Melbourne Ballet Company

Concourse Theatre, Sydney, March 12

Melbourne Ballet Company’s new triple bill Being & Time has lofty aspirations. It takes its title from Martin Heidegger and its themes from existentialism, or at least that is what one gathers from the program notes, which baffle more than they enlighten. In the case of MBC resident director Simon Hoy’s Dasein there is talk of “authentic being” explored though the analysis of random movement and gesture; Lucas Jervies wants his Four Ballet to show conflicting relationships “between the body and/or inanimate objects”.

In the event, Dasein is a gaudy, relentlessly on-the-beat dance that revealed nothing about its performers, who were in any case locked in mortal combat for attention with the dominating projections behind them. Four Ballet is sleek in a twisty, juddery style incorporating classical shapes and gives little away. Its quartet of dancers looked cool and composed, with Kristy Lee Denovan standing out. Jervies is a very experienced hand who knows how to keep interest going by alternating solo spots with duos or groups but I was rather dismayed to see the one male (Alexander Baden Bryce) in the quartet asked to fling the women from him and, at one point, place his foot on a woman’s back. What this was meant to reveal remained hidden.

MBC_Being_&_Time_Four_Ballet_pic_ Ron_Fung
Lucas Jervies’s Four Four Ballet. Photo: Ron Fung

Both pieces were performed to electronic music (respectively Ben Prunty and Ólafur Arnalds; Adam Ster) that increased a sense of emotional distance. Both were danced in soft shoes, as was Tim Podesta’s Architecture of Loss, by far the pick of this short program, which runs to less than an hour of dance in total.

Architecture of Loss, for five dancers, was billed as a world premiere. It seems to have had its genesis last year as a solo for Mara Galeazzi, the former Royal Ballet principal artist who, despite being based in Oman with her family, collaborates closely with Podesta, who is based in Wodonga, on the Victorian-NSW border. They work around the world on dance projects as M&T In Motion and Galeazzi came to Sydney to appear in Architecture of Loss. She will also dance at the next port of call, Wodonga, and give master classes there at Podesta’s Regional Academy of Performing Arts.

Galeazzi still appears a guest artist with the Royal from time to time and will dance in Woolf Works when the RB visits Brisbane in June and July.

MBC_Mara Galeazzi_Being&Time_Architecture_of_Loss_pic Slava Samodurov
Mara Galeazzi in an earlier incarnation of Architecture of Loss. Photo: Slava Samodurov

Architecture of Loss, performed to music by Valgeir Sigurdsson, is an affecting piece in which individuals seek connection and solace while couples love and battle and is built around Galeazzi’s dramatic gifts. Her opening solo fully and forcefully embodied the idea of painful isolation and longing. Denovan, a former member of The Australian Ballet (she was then Kristy Corea) was deeply evocative in her introspective duo with Robbie Moorcroft and Chloe Henderson added a touch of fire in a combative interaction with Luke Mangraviti.

As seen in Sydney, Architecture of Loss sagged structurally, undoubtedly as a result of last-minute adjustments having to be made when American guest artist Joseph Phillips became injured late last week. Mangriviti was hastily brought in and made a strong impression in what was clearly a truncated part.

Phillips has had an interesting career, dancing with a clutch of important US companies including American Ballet Theatre before joining the State Primorsky Theatre of Opera and Ballet (as it was then known) in Vladivostok, Russia, where he is a principal artist. That company is now connected with St Petersburg’s Mariinsky and was last year renamed the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre.

I am told Phillips, a former colleague of Hoy’s from many years back, will be able to appear when Architecture of Loss is presented at Hawthorn Art Centre at the end of the month, although Galeazzi will not perform there. Her role at the three performances will be taken by MBC dancers.

Footnote: Queensland Ballet this week announced that principal artist Clare Morehen will leave the company after its upcoming contemporary bill, Raw, which opens on March 17 with works by Christopher Bruce, Greg Horsman and QB’s new artistic associate, Liam Scarlett. She has been with QB for 13 years. Morehen, who trained at the Victorian College of the Arts and the Royal Ballet School, will now concentrate on contemporary ballet and contemporary dance. Her first post-QB assignment is with Podesta and Galeazzi’s M&T In Motion and The Covent Garden Dance Company on a work to premiere in London mid-year. Small world, ballet.

There are further performances of Being & Time in Wodonga (March 17 and 18) and Hawthorn (March 29-31).

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