THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET
June 14, 2012
The Australian Ballet breezed into Lincoln Center for a one-week season bringing along a company of 69 dancers. Opening night, the company unveiled an evening of mixed repertory. As a re-introduction to the company down-under, film clips colored in a story of a country visited and inspired by traveling ballet companies that carried stars like Anna Pavlova and Rudolf Nureyev to the continent in the Pacific. Native talent was marshaled onto the dance stage when Peggy Van Praagh founded Australia Ballet in 1962.
Excerpts of works introducing company members and repertory interrupted the narrated film and epic-sounding live musical accompaniment. Despite opening night gitters, well-grounded dancers bounded through classic and contemporary excerpts including a perky Don Quixote (pas de deux) featuring Reiko Hombo and Chengwu Guo, and Stanton Welch’s “Divergence” tautly led by Leanne Stojmenov and Rudy Hawkes.
An invigorating Dyad 1929 by Wayne McGregor took advantage of the company’s athleticism. Wide gapped leaps bumped next to side-jutted hips, and flexed feet extending the angular shapes that erupted in spurts and spatters. Evidently, McGregor’s inspiration for the piece points to great cultural pioneers like Sergei Diaghilev, and maverick explorers like Ernest Shackleton. Set to Steve Reich’s “Double Sextet” the company succeeded in amplifying the choreography’s ticks and non-sequitur passages.
The final piece in a nearly three-hour program drew on the wonder of Australia’s aboriginal ancestors. Choreographed by Stephen Page in association with the Australian Ballet, “Warumuk—in the dark night” gathered all the forces of the real and spirit world and folded them into the mythic recesses of the country. Movements more attuned to modern dance unveiled weighted torsos over bent knees traveling over a haunting soundtrack (reminiscent at times of Native American music) by David Page.
Visual elements by Jacob Nash underscored by Padraig O Suilleabhain’s lighting reflected the deep darkness and expansive infinity of space and earth. Tribal elements linked groups of people together who moved in packs, climbing up and over one another while silently inscribing each section with universal harmony.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis