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Review 2, 7-7: Shady Business
Murphy Gives 'Dorian' another Dance
By Chloe Smethurst
Copyright 2004 Chloe Smethurst
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MELBOURNE -- In his
latest creation for the Sydney Dance Company, "Shades of Gray,"
Graeme Murphy takes narrative inspiration from Oscar Wilde's "The
Picture of Dorian Gray." In a shrewd choreographic move, he transplants
Dorian into the glittering dance world of the last few decades of
the last century, exploring the corrupting nature of fame, vanity
and the quest for eternal beauty, as we witness Dorian and his companions
degenerate into hellish depths of depravity.
Seen at the Victorian
Arts Centre this past Friday, "Shades of Gray" was marked by extraordinary
performances, clearly elucidated themes and concepts and some excellent
choreography. Joshua Consadine was stunning in the title role, revealing
himself as an amazingly graceful dancer with strong characterization
skills. He embodied the arrogance and immorality of Dorian, yet
allowed us to glimpse his weaker moments as well.
Murphy cleverly integrates
the original plot with characters based on real-life personalities
of the epoch, such as Andy Warhol, Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn
and the tragic figure of Edie Sedgwick. The combination
of period-defining costumes and carefully chosen music creates a
convincing setting for the piece. Also inserted were three 'Shades'
who emerge from the arcane portrait, representing different stages
of Dorian's demise, each worse than the last. Tracey Carrodus was
almost too convincing as a shrunken, semi-decomposed dancing spectre,
while Jason Wilcock was suitably freakish in his possessed, demonic
Another successful technique
was Murphy's integration of performances within the performance,
allowing us to follow the progression of time through the developments
in music and choreography of the ballets that Dorian stars in. These
range from a very classical "Narcissus" through various permutations
of dance in the '70s and '80s, and end with a modern abstract ballet
straight out of the '90s.
"Shades of Gray" does
not shrink from representing the darker moments of those heydays,
including depictions of drug abuse and deviant sexual encounters
and the AIDS epidemic and its ultimate and ongoing toll. Whilst
drug abuse and sexual perversity can be seamy topics, Murphy doesn't
present anything explicitly raunchy, settling instead for slightly
toned-down sequences which merely hint at what is being depicted.
As per usual for the
Sydney Dance Company, the entire company was well-rehearsed and
performed masterfully throughout. In particular, Wakako Asano convincingly
portrayed the painful demise of the aging Ballerina, and the stunning
Katherine Griffiths was magnificent as the Rising Star.
The concepts in "Shades
of Gray" were well developed and there were moments of brilliance
throughout the piece, but a few rough edges and awkward sequences
still need to be ironed out for this piece to take its place among
Murphy's better creations.
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