Edna Busse and Martin Rubinstein in 'Sigrid'

Dance diary. August 2014

  • Edna Busse

In August I had the pleasure of recording an oral history interview with Edna Busse, Borovanksy ballerina of the 1940s and early 1950s. The National Library had been working towards adding Edna’s memories of her life and career to its collection of dance interviews for many years, so it was a thrill that Edna, now aged 96, agreed to the invitation to participate in the program. Edna is seen below in two images from the Borovansky days, on the left with Martin Rubinstein in the Blue Bird pas de deux in a photo by Philip Ward, and right as Swanilda in Coppélia in 1946, photographer unknown.

Edna Busse and Martin Rubinstein in the Blue Bird pas de deux, Borovanksy Ballet 1940s. Photo: Phil Ward
Edna Busse as Swanilda in 'Coppelia', Borovanksy Ballet, 1946.
  • Oral history

Other oral history interviews I recorded during August were not specifically focused on dance, but were interesting arts interviews nevertheless. They were with John Hindmarsh, founder of Hindmarsh Constructions and a major arts philanthropist in Canberra; and with artist John Olsen. The Olsen interview focused on his mural Salute to Five Bells, commissioned for the Sydney Opera House in the early 1970s. (The Olsen interview is too new to have a catalogue record).

  • The Johnston Collection

I was delighted to hear that the Johnston Collection, the remarkable Melbourne-based collection of decorative arts located at Fairhall House, recently received an award from the Victorian branch of Museums Australia. The award was for the Johnston Collection’s recent exhibition David McAllister rearranges Mr Johnston’s collection. The image below shows Desmond Heeley’s costumes from the Australian Ballet production of The Merry Widow, as displayed in the sitting room during the Fairhall House exhibition.

Costumes from 'The Merry Widow' on display in Fairhall House

The text for my talk for the Johnston Collection as part of this award winning exhibition is at this link.

  • Press for August 2014

‘Odd mix misses the mark.’ Review of Boundless, Quantum Leap, The Canberra Times, 1 August 2014, ARTS p. 6. Online.
‘S for spectacularly physical.’ Review of S, Circa, The Canberra Times, 8 August 2014, ARTS p. 7. Online.
‘A swirl of colour.’ Review of Devdas the musical. The Canberra Times, 19 August 2014, ARTS p. 6. Online.

Michelle Potter, 31 August 2014

Featured image: Edna Busse and Martin Rubinstein in Laurel Martyn’s Sigrid, Borovansky Ballet, ca. 1945. Photographer not known. National Library of Australia.

Edna Busse and Martin Rubinstein in 'Sigrid'

Bangarra Dance Theatre in a scene from 'Patyegarang'. Photo: Jess Bialek

Dance diary. July 2014

  • Boundless: Quantum Leap

Last night (30 July) I went to the Canberra Playhouse to see, and review, the latest offering from Quantum Leap, Canberra’s youth dance ensemble. To my astonishment I received a phone call tonight (31 July) about my review, which had already appeared in The Age online before it had appeared either in print or electronic format in The Canberra Times. Here is the link. And because The Age version is text only, below is an image from the show.

Casper Ilschner from Quantum Leap & David Turbayne from GOLD in a scene from 'Samsara'. Photo: Lorna Sim

Casper Ilschner from Quantum Leap and David Turbayne from GOLD in a scene from Samsara. Photo: © Lorna Sim

  • Leap of Faith: Australian Story

I watched the recent Australian Story program, Leap of Faith, which followed the story of Li Cunxin’s acquisition of the Kenneth MacMillan production of Romeo and Juliet for Queensland Ballet. I would be interested to hear comments from others as I found the program more of a promo than an Australian story.

Here is the link to the online version and its transcript. I’m not sure for how long the ABC has the footage available online, although the the transcript of the show will remain for a little longer after the footage has been removed.

  • Dance and architecture

I have often been curious about the links that are often made between dance and architecture. They have always seemed to me to be very tenuous links. My most recent interview for the National Library of Australia’s oral history program, however, was with an architect, Enrico Taglietti, who made me think a little harder about those potential links.

