Reviewed by Priscilla Issa
The Sydney International Ballet Gala proved that ballet is is back and as strong as ever. Held at the impressive Coliseum Theatre, the Gala offered an opportunity for lay audiences and trained dancers to witness a varied bill of classical and contemporary works performed at an extraordinarily high level.
The star performers hailed from all around the world to astound us with their poise, technicality, and passion. The lineup included principal dancers and soloists from the Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Berlin State Ballet, and the Dutch National Ballet.
The colourful backdrop, pretty green dresses, and clean performance of Balleverdi, choreographed by Wim Broeckx and performed by students of the Tanya Pearson Academy, was a wonderful way to start the show. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Academy both produced this show and showcased the talent and energy its budding stars of tomorrow.
Transported into the world of Giselle, the Act II pas de deux was masterfully performed by soloists Julian Mackay and Misa Kuranaga. In particular, Kuranaga’s port de bras was exemplary; her fouettes were a demonstration of years of meticulous practise. In her on-stage interview with Channel 9 TV presenter Belinda Russella, Kuranaga highlighted the importance of perseverance. While she was knocked back repeatedly in her early career, it was grit that earned her a spot as a Principal Dancer at the San Francisco Ballet.
Mackay and Kuranaga performed a rousing Act III pas de deux from Don Quixote to end the show. In this, the male dancer brought a confidence and kind of showmanship that earned him a standing ovation from some members of the audience.
Principals, Mayu Tanigaito and Laurynas Vejalis, from Royal New Zealand Ballet, were early crowd favourites. They danced the Act III pas de deux from the Flames of Paris, with great style. Vejalis’s jumps were powerful and accurate, while Tanigaito’s movements were doe-like and evocative. Later in the program, they performed Berceuse, an emotional work choreographed by Penny Saunders. They seemed very comfortable dancing together; their pirouettes and turns were absolutely in synch. Their dancing can only be described as a beautiful symbiosis of grace and gusto.
Soloist, Victor Zarallo, performed an entrancing contemporary dance titled L’Effleure. This choreography, by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, highlighted Zarallo’s body isolation skills (a testament to his ballroom dance training), his sense of timing and masterful use of space. You could hear a pin drop. In fact, once the performance had ended there was a deafening silence. This was most likely the result of the audience’s utter captivation with how completely immersed in the routine he was. A true professional!
Equally as captivating were duettists, Davide Di Giovanni and Jack Tuckerman. The performance, We are still friends, tells the story of a couple who were in love, broke up, bump into each other on the street, and engage in a conversation. As Davide puts it, the dance is the conversation. Ballet has been described as “poetry in motion”. Boy, did this dance really express the poetry of these ex-lovers’ hearts?
Principal Dancer at the State Ballet of Georgia, Laura Fernandez had a monumental task ahead of her. She accepted the challenge of performing The Dying Swan from the ballet, Swan Lake, created by Mikhail Fokine for Mariinsky Theatre starlet, Anna Pavlova, more than 100 years ago. Given how well-known and much-loved this dance is, it can make or break a dancer. Fernandez was exquisite in her execution of the dying swan. Her flailing arms, her footwork and raw emotion conveyed the pain of the character. She performed with anguish, a fire that I have never seen the Dying Swan danced to before.
Natalia Osipova was the biggest name in the lineup. While her first choice of repertoire, the Act III pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty, did not convey the magnitude of her talent, she did perform this particular work with expected cleanliness, and beauty of line and form. It was lovely to see her paired with Australian Ballet Principal, Jarryd Madden, who played the Prince with charm and confidence. He is, no doubt, an inspiration to young, Australian male dancers. Osipova returned to the stage with an abstract and brooding contemporary solo, titled Ashes. Here, she danced with loose abandonment, throwing herself around without a second thought. Her floor work is seamless. Her tilts and turns are vibrant. She dances as though she is lost in the meaning of the work, which is a dancer’s ultimate goal and one that can only be achieved with technical mastery and complete abandon.
Congratulations to all involved in this wonderful celebration of dance.