Review by Gemma Keliher
Queensland Ballet’s Trilogy is aptly titled; presenting to its audience a trilogy of unique and exciting shorter works packaged together. I always enjoy seeing new works in theatre and dance, whether that be newly created or debuting to a Brisbane audience for the first time. I like to see what they can say or do about the time they were created in and to be surprised, and Trilogy certainly provided surprise with three completely varied works. With a run time of roughly 2 hours and 25 mins, including two 20 minute intermissions, the night itself felt long but each piece is brief and nothing overstays its welcome.
Opening the evening was Jack Lister’s A Brief Nostalgia, a co-production between Birmingham Royal Ballet and Queensland Ballet in its Australian premiere. This piece, with its poetic description of memories of small moments long gone, was focused more on capturing emotion than narrative. Supporting Lister’s choreography, Thomas Mika’s set design reminded me of something from the Twilight Zone, appearing as tall slabs of concrete with lights streaming from side stage for the dancers’ shadows to cast along the walls and become a prominent feature of the piece, thanks to Alexander Berlage’s lighting design. This piece wasn’t as lighthearted as you might first imagine when thinking of nostalgia, instead seeming to invoke something sadder or more longing. Perhaps this is just my interpretation of the sensations associated with nostalgia, of a moment that can only live on in your memory and can never quite be recaptured. I particularly loved the use of lighting and music, composed by Tom Harrold and performed by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, to create the illusion of a storm – which felt exactly like reliving a stormy Queensland night, further intensified by the final rain on stage. Dancers Georgia Swan, D'Arcy Brazier, Mia Heathcote, Rian Thompson, Lina Kim, Luke DiMattina, Renee Freeman, Mali Comlekci, Heidi Freeman, Joshua Ostermann, Vanessa Morelli, and David Power shone as an ensemble as well as individually in featured moments. Lister’s ability to capture the nuance in the rush of nostalgic feelings brought on by the smallest moment was impressive, and this essence was well captured by the Queensland Ballet dancers.
Bringing in a pop of colour and energy was Christopher Bruce’s Rooster, which was first created in 1991 and celebrates the music and lifestyle of the 60’s and 70’s. Rooster is a cheeky and upbeat piece, based off music from The Rolling Stones (currently being re-enjoyed while writing this), with each song inspiring the theme of the piece. This made it feel like several little showcases, with each connecting to the overall clash of the flashy, preening men trying to pursue the women who couldn’t care less. The energy brought by D'Arcy Brazier, Dylan Lackey, Liam Geck, Kohei Iwamoto, and Victor Estévez worked well opposing the attitudes of Heidi Freeman, Georgia Swan, Vanessa Morelli, Sophie Zoricic, and Laura Tosar. There were some beautiful standouts from each segment including some impressively high leaps, some stunt tosses, and the personality brought by D’arcy Brazier into the signature cockerel inspired walk, which seemed to be a crowd favourite. The 60’s/70’s flavour of the piece was well supported by Marian Bruce’s costume design, Tina MacHugh and Christina R. Giannelli’s lighting design, with revival lighting design by Cameron Goerg, and of course stagers Steven Brett and Janette Mulligan.
The exciting world premiere of Cathy Marston’s My Brilliant Career closed out the evening, bringing us a short narrative form ballet. Based on a novel of the same name by Miles Franklin, which was also adapted into a film, the plot remains seemingly unchanged by choreographer Cathy Marston and Co-scenario/Dramaturg Edward Kemp. Admittedly, I was not familiar with either the novel or film, however I can see why this would have been adapted as it provides a wonderful base for narrative ballet. Centering around a young girl’s inner battle with the two sides of herself, her familial relationships, and struggles with men pursuing her romantically, what highlights this as a somewhat more unorthodox ballet is (spoiler alert if you haven’t read the 1901 novel) her rejection, not once but twice, of her main romantic interest’s marriage proposal, instead choosing herself. David Fleischer’s set was very minimalistic, and even though the costumes, also designed by Fleischer, hinted more towards period, the set added a contemporary feel. I found the moveable two-part house frame a clever use of staging and using the same set elements in a different way to clearly outline each location. Even though the set and lighting, by Paul Jackson, were minimalistic, I would be remiss to say they were simple, as the costuming, detailed lighting and architecture of the house all gave a uniquely Australian flavour. I was impressed by the fluid choreography that incorporated the two sides of our protagonist Sybylla’s personality, with Mia Heathcote as Syb and Laura Tosar as Bylla, and while at times one would become more dominant, they always came back together, demonstrating the constant battle inside her mind. One of my favourite smaller moments of the choreography was the use of dancers’ bodies to signify the travelling between family homes, I just felt this was so visually clever. The dancers’ characterisations in somewhat more naturalistic roles were still well developed, aided by music by Matthew Hindson and performed by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, with the character’s personalities being brought to life in the score. Sophie Zoricic as Mother, Yanela Piñera as Grannie, Chiara Gonzalez as Aunt Helen, Victor Estévez as Harry, Rian Thompson as Frank, and Dylan Lackey as Uncle Jay-Jay all gave well detailed performances, along with the rest of the cast.
Queensland Ballet’s Trilogy was a fantastic tasting board of ballet, providing three unique pieces that invoked completely varied emotional responses to each. What I love about art and dance is that my response to the pieces likely differed from the person next to me, making it a very personal viewing experience. I felt it was a well constructed program, with the works contrasting nicely with one another and bringing a balance of light and shade to an overall refreshing evening of dance.
Image Credit: David Kelly