When one thinks of the ballet, one thinks of stiff tutus, lavish sets and rigid spines. The Australian Ballet’s Vanguard defies these expectations with three distinct works that feature bare breasts, unadorned sets and experimental choreography.
Each work in this triptych of dance styles was, in its day, a revolutionary contribution to the ballet canon. 'The Four Temperaments' opens with a simple blue backdrop. The sublime principal artist Andrew Killian scurries on with Amy Harris and both dance with cold precision to a howling violin. A 1947 creation of Soviet ballet legend George Balanchine, this first piece is mechanical and offbeat, as if the dancers are marionette puppets with tangled strings.
In Dutch choreographer Jiří Kylián’s dramatic and provocative 'Bella Figura', men and women both dance bare-chested in billowing red skirts. Dancers bump hips, interweave arms, pirouette and melt onto one another like pieces of wax. Miwako Kubota shines in a sensual girl-on-girl duet with Ingrid Gow, the intensity of the moment intensified by a crackling fire that lights behind them. With the haunting atmosphere of an opera, this one-act ballet is a stirring and divine explosion of passion.
The final work is a manic, dizzying swarm of polka dots and black and white leotards. Choreographed in 2009 by the Royal Ballet’s Wayne McGregor, 'Dyad 1929' forces its dancers to transition from one peculiar pose to the next, in a style of movement somehow smooth and staccato at once. Rather than telling a story, the simplicity of the staging and costume allows the swirling calligraphy of the dancers' limbs to make its own statement.
Don’t go hoping for Swan Lake, but you can expect high drama of an altogether different ilk. With its delightfully bizarre choreography and flawless execution, Vanguard is a celebration of the human body, its infinite range of movement and our ability to tell stories through that movement.
Read our interview with artistic director David McAllister.