Review By Regan Baker
“Taking steps outside of your comfort zone is pivotal for your own evolution and growth. You cannot become a bigger and better version of yourself unless you are willing to stretch beyond what you already know” – Source unknown.
Today is my opportunity to push myself beyond my comfort zone as I sit at the beautiful Brickhouse Café in Ascot to write what will be my 40th review for Theatre Travels, but only my second ever Ballet. On stage at the QUT Gardens Theatre from the 8th to the 17th of October, Bespoke, by Queensland Ballet enters it’s highly anticipated forth season with world premiering works from four incredible choreographers. Natalie Weir, Jack Lister, Paul Boyd and Rani Luther push the boundaries of traditional ballet and challenge their dancers and audiences alike to reveal new perspectives on movement and storytelling. Across the four performances bold choreography and dramatic lighting emphasized the flexibility, strength and talent of the 50+ young artists who pushed themselves out of their own comfort zones to deliver highly unique and immersive experiences.
Boyd’s piece, titled Caravanserai, transports us to a roadside inn (known as a Caravanserai) along the famous Silk Road, an ancient trading route that connected China to the West. Here, our dancers combine in seven movements to tell of the religion, trade and celebration that took place at such rest points. Boyd’s choreography was breathtaking in its’ storytelling and filled the stage with motion, light and energy. The dancers were incredibly diverse in their motion, moving explosively across the stage throughout the celebrations, and elegantly as a love story started to unravel. Bold, bright and flowing, the costumes created by Noelene Hill for Caravanserai were an absolute standout and elevated the beauty of Boyd’s work.
The second half of Act 1 was Weir’s Fallen, a piece seen through the eyes of a tormented man, trapped in a small space and struggling to control and make sense of his emotions. Through fluid motion, immense strength and stunning choreography, Weir’s story was easy to follow and deeply emotional in recounting the struggles the young man underwent. The flexibility of the dancers was truly tested, but the corps de ballet of Jette Parker Young Artists held their own and demonstrated their emerging future as talented performers. They demonstrated grace and strength in a variety of lifts that were executed brilliantly, and it was highly evident that Weir wanted to throw as many challenges as possible at them. The lighting design by Cameron Goerg created an emotional landscape that added to the fluid movements of the corps de ballet who acted like a Greek chorus, weeping over the man’s position.
Jack Lister has certainly exuded himself as a highly talented young choreographer and someone that I am keen to see progress in his career. Earlier this year I reviewed his co-creation with Amy Hollingsworth, Aftermath, which was an explosion of powerful movement and unique and innovative dance techniques. His second masterpiece for the year, Mind Your Head, is equally as powerful and features a dynamic range of innovative motion and complex choreography.
Combining pro-wrestling with ballet at first seemed like an absurd idea, but as Lister’s piece unfolded the welding of these two artforms started to make more and more sense. Both are highly choreographed, intricately executed and require immense physical strength, flexibility and diversity. Featuring stunning lifts, throws and partner work, this piece was the most innovative and contemporary example of ballet I have ever seen, and as a newbie to the artform – one that I highly enjoyed. The company of artists are to be highly commended not only for their excelling dance technique, but also on their acting. They embraced their personas with every inch of their being and put on a show that will not soon be forgotten. Cameron Goerg once again created a lighting masterpiece and the costuming by Zoe Griffiths added to the amusement of the story. While being the shortest work of the evening, Lister’s Mind Your Head was the standout performance of the night.
The finale of the evening came in the delivery of Luther’s From. To. Here. Appointed in 2019 as Ballet Mistress and Creative Associate for Queensland Ballet, Rani Luther is an immensely talented and highly skilled choreographer. From. To. Here. tells the stories of where we come from and explores the geographical and emotional passage of the endeavour to leave one’s place of origin to explore new opportunities. With a seventeen strong cast, Luther’s work was a gorgeous display of intricate choreography and dazzling storytelling. The grace of the artists never faltered, and their talent shone through as they floated through their routines and told of their journeys. In order to truly capture the emotion of her work, Luther had an original score composed by the fabulous Robert Davidson that truly brought her vision to life. It brought deep emotion to the performance and the blending of motion, light and original score created a truly inspirational work of art. From. To. Here. was a powerful finish to an evening of stunning performances across the board.
Ballet may not be my usual repertoire, and so my review may not feature technical analysis, but what I can offer is a lay-man’s interpretation. For those venturing to the ballet for the very first time, or for those boyfriend’s that are trying to score a few brownie points by taking their partner, what I can tell you is this: Bespoke is the best possible introduction to ballet you are going to come across. A combination of four short stories that are so vastly different in their execution, there really is something for everyone to enjoy. This is not a traditional ballet. It is a contemporary explosion of unique dance styles and innovative movements that are underpinned by a ballet format. I cannot recommend Bespoke enough. An absolute must see!