Scene from 'Monument', Canberra 2013. Photo: Branco Gaica

Garry Stewart’s ‘Monument’. The Australian Ballet

The buzz around Canberra is that Monument, Garry Stewart’s new work for the Australian Ballet and the Centenary of Canberra, may well be that elusive item, ‘a great work’. Monument elicits shouts, screams and whistles as the curtain falls. Audiences exit the auditorium agog and, returning for a second viewing, I was filled with anticipation and excitement. Its appeal seems to be universal—young, old, dance fans, those who don’t often go to a dance performance—so many are talking about it.

It also sent me back to Parliament House to take a look at Romaldo Giurgola’s imposing Marble Foyer, which was the inspiration for much of the visual design for Monument. It is indeed an imposing, high-ceilinged space filled with marble columns. But Giurgola has frequently expressed his pleasure that few people look for the lifts to get to the next floor. They climb the marble staircase instead. Despite its imposing qualities it exists on a human scale as well. So too Monument. The formal qualities that define it, its reference to the architectural process, do not alienate. They touch a human nerve.

Parliment House Marble Foyer
The Marble Foyer (detail), Parliament House, Canberra

I was also able to take a close look at Mary Moore’s body-hugging costumes made from white lycra with a fine black lycra trim. Three costumes, some designs on paper and a selection of rehearsal photographs are on display in a corridor just off the foyer’s central space.

Here is a link to a PDF of my Canberra Times review of the Australian Ballet’s Canberra program, Symmetries, of which Monument is part. I will be writing more about Symmetries, including Monument, for Dance Australia Reviews, coming soon. There is much more to say, especially about how Stewart has constructed and choreographed the work.

The Canberra Times review is also available online with a gallery of images [sadly no longer available—MP 26/06/2016]. The gallery is worth exploring. It gives some great views of Mary Moore’s costumes and Paul Lawrence-Jennings’ graphics.  Although there is no footage, the image gallery also indicates the nature of Stewart’s choreographic approach. The images by Karleen Minney were taken at a media call and so are unposed.

Michelle Potter, 25 May 2013

Featured image: Scene from Monument, Canberra 2013. Photo: © Branco Gaica

UPDATE, 28 May: My Dance Australia review is available at this link.

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4 thoughts on “Garry Stewart’s ‘Monument’. The Australian Ballet

  1. Michelle I so agree. It was a privilege to see this world premier in such a cleverly constructed bill. I think Monument is magnificent. It is a superb, complete and totally satisfying work that stands on its own. It can be appreciated without knowing the Canberra100 context or the history and rationale of the building. I suspect that, over time, those aspects of its creation will become no more than interesting historical footnotes. I saw Monument on Thursday and Friday nights. The cast just ‘nailed’ it both nights, but especially on Friday. The depth of skill and passion across all members of the cast was just a delight. I think this work will persist alongside other renowned neoclassic works (such as The Four Temperaments!). I am looking forward to saying: “I was there, in Canberra, on 23 May 2013”.

  2. I think you are right Lauren about Monument‘s capacity to exist beyond Canberra 100. I hope the Australian Ballet is prepared to take it forward. I went back again for the Saturday matinee and sat further back than on previous occasions. From there Jon Buswell’s lighting design took on more meaning. As he plays so much with creating floor patterns in light it is not so easy to take in the power and beauty of his design from just 5 or 6 rows back. The work gets better and better on each viewing.

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