Dance diary. August 2011

  • The Dancers Company

During August The Canberra Times published my Canberra preview for Bangarra’s current production, Belong, and also my review of the Canberra season of the Dancers Company production of Don Quixote. The Dancers Company was a breath of fresh air for dance goers in the national capital, especially for those interested in ballet as a genre of dance.

I was especially impressed by Hannah O’Neill and Benedicte Bemet. It is well known now that Hannah O’Neill has a seasonal contract, beginning this month, for the Paris Opera Ballet, so it was good to see her in this early stage of her professional career. She was dancing beautifully as one of Kitri’s friends. She also took the role of the Queen of the Dryads in the dream sequence and it is not too much to say that her serenity in the Queen’s solo, in part deriving from her technical assurance, was thrilling to watch.

But it was Benedicte Bemet, also dancing as one of Kitri’s friends, and as Cupid in the dream scene, who really captured my attention. She too handled skillfully the quite different but equally demanding technical requirements of Cupid’s solo. But what really stood out was her engagement with the art form rather than with just the technique. Her dancing appears to come from deep within the soul. I hope she doesn’t lose such a rare and wholly engrossing quality as she moves into a professional company.

Benedicte Bemet in 'Paquita', 2011
Benedicte Bemet in ‘Paquita’, 2011. Photo: Sergey Konstantinov. Courtesy: The Australian Ballet School
  • Ted Shawn and Laurel Martyn’s Ballet Guild

Ted Shawn was the subject of an August post that drew some comments, including one regarding the sponsorship of the Shawn visit by Laurel Martyn’s Ballet Guild. While on the hunt for information about a production of The Little Mermaid, a work choreographed by Rex Reid and designed by Kristian Fredrikson for Martyn in 1967, I discovered that Shawn was a patron of Martyn’s company, which was variously called Ballet Guild, Victorian Ballet Company and Ballet Victoria depending on the date. Shawn’s name appears on programs as a patron of the company from at least 1958 through to at least 1968 (and perhaps before and after those dates? I have yet to examine earlier and later programs).

  • Paul De Masson

In last month’s dance diary I mentioned Paul De Masson and indicated that he was to perform in the Melbourne season of Checkmate in the Australian Ballet’s British Liaisons program. I have since discovered from Paul that this is no longer happening. It is unclear why, although it seems not to be his health!!

  • Jennifer Irwin

In August I also had the pleasure of recording an oral history interview for the National Library of Australia’s Oral History and Folklore Collection with costume designer Jennifer Irwin. Long standing followers of Sydney Dance Company will remember her many costume designs for Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, while those who have followed Bangarra will recall that she and Peter England produced costumes and sets for some of Bangarra’s most celebrated productions across the two decades of its history to date.

Irwin’s other design credits include the ‘Awakening’ section of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Opening Ceremony, much of the Closing Ceremony and the musical Dirty Dancing. In October audiences will see her designs for Stephen Page’s production of Bloodland for Sydney Theatre Company, and in 2012 her commissions include two new works for the Australian Ballet.

  • Land, sea and sky: contemporary art of the Torres Strait Islands

While in Brisbane for the Queensland Ballet Gala, I took the opportunity to visit an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art called Land, sea and sky: contemporary art of the Torres Strait Islands. The exhibition included a variety of dance materials. Particularly interesting were several ‘dance machines’, hand held objects manipulated by dancers to give extra strength to the narrative line of the dance. I loved the one made by Patrick Thaiday and commissioned especially for the exhibition. It comprised 20 ‘machines’ each constructed as a stylised, blue cumulus cloud, made of wood and painted with white stars. From each cloud radiated a series of small, movable, dark red poles each with a white star at its top point. It was easy to imagine a dance representing the movement of the stars across the sky using these devices as a major inclusion.

Footage of Dennis Newie teaching dances on the beach to Islanders of various ages was another important feature of the show.

  • The Australian Ballet’s 2012 season

Late in August the Australian Ballet announced its season for 2012, its 50th anniversary year. What a great program it looks like too. In May I posted on the English National Ballet’s Swan Lake and remarked how satisfying it was to see a traditional version of this ballet, as much as I love Graeme Murphy’s new take on it. So I am especially looking forward to seeing Stephen Baynes’ new but old version, which will be seen first in Melbourne in September before moving on to Sydney in November.

The year will open with a triple bill of  new works by Australian choreographers: Graeme Murphy, Stephen Page and Gideon Obarzanek. Something to anticipate!

  • Statistics

In August the Australian Ballet’s Concord season of 2009 finally lost its top place as most accessed post of the month. My dance diary for July and my post on the Queensland Ballet gala shared top spot with Concord coming in in third place.

Michelle Potter, 30 August 2011

6 thoughts on “Dance diary. August 2011

  1. Regarding Ted Shawn’s position as a Patron of Ballet Guild, it would appear that he appears in this capacity for the first time in a printed programme for a Ballet Guild performance at the Theatre Royal Hobart, 7 – 22 November 1947. Thereafter he appears to be continually listed as a patron. The programme prior to the Hobart one, for performances at the Union Theatre Melbourne, 23 – 27 September 1947 does not list him as a patron.

    It is a disappointment that Melbourne audiences are not going to be seeing Paul de Masson in the role of the Red King especially in light of his Widow performances. The fierce intelligence and keenly thought out perfromances of Rachel Rawlins as the Black Queen were a standout for me. Although the sheer physicality of a longer limbed performer in the stalking sections were missed, the grim concentration of evil was all there. This revival of a 1930’s work carries far more of the unsettled atmosphere of the period than I found in the Les Presages revival given during the Ballets Russes celebration.

  2. In reference to Mr Ted Shawn as Patron of Victorian Ballet Guild – in a 1969 prospectus for the Guild situated at 49 Bouverie Street, Carlton – Shawn is listed alongside Her Excellency Lady Casey and Sir William Dunk.

  3. In answer to the mystery of why I did not perform the Red King in Checkmate, the answer is …. They forgot. The Australian Ballet forgot to ask me to come to rehearsals.
    I sent an email asking, isn’t it time for me to come for rehearsal, and was told that they didn’t know I was doing it and there was no contract and even though I had a verbal agreement and had rehearsed it in Adelaide when performing Widow there, they forgot. I was contacted and told that there were explanations but, no excuses and sorry, we forgot. After nearly twenty years with the Australian Ballet, I am forgettable. And do you know what, I wasn’t even offered a ticket to the opening night or any other night.
    Signed, Forgettable.

  4. On another note, The Dancers Company of 30 years ago are getting together to celebrate. Coppelia was performed 30 years ago in Newcastle on the 18th September, 1981. The very first of the Dancers Company performance. Wow, there’s going to be a whole bunch of forgettables there too. There was so much talent on that tour, so many fine, beautiful dancers, I so look forward to seeing how people’s lives have turned out. Will keep you informed…. 🙂

  5. I believe my first sighting of the Dancer’s Company was at Geelong in late 1982, when I saw Paul and Lynette Mann dancing Albrecht and Giselle in Peggy Van Praagh’s production of Giselle. And what a performance. The more intimate venue lent itself to the atmospherics of this production and both Lynette and Paul gave outstanding performances.

    Any news about the 30th Anniversary celebrations would be most welcome.

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