50 years isn’t a long time in the life of any country, but when compared with Australia’s short history, it seems like a lifetime. Since the middle of last century, our isolated country at the end of the world has come into its own, becoming a more contemporary player and a renowned world player in the arts, theatre, music and dance.
Over two nights this week, The Australian Ballet demonstrated this evolution to New York audiences in three mesmerising acts.
The first act, Infinity, detailed the introduction of Ballet in Australia’s and its shaky beginnings in 1962. At the time, the introduction of ballet to a rough Aussie landscape seemed an unfathomable and was demonstrated with video documentary of the early days of Ballet in Australia was shown between short pieces from classical ballets such as La Favorita, Don Quixote and Molto Vivace.
But as a country with a national signature dessert, named after a Russian ballerina, the importance of ballet in Australia cannot be denied.
Today, The Australian Ballet is recognised as one of the world’s major international companies. Audiences were reminded of The Australian Ballet’s grasp of contemporary ballet through the next act, Dyad 1929. A homage to the Ballets Russes by British Choreographer Wayne McGregor, Dyad 1929 It focuses on two contrasting yet complementary ideas on two sides of the world – London in 1909 and Melbourne in 1929. It is inspired by the first Antarctic expedition and the first flight over the South Pole, bringing the ideas of exploration, British and even American connections together in one beautiful (and modern) piece.
In the final act, Waramuk – in the dark night, The Australian Ballet teamed up with the Bangarra Dance Theatre to deliver a piece based on the myths of the Yolngu families of North East Arnhem Land. The music, a combination of Yolngu songs and live orchestra, sets the perfect backdrop for a feast of Aboriginal and contemporary dance merged together as one. At one point, as the stage set lit up with a traditional representation of a night sky, members of the audience gasped audibly.
And so, without one sighting of boomerangs, meat pies or Fosters, The Australian Ballet served to remind audiences that Australia is a serious player in the contemporary art world.
This is the first time The Australian Ballet has performed in New York City since 1999. They will be performing Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake at Lincoln Centre through this weekend – tonight and tomorrow night, as well as Saturday and Sunday matinees. You can find out more information and purchase tickets by visiting The Australian Ballet in New York website. For those who don’t know, Graeme Murphy’s version reimagines the tale as loosely based on the love triangle between Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.