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Flash Review Journal,
6-21: Requiem in a Dream
In Australia, the Premieres of Autumn
By Simone Clifford
Copyright 2001 Simone Clifford
MELBOURNE -- It is early
June. The Australian Ballet performs two premieres at the State
Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne: "Requiem'" by resident
choreographer Stephen Baynes, and "Carmina Burana" by director Lindy
Hume, with choreography by Natalie Weir.
It is a mild autumn night
in Melbourne -- the type of night when the sky seems somehow open
and calm. The ambiance opens the opportunity to reflect upon the
presence of the soul within. Indeed, understanding that I am to
see a requiem tonight, I am feeling somewhat meditative.
Stephen Baynes is on
a journey. A spiritual journey of music expressed through the body.
Set to Gabriel Faure's Requiem Op. 48, this latest of works by Stephen
Baynes stays true to his creative journey, which evolves around
understanding the spiritual meaning of one's life. However, these
are unending questions, circular and revolving. Stephen speaks of
his work in the program notes:
"The question of what,
if anything, happens after death is a question that has preoccupied
mankind from the beginning."
However, is only raising
the question in a work enough for an audience? For if we as choreographers
wish to discuss questions of such magnitude, we must go beyond the
questions. We must allude to possibilities for answers. The quintessential
strength of dance lies in its capacity to engage the spirit, the
body and the intellect -- this is how dance resonates with an audience.
The living painting is the dance experience, the profundity of this
becoming most evident when choreographers utilize the training of
the classical dancer and set it free with the influences of the
contemporary. This is a gentle work, as is the music. I know Stephen,
and I know and share his love of music.
Music was an overriding
factor in "Carmina Burana," with Carl Orff's score, as we all expected
it to be BIG. But what of the dance? "Carmina Burana" was a lot
more of a choral/opera/music event than a ballet. Yes, the creators
knew it and spoke of the subject in the program notes. Natalie Weir
wrote, "'Carmina Burana' is unique for me in that I was invited
to create the movement for an original concept already developed
by director Lindy Hume and designer Dan Potra. The movement provides
a layer to the idea, but is only one part of several different art
forms." Does this mean that the choreographer assumed a subservient
role in this collaboration?
Those wishing for the
"dance experience" may have been unsatisfied. The outcome was not
at all unsettling, but it was an opera/theatre event with strong
and confident direction from Lindy Hume. What it was not, was a
ballet/opera/theatre event. I understood from speaking with Ross
Stretton, outgoing artistic director of the Australian Ballet, that
the original intention behind the work was for it to lie in the
choreographic with director facilitating. Yes, that definitely makes
a lot more sense. understanding as how the Australian Ballet exists
to promote the dance.
The dance was woven into
the texture of the work. However, the director's presence was overwhelming.
And as we were given a good dose of that operatic tool the sur titles
above the proscenium arch, it was disproportionate to the whole.
Singers were also very prominent throughout, the size and scale
of the set aligning well with operatic conventions rather than balletic.
Collaborations are difficult
things to achieve because in the creative there can be only one
leader. The assembling of the creative team is to add further texture,
contrast and depth to the artistic vision of the work. I guess I
wanted the weight to be on the side of the choreographer.
"Carmina Burana" was
visually alive with set and costumes by Dan Potra. Lighting for
both of the works on the program was by Nigel Levings. "Requiem"
was costumed by Anna French with set design by Richard Roberts.
The Melbourne Chorale Symphonic Chorus, the Coro Piccolo and the
State Orchestra of Victoria performed both of the works on the program
live, aided by the State Opera of South Australia on "Carmina Burana."
It was an interesting
evening for me, as it made me question the artistic track that the
Australian Ballet has been on. Certainly in the past year we have
seen some creative risk-taking happening with the ballet, and this
is on account of Ross Stretton's programming. The creative has sat
beside the safety programming net of the classic works. As this
company is the national ballet company, it is expected to present
classic productions. What we have witnessed is the company attempting
to burst its way out of its historic mold so that it can be a vital,
active and stimulating ensemble. And, of course, creativity must
be nurtured -- this is necessary for its future growth cycle.
The Australian Ballet
has major touring commitments within Australia and commitments of
this nature make it difficult for the company to generate new ballets
and to experiment, due to logistical and financial restraints. New
work always involves risk, and choreographers and dancers can only
risk confidently when they have practised the creative experience
together many times over. A choreographer develops work with the
dancers, making the process of creation a public one. Words like
trust, acceptance and openness are key qualities that the dancers
must bring with them for creation to manifest. Growing a culture
with these key creative qualities is what needs to happen inside
a studio. This is vital for the ballet and indications are the ballet
wishes to walk this path.
reservations for the works presented as expressed above, this commentator
applaudes the ideology of the Australian Ballet in exploring the
innovative and the adventurous. Let's have more.
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