Destruction, glitz and levity collide in an electric night of dance

Destruction, glitz and levity collide in an electric night of dance


Instruments of Dance ★★★★
The Australian Ballet, Arts Centre Melbourne, until October 1

“Tonight we will see what is bubbling and percolating in dance,” says Australian Ballet artistic director David Hallberg.

The curtains open to Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear, in which an all-male cast dances against a backdrop of rack and ruin.

Elijah Trevitt performs in Annealing as part of the Australian Ballet’s triple bill Instruments of Dance.Credit:Jeff Busby

As is characteristic with McGregor’s choreography, the movement is dynamic and sharp in bursts, but fluid in other moments, playing with our expectations of contemporary ballet. Principal artist Adam Bull steals the performance, his acrobatic feats – barrel rolls, 360 degree turning jumps and leaps – reminiscent of Mikhail Baryshnikov in his prime.

The piece seems propelled towards destruction. Like obsidian itself, the choreography feels dense, weighty and impenetrable at times. There is a dull flatness, and sickling of the feet, as the male dancers are dragged down by tragedy.

In contrast, Justin Peck’s choreography in Everywhere We Go has levity in abundance. A gorgeous jazzy frisson, with a score by Sufjan Stevens, the dancers jauntily cross the stage in nautical-themed leotards. The female ballerinas run in pointe shoes with a cheesecake kind of sexiness, pushing their butts out more than ballet traditionally permits. The men promenade with what looks like swagger. Principal artist Benedicte Bemet shines, performing fast chaîné turns on pointe like it’s a pleasure.

Annabell Watt and Rohan Furnell perform Everywhere We Go in the Australian Ballet’s triple bill Instruments of Dance. Credit:Jeff Busby

Then we have the Australian Ballet resident choreographer Alice Topp’s Annealing. Vulnerable and liberating, Topp’s work challenges gender roles and concepts of strength and beauty in ballet. Highlights of the piece include where the corps de ballet dance with the strange energy of multi-armed gods under chromed lighting, as they swish and sway in the refractions.

The pas de deux, with Dimity Azoury and Callum Linnane, shows exceptional connection as they draw into each other, almost in a kiss, a soft hand-drum playing.

In Instruments of Dance the Australian Ballet demonstrates its mastery of diverse contemporary ballet choreographies and that, as Hallberg puts it: “Dance is relevant, not a museum.”

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