Jared Wright, Natasha Kusen and Brett Simon in 'Monotones II'. The Australian Ballet, 2015. Daniel Boud

‘The Dream’. A second look

16 May 2015 (matinee), Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

After feeling less than satisfied with my earlier viewing of the Australian Ballet’s triple bill of Ashton works—Monotones II, Symphonic Variations and The Dream—it was such a pleasure to have a second look and come away feeling much more fulfilled.

Monotones II was danced by the same cast that I saw on opening night, Natasha Kusen, Brett Simon and Jared Wright, but all my feeling that the work was outdated disappeared. Gone too were those hideous shadows that marred my first viewing, although they linger a little on the photograph below. This time, the visually pristine quality of the work was all there. I had a much better seat, but was that the only reason? I suspect not.

There was a real serenity to the performance. All three dancers were attuned to each other’s movements. There were gorgeous moments of symmetry that gently broke into asymmetry. Bodies twisted and threaded through arched shapes. Winding and unwinding. It was a truly beautiful, calm, technically satisfying performance.

Symphonic Variations too was danced in a far superior fashion to what I saw on opening night. The three women, Lana Jones, Amanda McGuigan and Ingrid Gow were well cast together. They are of similar height and body shape and it made a huge difference. The men, Andrew Killian, Ty King-Wall and Andrew Wright, were experienced enough to manage the difficult partnering without looking as though they were fumbling around. They also handled better the experience of being on stage for the entire ballet.

Technically, all six dancers showed every beautiful and often intricate detail of Ashton’s choreography—the elongated fingers, the hands turned up from the wrists, the lines made between dancers, for example. The spacing and patterning of the work was also clear, and the movements flowed smoothly. A delight to watch. I loved that moment for the women when they turned chaînés around their partner, starting one after the other and with one arm spiralling upwards as if propelled by the twirling of the feet. And I gasped as the men, in a line upstage, all turned a double pirouette ending in attitude and finished perfectly, in the same line, in time, and with their attitudes at the same height. Just beautiful and surely how Ashton imagined this work would be danced.

Still something missing there though—that incredible feeling that I got from the Royal that this was an awakening from the darkness. And it was only after reading (much later) the Royal’s program notes that I realised the circumstances behind Ashton’s creation of the work. So I didn’t set out with a preconceived idea. But thank you to the six Australian Ballet dancers I saw on this occasion. It was a lovely, serene performance, despite the medical emergency that was going on in the auditorium at the time.

The Dream looked mostly as beautiful as it did on opening night, this time with Miwako Kubota and Jared Wright taking the leading roles of Titania and Oberon. Wright stood out in his solo variation in the final pas de deux. His movements were beautifully shaped and coordinated. Andrew Wright and Christopher Rodgers-Wilson gave excellent performances as Demetrius and Lysander. Wright in particular was able to demonstrate how skilled Ashton is at incorporating humour into his works. Marcus Morelli, with his exceptional elevation, made Puck look as if he belonged in the air.

Overall, what a difference!

Michelle Potter, 17 May 2015

Featured image: Jared Wright, Natasha Kusen and Brett Simon in Monotones II. The Australian Ballet, 2015. Photo: © Daniel Boud

Jared Wright, Natasha Kusen and Brett Simon in 'Monotones II'. The Australian Ballet, 2015. Daniel Boud

My initial review is at this link.

‘Giselle’. A second look

4 April 2015 (matinee), Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Seeing an artist make his or her debut in a principal role is always an exciting prospect, especially when it is in one of the important classics of the ballet repertoire. It was a double thrill for the audience at the Sydney Opera House on 4 April when two Australian Ballet dancers, senior artist Juliet Burnett and coryphée Jared Wright, appeared for the first time in the leading roles of Giselle and Albrecht in Maina Gielgud’s Giselle.

In rehearsal for Giselle.  (l-r)  Juliet Burnett and Jared Wright; Jared Wright; Juliet Burnett and Robyn Hendricks. All photos © Lynette Wills, 2015

Perhaps what stood out more than anything for me was the way in which both Burnett and Wright looked unhurried. There was time to savour each moment of their dancing and their interpretation of the roles. They were strongest in Act II. Burnett was as light as a feather, a frail wisp, as she moved across the stage. Wright was filled with the right amount of sorrow and desperation to atone for his betrayal of Giselle. Their first encounter was sweepingly poetic. Then Burnett pleaded for mercy from Myrtha and did her best to protect her love. Wright pleaded too and did his best to keep dancing. While each danced well technically, to the credit of these two dancers I wasn’t looking so much at execution of steps, I was swept up in the mood.

In Act I Wright struggled a little I thought with the duality of Albrecht and I was never quite sure how he saw himself at any one time, peasant or royalty? There are moments of each for Albrecht in Act I and it is not easy to work between the two. Burnett was quite frightening in the mad scene as her limbs shook and her blank expression removed her from the real world. It lacked a certain theatricality, however, which would have lifted the scene to another level. Sometimes too real isn’t quite enough.

Of the minor principals, Olga Tamara gave an interesting interpretation of Berthe, Giselle’s mother. She set herself apart as a matter-of-fact lady, and her apprehension that the Wilis were present in the village and waiting for her daughter was conveyed strongly. Amanda McGuigan made a commanding Myrtha, cold and haughty.

I hope it is not as long between Australian Ballet seasons of Giselle as it has been recently. Both Burnett and Wright showed great promise of things to come and they deserve the opportunity to hone their interpretations, to polish their technique and to grow as artists. There are few ballets that offer such a great opportunity to reach new heights in one’s career as Giselle gives to those who are entrusted to carry on its beauty, its demands and its legacy.

Michelle Potter, 5 April 2015

My review of another performance of Giselle with Natasha Kusch and Chengwu Guo is at this link.