You’d be hard pressed to find a more relaxing and beautiful venue to enjoy a hamper and watch the West Australian Ballet than the Quarry Amphitheatre.
This year the West Australian Ballet celebrates its 60th year making it a good ten years older than The Australian Ballet and the oldest ballet company in Australasia.
Artistic Director Ivan Cavallari has been inspired by the memory of the Ballet’s founder Kira Bousloff and let his imagination run a little wild in his development of this wonderful night’s entertainment. If you pay attention you will get to “meet” Bousloff’s two white dogs and in the closing performance you may read their names on the prisms.
The opening number Strings 32, choreographed by Cavallari, is a world premiere. It features gigantic lanyards which the dancers attach themselves to and then somehow manage to dance gracefully amongst and through without tangling themselves in knots.
The show cleverly opens with the dancers lined up at the front of stage – a microphone, also on a lanyard, is walked up the row of dancers and after each dancer introduces themselves it slowly retracts back into the wings. The introduction of the dancers added to the feeling that the Ballet is one big happy family and that the audience are friends invited over to share an evening of merriment.
Costumes are so minimal in Strings 32 that the dancers appear almost naked, accentuating the human form but allowing you to focus fully on the sense of movement. Special guest artist, violinist Madeleine Antoine, appears on stage at various intervals through the performance and soothes you with her sweet music.
The opening night’s performance was not without its hiccups. At the conclusion of the first performance Cavallari addressed the audience and explained that the heating elements in the stage panels had ceased working. As a result of this, condensation had formed on the stage making it too dangerous for the dancers to go on. However while backstage crew attended to the problem Cavallari managed to keep the audience entertained by inviting the audience members to share their stories – which turned out to be the funniest part of the evening. Incidentally 2012 marks Cavallari’s final year with the West Australian Ballet and there is no doubt he will be sorely missed.
Once the technical glitch was fixed (about half an hour later) the night continued with a performance of George Balanchine’s Serenade. This beautiful dance was no doubt a favourite with audience members who prefer traditional ballet.
Serenade is a signature work of the New York City Ballet’s repertoire and was first performed in 1934 by students of the School of American ballet. The ballet is performed by 28 dancers and set to music by Tchaikovsky. My favourite part of the whole evening was the end of Serenade where the female ballet dancer was lifted by three male dancers while the moon hung majestically in the backdrop.
In the second act traditional ballet is left behind and we see a modern twist.
The Sixth Borough, by choreographer Reed Luplau, features music by Maroon 5, Daft Punk and Scanner. Luplau is a Perth boy, he started dancing at the age of eighteen months at his Mum’s studio, Jody Marshall Dance Company and he has gone on to enjoy enormous professional success.
My own take on The Sixth Borough was of a sleazy night in Northbridge – though I don’t mean that as an insult to Luplau. Old TV’s light up the back of the stage and we hear news reports, this coupled with dark lighting and haunting music gives the sensation of conflict. The four male dancers who performed the fight scene were excellent to watch – then amongst their bravado enter a beautiful blonde who becomes the objects of all their affections and the sexual tension is aroused. Before long the stage is littered with male and female dancers vying for one another’s affections and not to mention the gay twist that made the audience gasp.
The final number for the evening was Rhetoric by choreographer Terence Kohler with music by Carl Vine. In this futuristic performance the dancers are in a virtual game and are navigating their way through different stages by defining their surrounding environment in words. I particularly enjoyed the costuming and use of lighting in this number. The quarry wall was brought into the performance with computer codes and numbers being projected onto it. Large prisms were rolled around the stage and audience members were captivated by the words that appeared and disappeared. I particularly enjoyed the dramatic ending where the dancers became savages and their bodies lashed out and writhed together around the stage.
West Australian Ballet
BALLET AT THE QUARRY
Venue: The Quarry Amphitheatre, City Beach
Dates: 10 February – 3 March 2012
Tickets: $63 – $39
Bookings: Ticketmaster 136 100
Part of the 2012 Perth International Arts Festival