Taglietti was born in Milan but came to Australia in the 1950s, initially at the invitation of Sir Charles Lloyd Jones to work on an exhibition of Italian design, ‘Italy at David Jones’. He and his wife came to Canberra after the exhibition had closed and fell in love with the city (such as it was in the 1950s). Taglietti has lived in Canberra ever since.

What fascinated me more than anything during our conversation was that he kept insisting that the exterior of a building was not architecture but urban design. Architecture, he maintained, consisted of the voids and volumes enclosed by a structure. Suddenly it struck me that perhaps there is a link between dance and architecture. Dance has much to do with filling voids and volume with movement, although only the best dancers (or those trained by Merce Cunningham) know how to use the space around the body to achieve maximum benefit.

  • Press for June

‘More decorative than communicative. Review of ‘Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Patyegarang. The Canberra Times, 21 July 2014, ARTS p. 6. Online.

Michelle Potter, 31 July 2014

Featured image: Bangarra Dance Theatre in a scene from Patyegarang, 2014. Photo: © Jess Bialek

Dance diary. November 2013

  • Alexei Ratmansky

With Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella now playing a Sydney season with the Australian Ballet, it was a delight to hear that in 2014 Sharmill Films will be screening Ratmansky’s Lost Illusions, a work based on the novel by Honoré de Balzac and made in 2011 for the Bolshoi Ballet. It opens at cinemas around the country on 29 March 2014. Follow this link for the full Sharmill program of ballet screenings.

I am, however, also looking forward to the visit to Australia (Brisbane only) in 2014 by American Ballet Theatre when Ratmansky’s gorgeous work, Seven Sonatas, will be part of the company’s mixed bill  program. I wrote about this work in an earlier post. It is truly a work worth seeing.

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo in ‘Seven sonatas’, American Ballet Theatre. Photo: © Rosalie O’Connor

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo in Seven Sonatas, American Ballet Theatre. Photo: © Rosalie O’Connor

In the meantime I am looking forward to further viewings of Cinderella very soon. More later.

  • Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards: Dance 2013

The dance awards in the annual Canberra Critics’ Awards this year went to Liz Lea and Elizabeth Dalman. Lea was honoured for the diversity of her contributions to the Canberra dance scene, in particular for her input into the dance and science festival she curated in collaboration with Cris Kennedy of CSIRO Discovery, and for her initiatives in establishing her mature age group of dancers, the GOLD group.

Dalman received an award for Morning Star, which she  created on her Mirramu Dance Company earlier in 2013. Morning Star was based on extensive research in and travel to indigenous communities and the final product used an outstanding line-up of performers from indigenous and non-indigenous communities and mixed indigenous and Western dance in insightful ways.

  •  Movers and Shakers

Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery was recently the venue for a short program of dance presented by two Sydney-based independent artists, Julia Cotton and Anca Frankenhaeuser. Called Movers and Shakers and held on the last weekend of the Gallery’s exhibition of photographs by Richard Avendon, the short, 30 minute program was largely a celebration of dancers Avendon had photographed over the course of his career, including Merce Cunningham and Rudolph Nureyev. Cotton and Frankenhaeuser are mature age performers and it was a joy to see that, as such, they had taken their work to a different plane in terms of technique but had lost none of the expressive power that has always been at the heart of their dancing.

Anca and Julia 6
Julia Cotton (left) and Anca Frankenhaueser in Movers and Shakers, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, November 2013. Photo: Michelle Potter

The tiny objects you see on the white pillar on the left of the image above are little decorative items representing bees, which Frankenhaeuser initially wore on her face and which she removed and stuck on the pillar at one stage in one of her solos. This part of the program referred not to a dance portrait but to Avendon’s well known shot of a beekeeper. It was a particularly strong and confronting solo by Frankenhaeuser who danced around the pillar—and was sometimes almost completely hidden by it—using little more that fluttering hands to convey her story.

