Two dancers, one male, one female, both with silvered hair, slicked back with paint. They lunge into one another.
Dance, News, Perth Festival, Reviews

Some hits, some misses

West Australian Ballet, ‘In-Synch: Ballet at the Quarry’ ·
West Australian Ballet, Friday 8 February ·
Review by Amy Wiseman ·

West Australian Ballet’s annual outdoor season sees ballet fans flock to Floreat’s magnificent Quarry Amphitheatre for a balmy summer evening of dance. This year’s programme, “In-Synch: Ballet at the Quarry”, features four short contemporary ballet works, including a unique collaboration with WA’s flagship contemporary dance company, Co3 Australia. Arriving early at the venue allows for the added luxury of a shared picnic in the setting sun and the chance to observe the artists warm up and prepare for the performance.

Opening the evening, Finnish choreographer Johanna Nuutinen’s X-It uses both live performance and a projected film, which was shot in the iconic Fremantle Prison. Unsettling in theme, the work explores our psychological reaction to constant surveillance.

An eerie, suspenseful solo, aided by Thomas Norvio’s sparse sound design, unfolds both on and off the screen, performed with strength and precision on opening night by Kymberleigh Cowley. Though the concept is not fully explored and ideas feel fractured, the piece is technically impressive, as the cast of six weave and arc through physically demanding duets.

Itzik Galili’s The Sofa follows a short interval. This comical romp, originally performed by the company in 2014, delighted the opening night crowd. Though thematically a little dated on the issue of sexuality and dare I say, consent, on the whole this work is clever and engaging with charming characterisation (in this casting) from dancers Matthew Lehmann, Chihiro Nomura and a sassy Oscar Valdés.

The world premiere of In-Synch follows. Conceived by Aurélien Scannella and Sandy Delasalle this is an improvised work with the musical score selected by the audience each night. Performance improvisation, as those of us who have tried it will attest, is immensely challenging and demanding. The craft often requires years of specific training even without the added restriction and specificity of the classical form, and unfortunately this ambitious experiment misses the mark.

The company dancers move between a series of constructed tableaus using guided frameworks featuring morphing lighting states by Michael Rippon and movement provocations by former WAB dancer David Mack. For the most part, the work felt structurally transparent and tentative at the performance viewed, though a brief duet by Dayana Hardy and Juan Carlos Osma found space to captivate with stunning partnering and responsiveness.

Concluding the evening, is Reincarnation, a new work created for this season by renowned Australian choreographer Garry Stewart. Bold and visually striking, Reincarnation uses company artists and dancers from Co3 Australia, to full exertion. Clad in saturated reds and blues, ungendered bodies parade in ritualistic procession, moving with Stewart’s characteristic tension and physical intensity. Eccentric and at times ironic, the suspended fantasy felt bewildering and otherworldly but it was difficult to remain completely absorbed, despite the theatrics. Fire-cracker Katherine Gurr (Co3 Australia) and the lithe Polly Hilton (WAB) delivered powerful commanding performances amongst a cast of proficient and committed artists.

Artistic opinions aside, it was wonderful to see an Australian choreographer, particularly one of such esteem in the programming this year, as well as witnessing the (currently) rare opportunity for professional West Australian artists in ballet and contemporary disciplines to share the process and the stage together at a Perth Festival event. I look forward to future collaborations between these two wonderful companies.

“In Synch: Ballet at the Quarry” runs until March 2.

Pictured top: Julio Blanes and Carina Roberts in ‘X-it’. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

Dancers of West Australian Ballet and Co3 Australia in ‘Reincarnation’. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.
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