Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Faster - The Australian Ballet

Below is my Herald Sun review of Faster, published 21 March

They don’t get the same recognition as sporting folk, but dancers are athletes in their own right. Their training is relentless and their drive to succeed is fierce. 

Opening the 2017 season, Faster is The Australian Ballet’s ode to that endurance and strength. It’s a triple bill of varying works that showcase the Australian Ballet en masse, allowing lesser seen dancers to strut their stuff and principals to duet with different partners than usual.

Trio of Runners in Faster, Photo by Jeff Busby
The headlining work (made for the 2012 Olympics) comes from David Bintley and what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in shear crowd-pleasing energy. Dancers dressed as competitors- swimmers, runners, fencers - come thick and fast in a vocabulary mixing blatant sport imitation and fairly cliched ballet tropes, all to Matthew Hindson’s driving score. While it doesn’t hit choreographic heights, it contains eye catching moments like Ako Kondo and Andrew Killian's duet and the lycra-clad running ensembles’ swinging legs and scissoring arms in large scale unison. 

The Australian Ballet in Faster, Photo by Jeff Busby

The energy doesn’t let up in resident choreographer Tim Harbour’s Squander and Glory where 14 dancers become 28 in a large mirrored backdrop (by Kelvin Ho) that not only creates continual body doubles, but also reveals a large abstract sculpture behind. It’s a non-stop flow of angling limbs and quickly changing linear patterns, with Michael Gordon’s accompanying music, just as fierce, pushing the action to a point of (literal) collapsed exhaustion. 

Ensemble of Squander and Glory, Photo by Jeff Busby

After such bigness, Wayne McGregor’s more subtle and nuanced Infra is a calm breath. Above stage, a LED projection of pedestrians suggests a train station in which a coming and going of people unfolds. McGregor’s trademark sinuey, long-limbed post modern style is complex, abstracted movement that has the tendency towards formality rather than emotion. But here, in combination with Max Richter's music and clever staging of many variations on the duet, it is quite moving, with many stand out couples and solos. 

Jarryd Madden and Leanne Stojmenov in Infra, Photo by Jeff Busby

Infra is the most understated work of the bill but also the most powerful, proving that athleticism relies as much on restraint and technical control as muscular energy. 

***1/2 Stars

State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
17-27 March

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