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A trio of delights from The Australian Ballet
The Australian Ballet's second Adelaide program was an interesting mix of pure dance and rumbustious comedy. The program featured 3 short ballets choreographed by the great English artist Frederic Ashton.
The opening piece, Monotones II, gave us three members of the corps de ballet in skin tight white bodysuits performing almost gymnastic movements to the music of Erik Satie. The minimal set and the austere costumes became almost hypnotic as the supple dancers wove their way around each other. A very demanding work for young dancers, it was a competent piece despite being a tad off balance in parts.
Symphonic Variations was originally written in 1946 by Frederic Ashton for the legendary Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet (now The Royal Ballet). Six dancers (3 male, 3 female) perform a series of intricate movements to the music of Cesar Franck, for solo piano and orchestra.
Pianist Stuart Macklin perfectly captures the subtle flow of movement as the figures in their slightly Romanesque togas and short skirts gracefully execute the complex elements of pure dance. The sheer physicality of the performance is always amazing as these slender young men lift and carry their partners as if they were weightless, a fact belied by the glisten of sweat on their bare torsos. And they still managed to smile throughout!
The third part of this program was Ashton's interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare and proved to be a lighthearted romp with, once again, some impressive dancing by principal dancers Madeleine Eastoe and Kevin Jackson, as the Fairy Queen and King. They struck just the right notes as the wilful, imperious Queen Titania tussling with the haughty and disdainful King Oberon and their last pas de deux was outstanding, a fitting finale for Eastoe's farewell performance.
However, for this ballet, the audience favourite was the cheeky and mischievous Puck, danced superbly by Chengwu Guo with verve and wit. The character of Bottom (Joseph Chapman) is a difficult one, as the performer must spend an extended period en pointe, unusually for a male dancer, as well as working with a large ass's head on his shoulders, which must make it somewhat difficult to see! But not only did he accomplish this successfully, he even managed a clever transformation from gawky peasant to humorous animal.
The complicated score by Felix Mendelssohn was, again, beautifully interpreted by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Nicolette Fraillon, with some lovely choral work from Aurora, the senior vocal ensemble of Young Adelaide Voices. All in all, another thoroughly enjoyable night out, ending an all too short Adelaide season for the ever-popular Australian Ballet.