prices: $110/$90
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 888 412

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