Ethan Switch - Tuesday, 17 May 2005
From a whispering orchestra pit, the sweet sounds rise up into the night and toy with the company of the patrons as they brace themselves in the darkness of the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House. There is a casting sheet with each seat and a synopsis of each act. Never mind that. Everything and anything is interpretive.
The first story of the evening is La Bayadère (The Temple Dancer). Very cautious steps from a line of ballerinas fall as snow flakes from a mountain top. Their patter along is careful, though stilted. Emerging from the back curtain, the seemingly endless array of ballerinas flows down one after another into infinity.
Clockwork to begin with, the procession cautiously step out like musical dolls. Later they blossom in a pond flit as petals on a bed of air. Their role is uncertain, nevertheless it is a wondrous delight to behold. This could be spring.
A lone prince dances to a dream and apparition that is haunting his mind and craves at his heart. There's a sadness to the steps in this tale of love. A love with heartbreak as his soul only finds comfort by the illusion of the moment. Ever to suffer the pain of what could and might have been. Despite all the wonder and beauty that surrounds him, each second strips a part of his heart. All alone in a sea of people. Even a marriage and honeymoon to a beauty doesn't can't hide the fact that he remains deeply drowning in the bowels of a silent sorrow.
Relic features as the second instalment of the program. From under a chandelier and mosquito netting, a woman suffers the torment and torture of her mind. Far more violent and chaotic than the previous act, Relic is an engaging and distant de-evolution of the mind as it dissolves into all sorts of neurosis with demons and devils fighting for their time. The eleven men of this piece wear skirts that adds an almost Egyptian feel to the proceedings. Throw on top of this the general hue and ambience from the lighting and orchestra and it's hard not to think that perhaps the lone ballerina might be a powerful queen.
Not as smooth or as flowing in movement, Relic finds itself having to cope with the power and egos of the men as they jostle for prime position. It is a far more frenetic delivery, resonating with all kinds of power and unbound energy. They seem angry throughout, burning with rage that explodes out into the final dance.
The ballerinas are quite stunning. Their physique is sheer mastery of the human form. Lithe and feathery, they step as though they are merely touching the ground in-between floating from one cloud to the next. The males are equally impressive. Their legs ripple with muscles on muscles in leotards that scream for a full on grope and massage. Their relationship to the floor is inverse to the females, fighting to lift themselves up from the heaviness of their own.
The final act, Suite en blanc, appears to be a thankful gesture toward the heavens and within. With no apparent structure toward a story, Suite en blanc delivers instead an array of dazzling skill and stunning performance. Almost to a degree in which the entire act is nothing more than showcasing the extreme talent and strength of the senior dancers.
The whole theatre is overcome by a relaxing aura, as though it's been lifted up and kissed gently on the lips and held in a warm embrace. Loose and quick, it's a rollicking field of whimsy and joy of ballet. Mirth is definitely in the air as dancers float on and off to a echo of laughs.
Every time a lead takes the centre, they own the whole theatre. They grasp with an iron grip and hold the throats of the audience in awe as they command all of their attention and respect. Each senior dancer seems to rival the last and the one before in a dazzling light of charm and presence.
And then a lovely night is over and the souls in audience shuffle back into their dreary.