Just as we return to priceless passages of Shakespeare or a favourite writer, the West Australian Ballet’s new GALA turns the pages on 11 outstanding pieces produced during the tenure of Artistic Director Aurélien Scannella. The company outshone itself in recreating these captivating vignettes.
The evening’s performance contains both classical and contemporary extracts and short pieces, one of which in fact, since we’re speaking of Shakespeare, is based on his tragic heroine Juliet. Entitled Radio and Juliet, it is choreographer Edward Clug’s idea of how Juliet would react after such tragedy if she had not ended her life. He sets her up with six black-suited, shirtless men. You can imagine her dreaming of Romeo in various guises perhaps, or perchance repulsing new or earlier suitors. The iconic music of Radiohead suits the crisp pragmatic movement as Juliet (a svelte, Brooke Widdison-Jacobs dressed in a black and red corset) weaves herself through the men’s fast and furious twirls and passionate gestures. Dramatic spotlight and moments of silence highlight a powerful duet with the lithe Juan Carlos Osma.
The classical pieces were new versions of the Le Corsaire pas de deux by Sandy Delasalle and Aurélien Scannella; Jayne Smeulder’s Tarentella by Scannella; and the finale Don Quixote pas de deux by Dame Lucette Aldous after Marius Petipa.
These pieces, so familiar yet so fresh, were danced with everything required from classical ballet – showy interchanges of prowess and technique, disarming clarity and grace, touches of radiance, and strength and energy beyond compare.
Eric Gauthier’s Takuto – the opening number – brought the house down. Scannella confessed he chose it to give his 10 dancers a different challenge and they embraced it wholeheartedly. Obeying their master, Matthew Lehmann, bare midriffs gleaming with sweaty exhaustion, they yelled, threw themselves through shafts of cross-lighting, bent backwards, their arms extensions of their batons, and beat the drums with laudable precision. Beautiful to watch, beautiful to listen to.
Wubkje Kuindersma’ s excerpts from Architecture of Hope danced to Ezio Bosso’s music, Adagio (White Ocean Antarctic) was visually arresting and emotionally involving. Its eight dancers performed their interaction and duets with luminous clarity and a yearning sweetness. Aligned with the discordant music and brilliant sequence of movement it was touching and melancholic. As was the duet from CoVid Lab (concept and direction Sandy Delasalle, choreography Beatrice Manser and Brent Carson) which is not surprising. Danced exquisitely by Manser and Carson to This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight (Clyde Otis and Max Richter) Covid Lab escalated in intensity with breathtaking moments when Carson suspended a limp and hanging Manser above him.
Chihiro Nomura and Matthew Lehmann gave impeccable performances encapsulating the agony and ecstasy which was their fate in the two duets from The Great Gatsby. They sailed through the trickiest intricacies of their lifts and twirls, and in every movement grew in compassion before our eyes.
Eric Gauthier’s Ballet 101 is a humourous ”crash course” in classical ballet. Matthew Edwardson is charged to perform 101 positions by a rather God-like voice emanating from on high. It needs energy galore and concentration and Edwardson made the audience burst out laughing in his incredible attempts to keep up with instructions – which he did admirably. It’s a wonderful short, funny and exhilarating piece.
Undoubtedly, though, the piece de resistance was Claude Brumachon’s Les Indomptés performed superbly by Ludovico Di Ubaldo and Adam Alzaim. According to Scannella: “This work is probably the most beautiful duo every made for two men…” Focusing on the characters’ actions and psychology, it is reminiscent of Didier Théron’s Self-Portrait Raskolnikov in its focus on rhythm, energy and space which creates a prolonged tension that, says Theron, “glides from the catastrophic to the burlesque”. The two men seem on the verge of parting – from what? Perhaps from their close-knit childhood kinship? Climbing on each other, hunch-backing towards each other, then tearing themselves apart and spiraling across space, they seem to convey burgeoning oppression, uncertainty and impulses that rupture across time. It is simply wonderful.
GALA plays at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth until 11 December