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Flash Review, 8-25: Pilgrimage in Search of a New Simplicity
From the Sublime to the Tacky at Oz Ballet

By Simone Clifford
Copyright 2000 Simone Clifford

MELBOURNE, Australia -- In Melbourne last night, the Australian Ballet's Trilogy 1 program opened to a full house at the Victorian Arts Centre's prestigious State Theatre.

If traditional ballet goers ever doubted the reasoning behind classical ballet companies collaborating with choreographers whose work is of the present, then this is definitely a program for them to experience so that they can come to a resolution for themselves on this issue.

But that is the light stuff and not particularly what this artist/reviewer wants to express through the wonder and use of technology. In the case of Jiri Kylian's work, a case for the 'metaphysical' enters vividly a discipline which is physical par excellence.

I came home from the theater with my soul burning, and I thought of the passage in the Bible where Moses stands in front of a burning bush, and it was spirit or God talking to him. Why I am being so...spiritual? Why is my soul so on fire? Let's see if I can unfold my thoughts and feelings as I write this Flash Review.

You know, for six years I danced with Jiri's company, Netherlands Dance Theater, during which time we created several works together and our creative association met and stood firmly within the realms of the ether, the esoteric, the subconscious, and the inner plain, and it is here that I believe anything of creation is first conceived.

Jiri's work opened the evening and whilst I watched his "Bella Figura," I breathed a sigh of relief to once again be in contact, albeit as a spectator, with the world of the subconscious, the inner trappings of the mind and the constant questions it asks of us to us. There is a beauty to be found here and I think it comes from a deep and isolated source from within. Who of us dares to go there? Of course it is the creators. One image about places of creation that stays with me goes something like this: A deep and most overwhelmingly huge natural basin of still water, where if you dare to hover and observe, taking your dancers with you, you can ponder the effect and importance of every need and action or reaction of the human condition. There is gravity in every movement here.

So last night, once again, we saw Jiri's creative genius manifest the "stuff of the subconscious" into form. He finds his inspiration, and lets us contact our own.

This work was delivered to us so articulately by the dancers -- they were hungry to speak and one had the impression that their own souls felt anointed by the experience. As is the case in Jiri's work, it relies so entirely on one's intent, and when it is pure and when it spoken by dancers of this level then everyone wins and I like and I too believe. A performance from the choreographer's and the dancers hearts and minds and souls, it will always be memorable to me.

After floating back into the auditorium due to the massage our hearts and souls had just been allowed and because the fragility of the human condition was so eloquently on offer to us, I was surprised by the contrast that was to follow. Tacky -- I make no apology this time -- it was so tacky that I questioned throughout the entirety of this next work what happened -- why did he make this work? Of course, I'm talking about Billy Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude," and I do not like what's going on and I do not enjoy having someone fiddle with the centre of gravity. Feeling curiously disturbed by the work, I had to wonder: Was this where Billy was these days, or was this a work that simply sits as a one-off in his repertoire? ( I do hope the latter.) Oh yes it is, I just checked my program notes! It says there's nothing else quite like it. The differences in intellectual propositions, going from Kylian to Forsythe was astounding! Set to Schubert's Symphony No. 9, it was shocking and I thought insulting, but not for coherent reasons that I could come up with at the time of watching it.

During the intermission, I did meet briefly with Jiri. We spoke first of his "Bella Figura," and then I mentioned Billy's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude." I couldn't help but say to him that I found that particular work of Billy's just brutalizing. Jiri told me that Schubert was a countryman of his (Czech) and that this Symphony No. 9 was written in response to a great tragedy that had occurred in his country. Suddenly it all made sense: Billy had gone against the grain of the music, the intention of the composers voice and it SHOWED. This work really stinks, it's a mockery in all aspects -- the work appears farcical, but for the wrong reasons. Sorry, all you Billy fans (I am one too, with a lot of respect for the man), but there's no going back on this one. Oh, but what I will share with you from the program notes is that this ballet was voted BALLET OF THE YEAR in San Francisco, so the really worrying question is: 'WHAT'S GOING ON IN SAN FRANCISCO?'

Twyla Tharp's "In the Upper Room" was performed with exuberance. This is a confident work, hugely popular and known to so many now in the dance world. This is the second time I have seen the company perform this work and "bedded in" they danced it with character and confidence. The work was created in the '80s and is indicative of the consciousness of that period; costumes too!

If you want to know more, then those of you who can make it to the performance should really take the time and go and see this evening of work from some of the giants of the industry for yourselves. It's absolutely worth it. Oh, and did I find the answer to my earlier question about why I was feeling so 'SPIRITUALLY INCLINED TONIGHT.' Well, I think the answer to that may take more than just one evening, and perhaps even more than one lifetime to resolve.

The Australian Ballet's Trilogy 1 program runs until 4 September. Don't miss it!

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