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Review: Queensland Ballet Academy’s Aspire ‘23 at the Talbot Theatre

Updated: May 22, 2023

Review by Gemma Keliher

There may be mixed expectations when it comes to watching a showcase, of performing arts of any kind. Perhaps that’s just my clouded notion as an actor, who knows our showcases can be a drudging exercise in cycling student after student into the spotlight. Queensland Ballet Academy’s Aspire ’23, however, has found the sweet spot between celebrating its Pre-Professional Program graduate class and putting on a professional standard show that engages its audience. Full of fresh works and fresh talent - and sitting at a very palatable 90 minute run time - everything has been done to ensure these students are seen as the emerging professionals that they are. With support by Lighting Designer Cameron Goerg and Costume Designer Kathryn Lee, the evening has been carefully curated to showcase a range of styles and themes, as well as the dancers’ technical capabilities and artistry.

The first act comprised solely of Penned choreographed by Paul Boyd, which was based around music by Wojciech Kilar and the link of the poetic connection between dance and music. The tale of the poet and her poetry was further enhanced by poetry penned by the students projected behind them during each movement. I did find this drew my eye away from the dancers to read these snippets, however it was a great way to involve them into the creative process and demonstrate this poetic link. Alyssa Park as The Poet and Annabelle McCoy as her Inner Monologue worked well as a duo throughout each movement, as well as Jack Jones as the Man and His Inner Shadows Asher Flynn-Kann and Felix Milewski. My standouts were Zara Ibrahim, Jeannie Mok, and Maeve Rooney as Her Poem “Breaths of Silence”. I found these three wonderful engaging and each showcased their technique nicely while keeping balance as a trio.

Picking up after intermission, The Poetic Tantrums choreographed by Amelia Waller gave a boost of energy and humour via a piece that revelled in the weird. Centred at a tantrum throwing aristocrats birthday party, this is a creative piece that takes a satirical view on the dissatisfaction of a privileged life. Blending music of various artists with moments of silence, as well as on stage laughter and speech was an effective choice. There was some strong imagery, such as moments after Max Jones as George, the aristocratic, had tossed his rejected gifts and they sat very artfully thrown around an otherwise bare stage as Jones stands alone. Jazmin Townsend and Telia Townsend as the duet with attitude had their moment as they commanded the attention of the guests and audience. The Poetic Tantrums was bold in its creativity and was fast paced, energetic and entertaining, eliciting some laughter from the audience.

My highlight from the evening was the solos, created by the students that performed them (these pieces seem to alternate between performances). The first solo The Release by Taya Barnard had me hooked from the first flash of image. Impressive to watch, she proved herself skilled and full of stage presence. It was a short but sweet piece that was full of sharp and precise movements and elicited the message of breaking free from negativity well. Farewell by Jorja Signitzer worked well in juxtaposition following the previous piece, bringing a tonal change. Dealing with themes of letting go, growth, and evolving into the next stage of life, Signitzer was also engaging to watch, and this piece demonstrated her technicality well. Both student pieces were a wonderful showcase of their artistry and positions them nicely in the industry as well-rounded creatives.

The transition into the final piece, Swarm choreographed by Grant Aris, felt a little clunky in its closed curtain set up, however the opening of the darkly costumed bodies moving, quite literally, like a swarm through the smoke was a highly emotive image. The pas de deux couple Lily Paige and Max Jones were well paired, they worked beautifully together with a wonderful sense of ease that I think marks the success of a professional. The couples made up of Ashlee Basford and Asher Flynn-Kann, Jorja Signitezer and Felix Milewski, Jenna Civin and James Willis, equally drew my attention across them. The energy and effectiveness of the swarm of bodies was exciting to watch due to the strong ensemble work between these couples and the group.

The opening of Queensland Ballet Academy’s Aspire ’23 season has succeeded twofold, firstly in its ability to showcase the emerging talent and artistry of its graduate class of the Pre-Professional Program, as well reminding audiences that ballet has made a definitive shift into the contemporary age. If you find traditional ballets a somewhat stuffy night out, you will thoroughly enjoy the new forms of movement-based storytelling and blend of contemporary styles underpinned with ballet technique on display. Alternatively, if you sit on the other side of the fence, keep an open mind to this evolution of ballet choreography. No matter your stance on the choreography it’s evident that this is an incredibly hard-working, talented, and impressive young group of artists. There is no doubt in my mind that the training the students receive in this program is world class, and it makes me very excited to see these talented dancers emerge into the professional world.

Image Supplied


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