Dance review: Act V (digital), Australia Ballet

As part of the Bodytorque.Digital online series by Australian Ballet, Act V explores the 'tension between exhaustion and renewal.'

Act V began as an invitation by The Australian Ballet’s recently appointed artistic director, David Hallberg, to Daniel Riley to create a piece with one of the company’s dancers for the Bodytorque.Digital season. Riley, a Wiradjuri artist, who has worked at Bangarra Dance Theatre as a dancer and choreographer, said he immediately thought of principal dancer Dimity Azoury for the piece. She was a perfect choice for the collaboration; there is intense ease in the way in which she glides through space, and spirit in her gestures. Riley explains that this piece explores the moments after performance for dancers: ‘What is the process of shedding… internally and physically as [they] transition… home?’ The vocabulary of the work is tender and raw, as Azoury dances in swooping, changing directions, rolling her head and running her hands over her face and limbs, emulating discarding clothing and ablution; as if she were washing and sloughing off the day. The cinematography, by Brett Ludeman, David Ward and David McRobbie Park, skillfully tracks the movements and expressions of Azoury’s movements in a rippling, effortless way.

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The barren urban backdrop in which she dances (a concrete car park) contrasts with the intimacy of the choreography and as such, is a perfect ‘punctum’, as Roland Barthes would have it, an ‘accident that pricks… bruises [and is]… poignant’ to the viewers. It creates a pathos in the viewing experience that may not have been as profound live, in the space of a theatre. This, combined with the unpredictable shuffle and twist of James Howard’s score, piques the curiosity of the viewer. 

Latent in this piece is the tension between exhaustion and renewal; it communicates with viewers the tug of expectation and perfection upon dancers’ bodies and the necessity of introspection and rest. This is an important work given the shared experiences of lockdown we have had, where many of us have had to grapple with interiority and soul-searching. It is also touching because it invites audiences to consider the rarely seen moments of a dancer’s private life and therefore close the distance between these extraordinary artists and our own struggles. 

Act V is available to watch as part of The Australian Ballet’s Bodytorque.Digital Season: 

Act V
Choreography: Daniel Riley
Presented by Bodytorque.Digital Online by the Australian Ballet
Performer: Dimity Azoury
Music: James Howard
Cinematography: Brett Ludeman, David Ward and David McRobbie Park Production Graphics: Stephen Wood
Producer: Robyn Fincham

Leila Lois is a dancer and writer of Kurdish and Celtic heritage. Her poetry, essays and reviews have been published in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada by Southerly Journal, LA Review of Books, Honey Literary Journal, Right Now, Delving Into Dance and more.