This year marks the return to his birthplace of former Director of The Australian Ballet David McAllister, who is the very welcome Guest Artistic Director of The West Australian Ballet. His first official duty is to be present at the inimitable Quarry to herald the opening night not only of WA Ballet’s first season but of the 2024 Perth Festival.
This opening season features two Australian premiers and one world premier by British choreographers George Williamson (dubbed a rising star of British dance) and the also much lauded David Dawson, regarded as a trend setter on the international ballet scene. To accompany these illustrious offerings is the delicious surprise of the evening, the short but masterful 3 min 40, choreographed by Gakuro Matsui, Principal Dancer of the WA Ballet.
What transpires is a well-calibrated mix of charm, lyricism, and choreographic precision which conspires to show off the exquisite skill, prowess, boundless energy and virtuosity of the company’s dancers.
To watch all this is a privilege in itself; the dance and the dancers were beautiful, but I was left slightly wanting. Wanting something deeper – perhaps as deep as Ohad Naharin (House Choreographer, Batsheva Dance Company) goes in his works, in which he seems to tear the throat out of conventional dance movement, impelling his dancers to yield to sensations most of us have learnt to hide. Something perhaps that Matsui’s does in his exquisite 3 min 40 which you wanted immediately to be repeated. However, that was not the intention I assume of both Dawson and Williamson.
Williamson’s Wonderers (set to Edmund Shaw’s modern punchy music) opens the evening. The stage is silent and dark; then a spotlight, in turn, isolates each dancer (Glenda Garcia Gomez, Morganne Speirs, Sophie McDonald and Lorenzo Lupi) highlighting their rich solo performances which any jewellery box ballerina would die to possess. Later they combine in a flurry of activity around and between the whirlwind duets performed by the incendiary Candice Adea and Adam Alzaim.
Extension to Boom (choreographed by Williamson specifically for The Quarry) draws inspiration from Bryce Dessner’s brilliant Concerto for Two Pianos which Williamson describes as “full of rolling booms and dynamic landscapes” – a phrase you could use to describe what transpires in the vivacious dance movement performed by 12 eloquently light-footed dancers dressed in gem-coloured whisps of costumes designed by in-demand Australian designer Jonathan Hindmarsh.
Created to the haunting piano music of Philip Glass, Metamorphosis does, as Dawson intended, create an aura of space, elegance, clarity and serenity. Dawson is also credited with trying to show not just the outline of dancers’ bodies, but the internal bones and blood and guts that make up the emotional manifestation of a person.
This is beautifully exemplified by the ensemble of 16 dancers dressed in white (designers David Dawson and Eddie Grundy), who soar across the stage rather like the delicate notation on the staves of the piano music Glass plays, but especially by Dayana Hardy Acuna and the deft stylish and consummate Oscar Valdes.
Acuna is exquisite; her graceful spiralling pirouettes seem to sigh into her achingly vulnerable body, while her light-as-a-feather frame courageously abandons herself to the dangerous heights to which Valdes so nonchalantly lifts her. Together they stun you with a spirit that shines through and even overshadows their virtuosity, encouraged no doubt by the guidance of Dawson’s gentle ethos. Metamorphosis is a beautiful, reflective study of, it seems, gentle love.
Matsui’s eclectic 3 min 40 was like a falling star – so brief you nearly missed it, but so stunning your were bereft when it could not longer be seen.
Created to a score by Ennio Morricone exquisitely played by Yo-Yo Ma, it shows in its short minutes the yearning, despair and jealousy of a couple wrenched apart through circumstances beyond their control. Jack Whiter and Kassidy Thompson dressed in stylish grays and blacks (Matsui and Kate Ebsary) were outstanding in their raw passion and searingly intimate pas de deux.
West Australian Ballet’s Metamorphosis is performed at the quarry Amphitheatre until 9 March.