Review by Gemma Keliher
It is not often I am willing to make the trek to West End, especially on a rainy winter evening, however Queensland Ballet’s Bespoke was an alluring drawcard. With the momentous task of being the first performance at the freshly redeveloped Thomas Dixon Centre, Bespoke dazzled it’s opening night audience. Now in its fifth year, it offers a modern program that masterfully blends daring choreography, music, and skilled dancers. It takes the highly trained artists of the Queensland Ballet and challenges them with experimental works. This year’s Bespoke presents audiences with three separate contemporary pieces, each designed and created by an Australian choreographer. While vastly different pieces in terms of story, movement, and stage design, all three have been inspired by or intrinsically linked with their music. This inspiration is reflected in the choreography and the strong connection the dancers and movement have to each piece of music utilised, it was clear that nothing was chosen arbitrarily, and everything served a purpose to the story and emotion of the piece.
The evening opened with “Tethered” by choreographer Petros Treklis, a dark and moving piece that explored the unknown. A slow downpour of ash downstage set the mood, and the silhouetted bodies – thanks to the shadowy, half lit lighting design by Cameron Goerg - moving in strange, often unnatural ways maintained the heavy tone. As intended by Treklis, a real sense of otherness was created in this piece. Another world, another time, and an “other” sense of self was conveyed with the addition of Zoe Griffiths costuming of what I can only describe as faceless, sheer black biohazard suits, and composer James Brown’s eerie music. The sense of struggle and despair that I felt came from this piece was well executed, and beautifully designed overall.
My personal favourite was Stephanie Lake’s “Biography”, whose dynamic and experimental choreography and storytelling elements took me through a range of emotions. There were moments of comedy, and moments of impact where I felt it explored what shapes us to be uniquely ourselves, as well as what connects us to others and the world around us. One of these impactful moments was the sequence that I like to think showcased the mannerisms in a moment of waiting, a sequence that began as staggered movements before transforming into the company dancers in perfect synchronicity. This piece was a challenge both physically and performance wise, and the artists rose to the occasion, and beyond. The outstanding commitment and technique from the dancers as they embodied Lake’s choreography, in tandem with Zoe Griffiths costuming and Cameron Goerg’s lighting design, created an impressive piece that the audience couldn’t help but physically and verbally react to.
Wrapping up the program was Greg Horsman’s “A Rhapsody In Motion”, which examined the relationship between dancer and their craft. The most traditional of the evening, Horsman’s inspiration of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, gave us three movements that explored the delicate relationship between a ballet dancer and the barre, dancing with emotion, and combining these two elements. This contemporary piece utilised classical choreography that allowed the technique of the Queensland Ballet artists to shine. Once again, the collaboration of Zoe Griffiths costuming and Cameron Goerg’s lighting design provided beautiful stagecraft elements, and a pop of colour on stage to end the evening on a brighter note. It felt appropriate to have this piece end the program, as it provided what felt like an insider view into the complex relationship between dancer and their art, and the beauty that results at the right combination of fundamental technique and emotion. The dancers were in their element and excelled at taking the audience through this exploration of performance.
Bespoke offers so much to love, including the opportunity to be introduced to new works by renowned Australian choreographers that audiences may or may not be familiar with, and the ability to watch wonderfully talented artists stretch and adapt themselves to perform these modern works. What was also appreciated about the program was the freedom of audience interpretation. Each piece had a clear influence yet allowed the audience to form their own meaning and their own emotional attachment, based on their interpretation of the storytelling. What these pieces made me feel may not be what any other member of the audience felt, and that really is the beauty of dance. It’s an artform that invokes and invites a personal response. Bespoke is truly an expression of creative freedom, inviting both dancer and audience alike to find their own story and connection through the medium of contemporary dance. This year’s program was intimate, exposing, and unexpected – a remarkable display of passionate collaboration between creatives.
Image Credit: David Kelly