  • Hot to Trot: Quantum Leap

Hot to Trot, a program for young, Canberra-based choreographers has been around for fifteen years, although the recent 2013 program is the first one I have managed to see. As might be expected the short pieces, which included a few short dance films, were of a mixed standard. One stood out, however, and deserves a mention—Hear no evil, speak no evil. It was jointly choreographed by Kyra-Lee Hansen and Jack Riley who were also the performers. The dance vocabulary they created was adventurous and compelling and the work itself was clearly and strongly focused and well structured.

Kyra-Lee Hansen and Jack Riley in 'Hear no evil, speak no evil', Hot to trot 2013 season. Photo: Lorn Sim

Kyra-Lee Hansen and Jack Riley in ‘Hear no evil, speak no evil’, Hot to Trot, 2013 season. Photo: © Lorn Sim

Jack Riley will join the WAAPA dance course in 2014.

  • Meryl Tankard and Régis Lansac

News came in November from Meryl Tankard and Régis Lansac. Tankard’s acclaimed work The Oracle was performed in mid-November in Düsseldorf, Germany, by Paul White, now a member of Tanztheater Wuppertal, as part of a celebration of the legacy of Pina Bausch.

Flyer for 'The oracle'

At the same time, the gallery of Mac Studios in Düsseldorf held an exhibition of more than twenty large-format portraits of Tankard by Lansac. All were produced in the summer of 1984 in the Wuppertal apartment of the American art critic David Galloway. One of Lansac’s most striking images held in Australian public collections also comes, I believe, from the shoot Lansac undertook in this apartment. Follow this link.

Michelle Potter, 30 November 2013

‘Me right now’: Quantum Leap

09 May 2012, Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre

Often the beautifully choreographed ‘curtain calls’ (there is rarely a curtain) in Quantum Leap productions are the most revealing aspect of this youth company’s capabilities. It is then that the dancers relax somewhat and their joy in moving, and their intensity and commitment to the show, is wonderfully clear. Unfortunately with Me Right Now, which centred on ‘the state of being young’, I thought the curtain calls were the best part of the show.
Quantum Leap dancers, 2012. Photo Chris Canham

Dancers of Quantum Leap in Me  Right Now. Photo Chris Canham. Courtesy QL2

There was a lot of spoken narrative in the first section, ‘You can’t perform a U-turn’, choreographed by Lina Limosani. Too much in my opinion. I’d rather see these young people expressing their ideas with a vocabulary of movement rather than words. And, while I understand the reason for the choreographic structure of the work being pretty much limited to having the dancers move across the stage in a straight line, Prompt to OP, it meant that overall the work lacked variety and subtlety. In fact, it became a little tiresome after a while.

Jade Dewi Tyas-Tungall’s ‘All to-get-her’ suffered a similar fate I think. Its title (remove the hyphens and run the words together) gives a clue to the reason for a choreographic structure that emphasised a certain kind of unity. But the constant crossing of the stage by lines of female dancers gave little visual variety and my interest flagged.

Matt Cornell’s ‘I do I will…’  showed what is a huge strength of the Quantum Leap endeavour—its ability to attract young boys to dance. I am also always impressed by the production values that Ruth Osborne and her team instill into every performance. And I always enjoy the way each section of the show blends seamlessly with the next. But for me Me Right Now lacked the kind of choreography that stops the mind wandering out of the theatre.

Michelle Potter, 13 May 2012

‘Night. Time’. Quantum Leap

‘As dusk falls, everyone chooses their moment. Snuggled in bed or out on the town, the night world is different through every window’—program note for Night. Time.

'Night. Stir'. Photo Sarah Kaur
‘Night. Stir’. Photo Sarah Kaur

Quantum Leap’s annual full-scale performance, this year entitled Night.Time, was a step up from previous years. Consisting of five separate sections by five different choreographers — a  familiar format — two aspects of the show stood out. First, there seemed to be a greater coherence in the production so that the show seemed like one work with five parts. In large part this was a result of seamless changes from section to section rather than there being clear-cut divisions between the work of individual choreographers — well designed lighting by Guy Harding helped. I hope this kind of coherence will be pursued as a feature of future Quantum Leap productions. Secondly, we saw some adventurous choreography involving partnering on a sometimes quite daring level for the young Quantum Leapers.

