Wow! The impact of entering the grand promenade of the renovated Thomas Dixon Center is an experience in itself. Before you even arrive at the show, you have been transported to a stimulating cosmopolitan realm.
The reimagined home of Queensland Ballet successfully juxtaposes old and new – the comfortable familiarity of heritage with the excitement of new and possibility. It was designed as a cultural and community hub that invites the outside world to observe, immerse, marvel and enjoy, starting with the foyer exposure The secret life of costumes and soon add food to the dance.
Anticipation goes hand in hand with the ‘new’ smell of the 350-seat Talbot Theatre, its intimate auditorium facing a classic luxury red velvet curtain. Behind this is a spacious stage the same size as the Lyric Theater at QPAC.
The production values for Tailored match the frame, and it’s the type of triple poster that stretches the company and the audience. Each work generates its own distinct medium, and the styles of movement and mood are eclectic and divergent.
Petros Treklis Attached immediately transports us to an ominous underworld dominated by menacing figures wrapped in black gauze. The combination of Zoe Griffith’s striking costumes, the brooding intensity of James Brown’s commissioned score, and Cameron Goerg’s contrasting lighting creates a powerful and unsettling atmosphere.
The theme exploring duality and the unknown is represented in the interplay between the forces of shadow and AttachedThe hero couple of Sophie Kerr and Joshua Ostermann. Most of the time, it represents a power struggle between opposing wills, though sometimes they merge and flow harmoniously. Some parts suggest subconscious or dream states.
Although we’ve seen mirroring before, it’s one of those devices that, when executed well, remains effective – which is the case of the duo between Ostermann and his shadow, Edison Manuel. In this guise, Manuel also has beautiful pas de deux with Kerr with scissor legs, twisted transitions and arching lines that leave lasting images.
If ultimately the concept seems a bit laborious, Attached is an excellent showcase for the talents of Queensland Ballet’s Jette Parker Young Artists.
The next job is very different. Stephanie Lake Biography demonstrates why she is one of Australia’s hottest choreographers.
The piece is quirky, unpredictable and sometimes confusing – in contemporary dance, the latter is often alienating, but not here. Lake builds the movement sections of the work so deftly that you’re on board for the ride, wherever it takes you.
Lake says in her non-prescriptive program notes that she wants the audience to be taken to a place of the imagination and squirm in their seat – I would say that outcome is like a child whose curiosity is piqued at the same time, and it’s her secret. There’s a short section that had us scratching our heads, its surrealism inviting perplexity and later discussion and speculation.
The disparate score alone gives you an idea that you are going to travel to extreme places – classical, experimental, hip hop and folk.
Biographythe opening of sees the dancers, in bathing suits, shorts and socks, bouréeing individually across the stage at the Baroque Passacaglia of life, punctuating their passage with poses of silent cries, then continuing. As they go, they break down more broadly and into different groups and patterns. There are scenes of mimed fights between pairs with montages of punches, kicks and head twists that don’t connect, and dodging and weaving dances in an array of beats.
Lake’s structure is clever, creating extreme fun and also relatable and mundane, the latter delivered in a finely honed sequence of gestural unison. The multi-language of African rapper MC Yallah Kubali (First Company artist Vanessa Morelli stands out here).
You can read in the final sections featuring the Khosh Ensemble and the Ukrainian Folk Choir in solidarity with Ukraine – although each speaks very differently. Suffice it to say, both are ways we’ve never seen Queensland Ballet dancers before. It’s all part of Biography‘s cracking roller coaster.
TailoredThe conclusion is an uplifting neoclassical showcase that guarantees purists will leave delighted. Choreographer Greg Horsman A moving rhapsody reflects the vibrant moods and energy of Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme by Pagininisimply matched in costume and lighting.
With dancers dressed for class, he’s having more fun with the barre than the apparatus usually inspires as a basic tool, turning traditional exercises into gymnastic, staggered and inverted positions. At the same time, there’s no shortage of accuracy as Horsman directs his cast through the lexicon of intricate, precise steps and lines.
A lyrical mid-section brings emotion to the fore in solo and pas de deux work, and gives dancers the opportunity to flaunt control and strength in powerful aerial lifts and extensions.
The latest uptempo move represents the dazzling interplay of artistry and technique to make the virtuoso look effortless. There may be fluffy pink tutus but this repertoire is hard core. Cue jaw-dropping jumps and lifts, faster footwork, and devilishly quick chaining and whipping (leads Lucy Green and Yañela Pinera are standouts), in what is a feat of endurance, finally uniting all 24 dancers. The execution is impressive, a testament to the strength of the artists individually and as a company.
Queensland Ballet Tailored plays at the Talbot Theatre, Thomas Dixon Center until July 30.