As the end of the year approaches, the Limelight team and our critics have already looked back on their classical music, opera, theatre and musical theatre highlights. We finish our 2018 round-up with a look at some of the dance highlights. As usual it was a tight decision with much to choose from but these are the productions we picked.
Jo Litson – Editor
Sydney Dance Company in Antony Hamilton’s Forever & Ever. Photograph © Pedro Greig
Sydney Dance Company took audiences on a wild ride in October when it paired two wildly different works – Antony Hamilton’s brand new Forever & Ever with its quasi-robotic, almost mechanistic movement, and Rafael Bonachela’s Frame of Mind from 2015 with its more lyrical contemporary choreography. The phenomenal dancers moved from one to the other with astonishing ease. Hamilton’s witty, trippy work was choreographed to a throbbing, percussive score by his brother Julian Hamilton (of pop band The Presets), while Bonachela’s was performed to string quartets by Bryce Dessner. Originally performed to a recording by the Kronos Quartet, here the Australian String Quartet played live adding another visceral element to the night. In fact, it was a great year for SDC with Ab [Intra] also pretty dazzling.
The dancing in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s latest production Dark Emu was also wonderful. Choreographed by Stephen Page, Daniel Riley and Yolande Brown, the piece drew on Bruce Pascoe’s 2014 book Dark Emu: Black Seeds, Agriculture or Accident? which explores the relationship Aboriginal people had with the land before colonial settlement. It’s a big, challenging theme to try to explore through dance but the production looked gorgeous and there were many breathtaking moments from one of Australia’s most constantly exciting performing arts companies.
It was great to see The Australian Ballet commission a new production of Spartacus from Australian choreographer Lucas Jervies. On an austere, brutalistic set, designed by Jérôme Kaplan, Jervies gave us the world of ancient Rome, but with a postmodern edge. For the gladiatorial showdowns and battles between the slaves and the Roman army, Jervies worked with fight and movement director Nigel Poulton, incorporating testosterone-fuelled wrestling and combat techniques into the choreography. The movement didn’t always connect totally with Aram Khachaturian’s dramatic music but many powerful images resonated, among them the toppling of the giant state of a hand, the final silhouetted appearance of Crassus and his wife Tertulla, and the bleeding slaves dragging on the pillars on which they were to be crucified. Kevin Jackson gave a raw, athletic performance in the world premiere in Melbourne, while Jarryd Madden was also superb in the Sydney opening. It was also rewarding to see the The Australian Ballet pay tribute to iconic Australian choreographer Graeme Murphy with a mixed program simply titled Murphy.
Our Critics Around the Country
Nicoletta Manni as Kitri and Leonid Sarafanov as Basilio. Photograph © Darren Thomas
“The production is alive with visual interest, always beautiful to watch. Italians are associated with beauty and vitality and La Scala Ballet brought a distinctively Italian flair to their opening night. Highly recommended.” – Jill Brown
“Natalie Weir’s final work as Artistic Director of Expressions Dance Company, Everyday Requiem, is an incredibly poignant and resonant piece that explores all the joy, grief, conflict, and nostalgia of one ordinary man’s life.” – Elise Lawrence
“With such an impressive program and very little infrastructural support, one can only celebrate this fabulous smorgasbord.” – Jonathan W. Marshall
“A Quiet Evening of Dance offers a brilliant glimpse of Forsythe’s genius. There are layers of choreographic complexity here that cannot possibly be uncovered in a single viewing, or even a second. But there are other objectives in mind. Forsythe wants you to see ballet, and perhaps dance altogether, in a new light. And this we do, very brightly.” – Rhys Ryan
“If XENOS is a work that speaks most clearly to Khan’s personal journey as an artist, then we can only admire his ability to make sense of these big and troubling issues and share them with his audiences.” – Rhys Ryan
“The strength of Avery’s performance is its endless ramshackle inventiveness. With little on stage, Avery insistently animates every element in multiple ways. The stage here becomes a space wherein one can create brief utopian possibilities and new futures out of the smallest of gestures and objects.” – Jonathan W. Marshall
“The work is full of likeable and whimsical characters that are vividly rendered by the talented dancers of the company. The young corps de ballet is in good form, and their enthusiasm is aptly suited to the high energy the production demands. And, of course, the sumptuous sounds of Orchestra Victoria playing Mendelssohn’s famous score make this production truly worthwhile.” – Rhys Ryan
“Two groups of dancers – five from Beijing Dance Theater, five from Dancenorth – emerge from the middle of both seating banks. They execute a series of gentle and fluid arm movements with precise hand articulations. Their bodies lusciously ripple outward from a centre-point like a moving mandala, then collapse back in on themselves before repeating the pattern. One might imagine a giant organism rapidly rearranging and folding its many limbs.” – Rhys Ryan