Review: Ballet at the Quarry: Light and Shadow at Quarry Amphitheatre

Review By Hannah Fredriksson


“Feel Something Unexpected” is the headline applied to the program for West Australian Ballet’s performance this evening – a suitable tagline given the variety of the three acts we would see. As we made our way down the giant steps of the Quarry Amphitheatre, we were dwarfed by the looming limestone walls and an overcast night sky. The rawness and natural beauty of the environment are awe inspiring; there is no question why Ballet at the Quarry is a summer staple for Perth Festival.


The first performance began with a mass of bodies standing in a tight diamond formation on the stage, moving slowly and as one like a giant hive-mind. Adorned in black leotards with airy, green draping skirts, it felt as though the dancers were part of a single living organism. Though this excerpt is from a performance called ‘Air and Other Invisible Forces’ I felt it had a distinctly earthy feel, particularly as the dancers were using their bodies as support for each other, creating stairways and stepping stones with their hands and and backs in a display of gravity where ballet normally appears weightless. Graeme Murphy has choreographed an abstract, other-worldly performance, perfectly complimenting the haunting, pulsing sound of 'Mourned By The Wind' by composer Giya Kancheli.


After a short interval we had the pleasure of viewing the world premiere of ‘Architecture of Hope’ by Dutch choreographer Wubkje Kuindersma. The performance resonated themes of human relationships and connection, with eight dancers dressed in red and burgundy loose-fitting shirts – a look that feels casual and intimate and wouldn’t be out of place in bedrooms and lounge rooms at home. For me the highlight was a moment where the women performed in pairs in a canon, with one pair performing the same choreography as the previous pair with a slight delay of a few bars of music. The visual echo was a stunning effect and exciting to follow.


Of this work Kuindersma stated ‘Choreography creates a space in which human connection is established – not only between the dancers themselves but also between the dancers and the audience.” There were many gorgeous moments of intimacy and tension between the pairs of dancers and it felt an honour to be sharing the quarry with them for this world premiere performance.


The final performance was the Australian premiere of the titular ‘In Light and Shadow’, a jubilant work set to the music of Bach with a cast of 18 that constantly shifts and changes into different groupings and formations. During the middle of the show there are many short scenes that occur in quick succession, so much happens in a very short space of time. There is a lot to take in, showcasing Krzysztof Pastor’s ability to utilise every dancer for maximum effect.


The moment that resonates best with the title of the show is when the lights onstage are dimmed except for a heavy yellow toned band across the dancers’ legs, literally highlighting their flawless footwork. This bold contrast harkens to Pastor’s inspiration of "the brilliant play of light and shadow in great Baroque paintings”.


The performance ends with sixteen of the dancers arranged in groups of four, each group taking their turn at the fore of the stage. It feels not unlike a scene in a grand ballroom, particularly with so much variety and texture between each of the costumes by Tatyana van Walsum.

Ballet at the Quarry did not disappoint with this years’ offerings – a breathtaking must-see this Perth Festival season.


Image Credit: Sergey Pevnev

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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