For me the stand out section was Jodie Farrugia’s contribution Night. Stir, which centred on the inability to sleep. Farrugia used her background in physical theatre and circus to push the boundaries of ‘youth movement’ with a range of demanding lifts, leaps and turns. She was rewarded (as was the audience) by some strong performances by dancers who clearly relished the challenges she set them.

'Night. Stir'. Photo by Lorna Sim
‘Night. Stir’. Photo by Lorna Sim

Following closely for the pick of the night for me was Night.Life, the section choreographed by Adam Wheeler. Like Farrugia, Wheeler had high physical expectations and the dancers responded with some outstanding, fast -paced dancing. Wheeler it seems involved the dancers in developing the theme of his section, which dealt with the activities in which the dancers imagined they might like to engage as part of their night life. No doubt their direct involvement in a highly relevant (to them) part of life added to their adrenalin charged performances. I felt they lost their sense of being onstage at times and seemed to muddle along a little, especially as the section drew to a close, but overall Night. Life was successfully and excitingly achieved. Other sections were choreographed by Marnie Palomares (Night. Light), Anton (Night. Mind) and Ruth Osborne (Night. Scape).

As in previous years extensive use was made of video material as set design. It was well integrated into the production and rarely overpowered the dancing. Adam Ventoura again provided a score, which was suitably ‘youthful’ to match the production. Costumes by Victoria Whorley were effective. A show deserving bouquets on many levels.

Quantum Leap dancers in 'Night. Time'. Photo Lorna Sim
Quantum Leap dancers in ‘Night. Time’. Photo Lorna Sim
Michelle Potter, 31 July 2010
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

‘Select option’. Quantum Leap

29 July 2009, Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre

The dancers of Quantum Leap, the pick-up company of QL2 Centre for Youth Dance in Canberra, are not professional although their enthusiasm for dance is palpable. But the choreographers with whom these young dancers work each year for their annual project are professional. So any review of Quantum Leap is really a review of whether the choreographers have the understanding and expertise to harness raw energy and a varying range of skills to produce a coherent piece of work that maximises what these young dancers have to offer. This year the theme of the project was choice and, although the results were, as ever, uneven, some moments were remarkably successful.

Liz Lea’s contribution, Select Red, was for me the undoubted stand out section. Lea chose to work only with female dancers and drew on the stylised movements and poses that have featured in her works about extraordinary female dancers—such as Ruth St Denis—of the early twentieth-century. The dancers needed to move in unison and yet look individualistic and even idiosyncratic and they responded beautifully. Lea’s choreography had a calmness and velvety smoothness to it and again the dancers responded. Not all the dancers, however, had the maturity and sophistication to carry off the move from this first part of the piece to the second, which showed the individual choices they had gone on to make about dress (always red), movement and general lifestyle. Nevertheless, the point was made.

The second act featured some exceptionally energetic dancing choreographed by Marko Panzic and Reed Luplau, although it was not always clear which choreographer had contributed what. Perhaps the most exhilarating section was a vignette featuring twelve male dancers, performing with what can only be described as total passion, and dancing to assorted Latin rhythms. Again the choreographer had chosen well as far as dancers were concerned. The the loose-limbed, fast and furious dancing, which largely happened in nothing more than a line across the front of the stage, was vibrant and rousing.

QL2 has a strong collaborative model at work with its annual shows. The two composers working with the company on this occasion, Nicholas Ng and Adam Ventoura, each produced an original score. Each was startlingly different from the other—a great experience for the dancers. Costumes were by Eline Martinsen and worked especially well in Select Red where small touches of red on the largely black outfits in the first section gave just a hint of what was to come later. Lighting designer Kaoru Alfonso also made an important contribution and again it was in Select Red that his designs were most effective. And for once the video footage that accompanied each piece was not intrusive but supported the works.

Michelle Potter, 2 August 2009

Featured image: Liz Lea’s Select Red. Photo: © Lorna Sim. Courtesy QL2 Centre for Youth Dance