Review | WA Ballet rein-‘STATE’ magic to Perth audiences

STATE | Heath Ledger Theatre | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Under the soft golden light of the State Theatre Centre, the West Australian Ballet held their opening night of STATE – a new three-bill production of contemporary ballet works, featuring some internationally renowned creatives such as Melanie Lane, and Graeme Murphy – to name but a few!

This ambitious project sparks an increased season for the WA Ballet, which reflects the tenacity of the Company’s Artistic Direction. “Dancers strain their whole lives to be on-stage, and to now have another season gives them a new experience to shine and our audiences a new opportunity to escape, to feel, and to express which is so important,” says Aurelien Scannella.

As the house lights dim, and the thick velvet curtains rise, the audience is whisked away to a bistro in France as the first dynamic work begins:

GAINSBOURG

Following on from previously crafted works – of which audiences may be familiar (Genesis 2018) – comes Adam Alzaim’s expanded storybook featuring compositions by Serge Gainsbourg. From its inception around a lunch table, surrounded by friends and colleagues, to the mainstage of the Heath Ledger Theatre – GAINSBOURG is a patchwork of energetic movements to French Jazz and the sensual tones of its namesake.

Fans of his earlier works will pick up seamlessly on his iconic-pantomine style and marionette movements – but will equally be impressed by the beauty and chic design of his costumes.

Fans of classical ballet will be thrilled with the incorporation of familiar movements, whilst also testing their perceptions on contemporary ballet. GAINSBOURG is not just Alzaim’s stamp on the dance industry, but also a psychological terrarium into his artistic mind – one that would have inspired even Moliere, and so, should not be missed!

“I’ve always had a knack for impersonations, people used to tell me I could make a living out of it. I guess you could call it therapy,” says Alzaim.

SLOW HAUNT

This new creation by Helpmann Award nominee Choreographer, Melanie Lane, is a powerful collaboration with digital music creator CLARK. This haunting depiction examines themes of desire, vengeance, and eternity whilst inspiring thoughts on Javanese life-death-rebirth concepts.

The introduction features a veiled cast of spectres, moving amongst the fog, jilted and forever passing in the night. Each movement is precise, clean, and ethereal, as the light fabric clings to the silhouettes of psychopomp figures as they traverse the underworld. The piece then slips into a story of wondering souls, forever lost and searching for their loved ones. Statuesque movements portray the skill and strength of clear ballet techniques – and at times envision the evolution of man, or more simply, the arc tales of Heroes and Heroines.

Borne from the imagery of Giselle, Slow Haunt is a beautifully tragic depiction, and excellent collaboration between Christopher Clark (original score), Akira Isogawa (costume designer), and Damien Cooper (lighting designer) – of whose work makes the audience feel like Death is always watching and baring down on the dancers.

AIR AND OTHER INVISIBLE FORCES

This final, ethereal piece, by Graeme Murphy is a testament to classical ballet in a contemporary setting.

The elegant movements from dancers shift and caress the space like any invisible force – including the emotion that awakens within the audience. Silence throughout, this piece transported viewers into a mythical realm of romantic beauty (and tragedy). Combined with costumes, staging, design, and technique – the various works within Air and Other Invisible Forces allude to nymphs and other elementals from classic literature: playful spirits, that love deeply – even to their own tragic ends.

Murphy channels Kancheli’s Mourned by the Wind: “probably a page, a blank page containing a faint trace of dried tears could tell us everything about the content of this liturgy …” as the audience experiences the soaring depths of emotion made manifest in physical, altruistic beauty.

Whether you’re a fan of comedy, alternative, or even classical ballet; STATE has a chapter designed for everyone in this most engaging, and thrilling, new conception.

You can purchase tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime season of STATE via waballet.com.au (available until 3 July)

Joshua Haines

Dedicated to the memory of Lucette Aldous AC | 1938 – 2021


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