by Tisara Pathiranage
The Australian Ballet School does not disappoint with its showcase, Summer Season 2019. Set in the Arts Centre’s intimate yet opulent Playhouse theatre, the showcase presents routines from all year levels of students of the prestigious Melbourne ballet school. There is a pleasant variety of contemporary, character and classical ballet performances. The artistic interpretation and athletic skill of each and every dancer is to an excellent standard that is a shame to be missed, for ballet enthusiasts and novices alike. It is deeply enthralling to watch the best of Melbourne’s passionate young ballet dancers in their element. It has been noted that the Australian Ballet School’s graduating class of 2019 (Level 8 students of the school) are an exceptionally brilliant cohort, with 80% of the graduating students having already been offered professional contracts.
The showcase selects a delightful assortment of pieces, combining contemporary and classical ballet. The first Act showcases over 4 different performances, with a running time of under 30 minutes. The second act, after a 20 minute intermission, takes the Audience through Act III of Sleeping Beauty, running for approximately 60 minutes. The second Act involves a larger cast and performs the traditional choreography of Marius Pepita.
The costuming choices in the first Act were simplistic yet very effective. The handful of performances were delivered with professionalism, with stage transitions between the short and lively pieces being effective and swift. The use of props throughout this act were minimal. The illumination of the dancers against the dark backdrop during “Journey” allowed the audience to be captivated by the expressiveness of the students’ faces while delivering this piece. In other lighter-hearted works such as the Tarantella, the lighting was equally complimentative.
Some honourable mentions to performances in the first Act include:
It was obvious that these students were senior level students of the school, as they showed maturity far beyond their years in this delivery. The dancers were extremely honest and open, under the sublime choreographic direction of Margeret Wilson. All students showed impressive use of epaulement (carriage of the upper body, head and neck) that is rarely witnessed in the Australian community dance scene. It communicates greatly the high calibre of dancers nurtured at the School.
The vibrancy and energy of all dancers throughout this piece was phenomenal, leaving the audience beaming in their seats. The choreography of Character ballet footwork was executed to an excellent standard, leaving it clear to the audience that these dancers are classically trained across the entire skill-set needed to be professional dancers of the classical ballet world.
Featuring a whole routine on demi pointe was, again, a testament to the Australian Ballet School’s exceptional standard of classical technique. The Level 4 dancers showed excellent foot articulation and port de bra (carriage of the arms and body). As a large group number, the lines and stage management was fast-paced and very entertaining to follow.
The students performed this short Sylvia variation with precise articulation of feet on pointe. The costuming decision was complimentary to the daintiness of the classical choreography.
The curtain opened to a stage scattered with nimble feet, couruing (shimmering the feet lightly on pointe) rapidly. The simplistic lightweight tutus moved in unison with the dancers, portraying the gentle murmuration of birds through Richard House’s whimsical choreography.
The second act was comprised of the Royal Wedding, from Act III of Sleeping Beauty.
The stage presence, classical ballet technique, character ballet and mime skills of all the level 7 and 8 dancers was exceptional and very comparable to the professional dancers in the Company.
Prince and Aurora delivered performances of flawless professionalism and artistry. The Pepita choreography was executed perfectly by Prince (Adam Elmes) and Aurora (Belle Urwin), with special mention of the magnificent lifts in the pas de deux.
Noting some minimal stumbles to an otherwise flawless performance, the noted that these stumbles occurred in dancers with larger choreographic loads, but towards the end of their section, it was clear that stumbles weren’t due to absence of technique.
The Lilac (Amelia Dawe) and Golden Vine (Lilla Harvey) fairies executed their variations to a pleasing standard. The Violet (Leisel Rose) and Canary fairies (Matilda Ballantyne) impressed with astoundingly rapid bourree`s en pointe in their respective variations. The reviewer’s personal favourite was the 2nd sister’s variation. Ines Hargreaves was extremely quick on her feet, showing astounding energy and neat footwork, as well as excellent character delivery. The cats showed a fascinating interaction in their variation, with high comical and mime value of the performance.
Despite being a long act, the dancers pulled off each section with enthusiasm that had the audience enthralled. The use of sets and costuming for Sleeping Beauty, was, as anticipated, to Company standard.
Overall, all the choreography in the Australian Ballet School’s Summer Season 2019 was executed with commendable commitment and performance value. All the students involved should be immensely proud of their efforts. The passion of all the young dancers was incredibly evident and compliments are given to all the artistic Australian Ballet School staff involved in training the young dancers for this phenomenal display of classical artistry. It is anticipated that as these senior students transition into the Company, Melbourne can look forward to some excellent 2020 performances.
STAGE MANAGEMENT: 5/5