AUSTRALIAN BALLET: This year marks the 30th anniversary of the foundation the Australian Ballet’s The Dancer’s Company and to celebrate this milestone Artistic Director David McAllistar, has invited Kirov trained choreographer Ai-Gul Gaisina , who herself danced the role of Kitra in Don Quixote with Dale Baxter and Sir Robert Helpman, to recreate the ballet.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the foundation the Australian Ballet’s The Dancer’s Company and to celebrate this milestone Artistic Director David McAllistar , has invited Kirov trained choreographer Ai-Gul Gaisina , who herself danced the role of Kitra in Don Quixote with Dale Baxter and Sir Robert Helpman, to recreate the ballet.
The Dancer’s Company showcases graduate year students from the Australian Ballet School alongside well established (and in this performance venerated veteran) artists from the Australian ballet. It’s at once a showcase and a proving ground, and for most of the participants their first real performing tour, a chance to gain experience and make an impression as great dancers like David McAllister, Steven Heathcote, Vicki Attard, Miranda Coney, Olivia Bell, Robert Curran and Madeleine Eastoe have before them.
And this is definitely not a student show. Instead it is a chance to see the first performances of young professionals - artists who are fresh, accomplished and energised with what can only be described as a palpable and boundless joy in dancing. The richly textured palette of the costuming (Bary Kay) and the orthodox but refined stage setting (Francis Croese & Scott Mathewson) convincingly evoke an aura of Spain long past.
Don Quixote is a well chosen vehicle for such an enterprise providing ample showcasing opportunity for soloist and ensemble dancing. The Ballet is well known but not tired. Its simple plot revolves around the dynamic between true love, as Lorenzo, the overbearing father (Francis Croese) tries to force his daughter into marriage with a wealthy noble fop Gamache, (Garry Stocks, whose characterisation was outstanding). Don Quixote (Simon Dow) accompanied by Sancho Panza (Mark Geilings) on his quest, and almost incidental to the love triangle between Kitri (Dana Stephenson) and dashing barber Basilio (Daniel Gaudiello) and Gamache, presides over a happy resolution.
In this performance the dancing by Gaudiello and Stephenson was exceptionally good, especially given the less than ample stage that must have felt a little constraining. Both artists displayed great mutual sensitivity to the subtlety and grace of their lines. For tense microseconds their faces looked ever so slightly pinched, but the intense concentration needed to work within the confined space and bring off audacious movements, yielded to serene achievement as artist discipline held the upper hand over athleticism.
If there is any competition or rivalry at play in the Company (and there must be some) it was completely absent in the performance. The dancers of the Company worked as a tight unit meticulously maintaining control down to the smallest inflection of hand gestures without loosing fluidity or structure, again, even when the stage seemed just too small, (especially for the tall male dancers who could fairly be described as strapping).
In fact, this is more that a graduate year showcase. What is really on display is an insight into how a vibrant and excellent dance culture has been built up over decades by the Australian Ballet. As debate rages in Melbourne and elsewhere on how to structure education and training in the arts, the standards and traditions of tuition and mentoring that lay behind the performance I saw provide a compelling argument for how to do things very, very well.
Recommended and book early- today was a sell out.
Australian Ballet: The Dancer’s Company
Choreography: Ai-Gul Gaisina after Marius Petipa
Music: Ludwig (Léon) Minkus
Set design: Francis Croese & Scott Mathewson
Costume design: Barry Kay
Lighting design: Francis Croese
Australian Ballet Guest artists: Kirsty Corea, Daniel Guadiello, Yosvani Ramos, Dana Stephenson and Garry Stocks. Artists of the Dancers of the Company
The 2010 tour will take in regional centres in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia before concluding on 19th August.
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What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level