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‘Vanguard’ Review

On Friday June 14, I saw The Australian Ballet‘s production of Vanguard, a triple bill featuring George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Jiri Kylián’s Bella Figura and Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929.

I suppose I should start with saying that I am not a big fan of abstract contemporary works. I love new/contemporary/modern classical works by choreographers such as Stanton Welsh and Graeme Murphy, but stuff that’s plain abstract, well, for a start I don’t get it, and secondly, I just find it a lot harder to enjoy. Sometimes I wonder a little why I bother going to the contemporary triple bills, but I suppose it’s good to see TAB in all their styles and works, rather than just the more strictly classical pieces, but I digress…

Pay what you can ballet!

The night started with Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. The was the first Balanchine ballet I have seen, and I did enjoy this one. It is very 1946, and that is clear in the style of dance and the basic costumes. I can see how, in 1946, The Four Temperaments would have been quite controversial and different. We had a great cast, all of who were technically brilliant. Despite not understanding what the piece was really about, this was still my favourite piece of the night.

Vanguard from the orchestra pit

After first interval was Kylián’s Bella Figura. Like The Four Temperaments, this was the first piece by Kylián that I’ve seen. I find it very difficult to enjoy a piece when I have a problem with one (or more) of the design elements, in this case, the costuming. I really don’t know why the girls had to be completely topless for part of the piece. Why? Why not just put them in flesh-coloured tops? Guys, fine, it’s generally not a night at the ballet until at least someone gets his shirt of (or there are a LOT of tight white pants), but girls? I don’t know. Afterwards that my aunty explained that the piece was all about making shapes with the body, but I still didn’t really enjoy it. The best part was the Stabat Mater in C Minor part of the score, sung beautifully by Jacqueline Porter and Russell Harcourt.

The final piece was Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929. I didn’t understand this at all. I know it’s supposed to be homage to the Ballet Russe, but I’ve seen Ballet Russe-ballets and I don’t understand how this is supposed to be related. I also know that Wayne McGregor has no classical ballet training and all that – but I just didn’t enjoy this piece. That’s not to say that it was bad, because technically, it was very good, I just didn’t like the music or the costumes or the set or the choreography. I have seen other Wayne McGregor pieces that I have liked. This one didn’t do it for me.

So, overall, I suppose that seeing triple-bills like Vanguard must be taken for what they are. Technically, I think I’ve seldom seen TAB better. But this programme just wasn’t for me.

★★★

Up next: Jesus Christ Superstar The Arena Spectacular.

(All photos belong to The Australia Ballet)

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