Avoiding a second consecutive season cancellation provided an added layer of celebration for this landmark commemoration of Li Cunxin’s first decade at Queensland Ballet with an Australian debut company.
There was talk of whether QPAC’s Playhouse would be up and running in time for Li’s choice following flood damage that canceled QBs Gisele at Easter. The reopening of the theater after three months made the occasion even more triumphant, especially after the lifespan of the force majeure of the past two years.
Seizing – and forging – opportunity has been a key factor in making the last 10 years under Li the company’s most successful; Speaking of which, the artistic director attended the opening night just off the London plane, where QB’s Jette Parker Young Artists performed as part of the Southern Lights cultural exchange for the Next festival. Generation of the Royal Ballet.
The three works Li has selected for his eponymous program highlight his strong sense of curation (and commissioning). It is a perfectly balanced triple program, combining recent choreography by two internationally renowned Australian talents residing at the QB, Greg Horsman and Natalie Weir, with the Australian company’s inaugural performance of a 47-year-old gem of the legendary late Sir Kenneth MacMillan. glass concerto exemplifies the technical aptitude of the modern ballet dancer with cool neoclassical purity and athleticism, We who leftt gives us the emotional and poignant depth of contemporary balletic storytelling and Elite Syncopes is a timeless comic concoction that revels in English eccentricity and American-inspired vitality.
Horsman’s Head Ballet Master glass concerto featured in the 2017 Raw season. Spread across three couples, the work is a kinetic reflection of composer Philip Glass’ evocative violin concerto, with its spellbinding, haunting mood. The smoky lighting created by Cameron Goerg (who also recreated the lighting designs of the other works) further enhances the ethereal atmosphere.
Working in an array of groupings, the dancers’ permutations mimic musical notes on a staff as they rapidly change shape and form, traversing the planes of the stage. The lifts are divine, using an array of inverted positions and soaring and slicing extensions.
The opening night cast featured three of the most expressive (and most beautiful, it must be said) women. This proved to be another opportunity for blossoming First Company artist Chiara Gonzalez to claim a promotion, garnering attention alongside principal Yanela Piñera and principal soloist Mia Heathcote. They were well matched with their charismatic male counterparts David Power (First Company Artist), Patricio Revé (Senior Solist) and Joel Woellner (Principal), respectively.
We who remain is the first of Natalie Weir’s works that the main company has performed since her appointment as resident choreographer in 2020. Commissioned for the 2016 Let’s not forget it triple bill, it’s a welcome revisitation; many felt it was the most touching work of this commemorative season.
Juxtaposing dynamic and gestural movement, We who remain is both vast and intimate in its scope. Synthesizing the intensity and pathos of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem incorporating Latin text and poetry written during World War I, it evokes the burden of battle, the torment of war and the agony of loss, accentuated David Walter’s masterful lighting design.
The performances of the 10 dancers are deeply felt, with lighted vignettes memories of love (Soloists Lina Kim and Vito Bernasconi), The one who lived (Shaun Curtis Company Artist) and The one that remained (Principal Lucy Green) emphasizing emotional heartbreak. In the end, Weir brilliantly distils all of this into one harrowing and haunting symbol: a pair of empty boots.
Elite Syncopes holds a special place in Li’s heart, having danced it with his wife Mary (now ballet mistress and principal rehearsal for QB) at the Houston Ballet. Its elements merge so easily and uniquely that the 1974 creation seems fresh and timeless. In a sleazy dancehall setting, wacky costumes reproducing Australian Ian Spurling’s original design are a riot of color and fun, brazenly overlaying the modesty of full-length unitards with risque graphics. Genius. Of course, that also applies to MacMillan, whose movement deftly employs classical lexicon to express the playful, jazzy spirit of ragtime led by Scott Joplin’s title track (he’s probably best known to modern audiences for The artistOscar-winning film The bite). Adding spice, the musicians of Camerata and musical director/conductor Nigel Gaynor accompany the dancers on stage in costume.
MacMillan punctuates classic flair and glorious unison (the pendulum momentum is exhilarating) with a carefree air and idiosyncratic character accents using the epitome of British restraint – they’re playful enough to make us laugh without going goofy. You only need to have seen ballet performances to similar music that didn’t sound natural to know that this feat is considerably more difficult than the master has made it seem here.
Of course, part of the magic of creating it was seeing another side to the Royal Ballet’s cast of performers, when in this case there aren’t really any revelations, except for the opportunity for the small artist of the company Luke Dimattina to flaunt his comic talents. ; her duet with Georgia Swan, a little taller, Alaskan cloth is a charming crowd pleaser. What there is in abundance is charming, lively and confident dancing from the whole company, corps and soloists. Of the latter, Green and fellow lead Neneka Yoshida made lasting impressions that matched their eye-catching costumes.
Elite Syncopes stands for the showbusiness epithet, “It’s Entertainment”, which also aptly highlights Li’s preeminent achievement of leadership in extending the art form’s appeal to a wider audience than Queensland Ballet. has never achieved before.
Li’s choice plays at Playhouse, QPAC until June 25th.