Dance review: G, Australian Dance Theatre

A spellbinding reworking on the classic romantic ballet Giselle.

Heading to the revamped Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide for the opening night of G by Garry Stewart, I’m struck by the demographic attending the performance.

At least half of the crowd consists of 20-somethings or younger, something of an anomaly at most Adelaide arts performances.

The youthful crowd are here to see the swansong of Australian Dance Theatre’s artistic director Garry Stewart. In his final season with ADT, Stewart has brought back one of his best-loved works, G.

When Stewart premiered his first major work with ADT back in 2000, it was with Birdbrain, a deconstruction of the ballet classic Swan Lake

In 2008, he continued the tradition of taking a new look at ballet classics with G, his reimagining of Giselle. His G references Steven Wainwright’s seminal essay, Giselle, Madness and Death, which ties the narrative of Giselle to the pathologisation of women as hysterics in early 19th century Europe.

The opening scene sees the dancers moving across stage slowly, while the tale of G unfolds in words projected behind them.

But it does not take long for the performance to soon pick up the pace, and the frenetic tempo of the show is then set from the moment the dancers look as though they are scurrying along a conveyor belt of a single-coloured line on stage.

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Throughout proceedings, set and props are scarce, with only the colours of the line on stage changing. Just a few props, such as swords and trees, are used.

With the minimal set, it is left to the dancers’ raw physicality to tell the tale of G. And what a job they do.

Mixing classical ballet moves with contemporary dance, all 11 dancers showcase their phenomenal skills.

The musical score of G, created by Luke Smiles, ranges from something like a pulsing heartbeat to a thumping beat that would not be out of place at a late-night rave.

Costumes are also minimal, with simple green leotards and pants and tops, so the focus remains on the dancers’ outstanding performances.

The closing night performance of G took place on Monday November 29, exactly 22 years to the day since Stewart first took the helm at ADT, and if the rapturous applause and standing ovation from the relatively younger crowd G received on opening night is any indication, it is a more than fitting way to send him off.

Australian Dance Theatre

Director: Garry Stewart
Choreography: Garry Stewart and the dancers of the Australian Dance Theatre
Associate choreographer: Larissa McGowan

Set designer: Garry Stewart
Lighting designer: Geoff Cobham
Composer: Luke Smiles
Costume designer: Daniel Jaber and Gaelle Mellis
Dramaturgical consultant: Anne Thompson

G was performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide from 25-29 November 2021.

Paula Thompson is a journalist who has written for The Advertiser, SA Weekend and the Stock Journal newspapers. She is now freelancing