Dance Australia

CRITICAL MASS

Susan Bendall (Melbourne) Dance Australia

Highlight of the year

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, presenting Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Lac as part of The Australian Ballet’s 2019 season. This exciting and stimulating reimagining of Swan Lake was invigorating and captivating and magnificently danced.

Stanton Welch’s Sylvia, a co-production between Houston Ballet and The Australian Ballet. This delightful, fun ballet fitted the company perfectly.

Jiri Kylian’s Stamping Ground performed by Bangarra Dance Theatre, marking this 1983 work’s first Australian production. Brilliant, thrilling and moving. The six dancers were fab (Lillian Banks, Baden Hitchcock, Rita Hamagouchi, Ella Havelka, Tyrel Dulvarie and Ryan Pearson).

Most significant dance event

I can‘t go past the 30 year anniversary of Bangarra Dance Theatre and reflect on the great pleasure this company has given over the years and what a wonderful and unique choreographic DNA it has created.

Sydney Dance Company has clocked up a magnificent 50 years.

Most outstanding choreography

Stanton Welch for Sylvia – delightful, cheeky and intricate movement.

Best new work

Melanie Lane’s remarkable Woof as part of Sydney Dance Company’s Season One. A masterful, mature and richly textured work.

Stephanie Lake’s Skeleton Tree. This is structurally different from previous works by Lake in that it is a series of meditations anchored by a piece of music or song.

Most outstanding dancer

Marcus Morelli as Eros in Stanton Welch’s Sylvia for The Australian Ballet – impish and explosive.

Dancers James O’Hara, Nicola Leahey and Marlo Benjamin were wonderful, subtle and intricate transmitters of the moods and phases of death, dying and grief in Stephanie Lake’s Skeleton Tree. The acting was remarkably affecting too, especially from Leahey, whose facial expressions conveyed so much.

Boos!

The cancellation of the Australian Dance Awards due to its financial unsustainability. Ausdance has done a valiant job in keeping this important industry marker of achievement going against the odds, but in the face of inadequate funding, the difficult decision to focus on core advocacy had to be made. [Since this Survey was compiled, Ausdance has said the awards will continue – see next column.]

The lack of sufficient real, paid job-opportunities for graduating dancers – well exemplified by the running model used by Melbourne City Ballet and the resultant collapse of that company. How can we better serve our emerging talent?

On a lighter note – when will the fashion for pink tights worn over leotards ever end? Seriously! Put the unders back under!

Standing ovation

The inaugural Emerging Female Classical Choreographer initiative – a collaboration between the Sydney Opera House, The Australian Ballet and Dance Australia.

We need to nurture our emerging female makers in the classical idiom, and this is a great start.

Bodytorque Atelier, The Australian Ballet’s annual choreographic season, for giving emerging choreographers a chance to make and show work using artists of The Australian Ballet in a chamber environment. What a marvellous thing it was to have live music (provided by members of Orchestra Victoria) to accompany these accomplished works.

The reinstatement of Ausdance National after a decision to close – this also means that the Australian Dance Awards will run afterall.

Chris Boyd (Melbourne) The Australian

Highlight of the year

It’s increasingly hard to separate one Hofesh Shechter piece from another. (And we’ve seen almost all of them in Australia.) But Grand Finale (Melbourne Festival) feels like the culmination – the apotheosis – of all that repetition; of all that work. I’ve gotta say, I’m heartily sick of watching big men throw small women around as if they were corpses or sex dolls… had I not been seated in the centre of a 50-seat row, I might have stormed out. But, at the very end, I stood. Everybody stood. Stamped. Cheered. Night after night after night. It’s a mighty and, yes, unforgettable work.

Most significant dance event

Angela Conquet’s departure from Dancehouse is (by her own account) amicable – she did not seek a second renewal of her contract – but her loss is a blow. Her curatorial skills – her ability to combine works to highlight choreographic and artistic influences and movements – are unmatched locally.

Most interesting Australian independent group or artist

Keep an eye out for Perth-born Kayla Douglas. Her A Study of Being (Melbourne Fringe, Dancehouse) was bold, fascinating, gripping, mysterious and genuinely dramatic. It’s the kind of work you could turn into a Netflix series!

Most interesting

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