As this was The West Australian Ballet’s first production since the lifting of Phase 3 restrictions, there was a feeling of longed-for liberty let loose in the air on the opening night of Genesis LIVE.
Genesis is an annual event which gives dancers a chance to try out their choreographic skills and, as usual, was performed to a smallish audience in the bare Rehearsal Room at the West Australian Ballet Centre. The power balance changes when you’re watching dancers in a confined space; instead of you doing all the looking, as happens with a proscenium stage, dancers collude eye to eye with you. Close up, you get more of a sense of their agency in the choreographic process – how their bodies enhance a concept. This is a buzz. There’s some scintillating skill from the dancers, a focus on rhythm and energy, triggered by an interplay of tension, great music and dramatic lighting. The budding choreographers show real potential, so next try they should throw caution to the wind and shock us with something truly innovative.
Mayume Noguromi and Keigo Muto in Robert Bruist’s Polarity. Photograph © Frances Andrijich
Ten of the 12 short pieces in Genesis LIVE reflect mostly on love, relationships and identity. The first, though, Tetrad Animato by Carina Roberts, is more abstract – a clever melding of the dancers with the instrumental score of Ezio Bosso’s Pines and Flowers. Kiki Saito, Glenda Garcia Gomez and Beatrice Manser in coral coloured slips are abruptly intercepted by Jesse Homes in a maroon free-flowing shirt and pants. As the music soars and twirls, so, in various formations do the dancers.
Of the six duets, Robert Bruist’s bruised Polarity stood out. Keigo Muto opened the piece in silence, his bare torso torn by the shaft of side-light and his powerful strength obvious in his suspended contortions. Mayume Noguromi, beautifully lithe, mirrored or deflected his actions across the floor, while their coupling conveyed an undertow of sadness. By contrast, Adam Alzaim’s effervescently comic Where do I begin, is a wonderful example of that love/hate conflict of many relationships. With Shirley Bassey’s invigorating voice soaring around them, Alzaim and Melissa McCabe, in beige vest and pants, got antsy with each other through a rather Chaplinesque jerking of limbs and neck gyrations. They were fabulous together and funny. The other four duet choreographers, Emma-Rose Barrowclough, Chihiro Nomura, Matthew Lehmann and Candice Adea showed equal ability to convey tension and impulse and to draw the best out of their dancers’ individuality.
Claire Voss and Julio Blanes in Matthew Lehmann’s Behind those Beautiful Eyes. Photograph © Frances Andrijich
Ambitiously, Claire Voss chose six dancers for her lovely A Thousand Times Goodnight in which she demanded exactitude for some very difficult manoeuvres. The drive of the shimmering music of the same name imparted a sense of derring-do to the men who cavalierly, it seemed, lifted and flung their slip-dressed partners across their shoulders.
There were three intriguing solos. Matej Perunicic’s Uncommon, to his own music, featured Ludovico Di Ubaldo as a discontented young man trying to be something other than a typical commuter in the stream of life. With admirable suppleness, flinging out his arms splaying limbs and hurling himself across the divide to get rid of discontent, Ubaldo got precisely to grips with Perunicic’s vision of the bitter/sweet and funny aspects of this time of life.
Similarly, Christian Luck’s Can’t Fight this Feeling, to Kevin Cronin’s piano rendition, followed Brent Carson’s struggle to understand his ego. Dancing at times to his reflection in a large mirror, Carson revealed a commanding and engaging presence and a formidable technique. So did Barrowclough in Polly Hilton’s penultimate Alumna. Imprisoned in a cone of down-light, en pointe and trembling in a series of fast kicks and twirling body movements to unleash unperceived restraints, she was excellent, as was Hilton’s ability to draw such intensity from such a brief piece.
Ludovico Di Ubaldo in Matej Perunicic’s Uncommon. Photograph © Frances Andrijich
Each short performance drew ecstatic applause from the audience, who were also delighted with the last – Principal Ballet Mistress and Artistic Associate Sandy Delasalle’s aptly named Just for Fun, which catches the irresistible and irresponsible flood-tide of the Roaring 20s. Gorgeous costumes, a 1920s mix of music, the effervescent Charleston and Delasalle’s eye-catching arrangement, imparts exactly what the title suggests. It was an exuberant and successful launch, hopefully, of many more unrestricted performances.
Genesis LIVE plays at the West Australian Ballet Centre until August 8