The Australian Ballet: Bodytorque.DNA review [Melbourne]

Melbourne audiences finally have the opportunity to experience Bodytorque as The Australian Ballet presents an evening of brand new choreography.

In the absence of the prancing, posing and preening involved in a full length ballet, Bodytorque is a chance to see the beloved company dancers in a raw, exposed expression of pure dance.

With a linking theme of DNA, five emerging choreographers have been given the extraordinary gift of creating short new works with the full resources of The Australian Ballet. The result is a complementary yet varied set of dances. An impressive achievement reached by all five is the inclusion of a turning point or moment of realisation, which is a remarkable feat given the brevity of each piece.

In “Corpus Callosum,” Richard Cilli contrasts sharp, disciplined, rhythmic movement of the five dancers with the gently flowing music of James Wade. The piece begins and ends in silence (save for a cacophony of coughers), and represents the rapid-fire process of neurons and synapses as they fire messages about the brain. Dressed in tight leather outfits, the dancers are in constant motion and frequent contact as the messages in dance are passed along.

Bodytorque.DNA, I Cannot Know, The Australian Ballet

Joshua Consandine begins “I Cannot Know” in front of the curtain, as a girl in Alice blue enters, then pauses in thought. In front of a projected royal blue swirl of constellations, the girl seeks answers in the stars, represented by seven dancers in skintight sparkling black bodysuits. She moves about in stiff, wide-eyed wonder until reaching a point of awareness. First removing her bag and then her shoes, the girl moves in and about the dancers, being lifted and spun, reveling in her newfound knowledge.

Consandine has chosen the dissonant music of Georges Lentz’s for his work. Music for the evening is played by members of Orchestra Victoria, with Guest Conductor Vanessa Scammell doing a splendid job of successfully switching between a challenging range of styles in quick succession.

Bodytorque.DNA, Same Vein, The Australian Ballet

The first section concludes with “Same Vein” by Alice Topp. The curtain opens to a front projection showing symmetrical animated ink stains that morph into various physiological shapes. While DNA makes humans different, Topp represents a commonality between all humans, as well as animals. In various combinations of black and white, the seven dancers perform traditionally balletic choreography to the romantic music of Rachmaninov.

Vividly representing the theme of all love being equal, Topp stages a rare pas de deux between two men, to the gorgeous sound of Faure’s Opus 50. The male pair’s moves are stronger, though not quite as graceful, compared to a male and female dancer. The erotic charge of the dance is delicately balanced with gentle affection between the pair.

Bodytorque.DNA, Control, The Australian Ballet

The second half opens with “Control,” in which Richard House explores our nature to seek order in our lives. The concept is partly represented in the slow and controlled choreography, which again has roots in traditional ballet. Five dancers in tiny tight black vinyl outfits are framed by a lighting installation of eight pieces, each having a spotlight and a vertical coloured fluorescent light. The effective central sequence has each partner replaced one after the other, conveying the message of enjoying the moment rather than seeking to control it. The romantic elements of the piece give it an enjoyable feel, with the presentation of the dancers allowing them to be seen looking their best.

Bodytorque.DNA, Extro, The Australian Ballet

New Resident Choreographer Tim Harbour concludes the night with “Extro.” The twelve dancers perform a genuine crowd pleaser that even manages to silence the coughers. Harbour’s close fitting costumes, in shades of blue, grey and black, are noticeably more suited and flattering for dance than those seen in “Art to Sky” in Chroma. Górecki’s Concerto for Harpsichord & Strings creates a thrilling pulsing beat that gives the piece a real drive.

The rear black curtain is open just a chink to reveal a glimpse of the waiting exterior as dancers prepare their interior selves to perform. The curtain opens, and presentation and presence lift just enough more to suggest a performance is taking place. In the final moment, the dancers form a collapsed heap as if totally spent by the giving of their interior passion.

This brisk, stimulating program, sensibly priced to reflect the relatively simple production elements, is a must for true lovers of dance.

Bodytorque.DNA plays again at State Theatre, Melbourne Arts Centre, on 18 and 24 June 2014.

Man in Chair’s 2014 reviews of The Australian Ballet:

A range of artists in Chroma “…the chief attraction here is the opportunity to see so many of The Australian Ballet’s wonderful Principal Artists on stage together.”

Adam Bull and Lucinda Dunn in Sir Kenneth McMillan’s Manon “In the final Melbourne appearances of her highly distinguished 23-year career, Lucinda Dunn makes a superb role premiere as Manon.”

A range of artists in 2014 Telstra Ballet in the Bowl “…a mutual opportunity for the dancers and the ballet-loving public of Melbourne to show their love and affection for each other.”

Photos: Jeff Busby

Categories: Dance, Reviews

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