“All for your delight”

Recently landed: “All for your delight”, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) takes you to the moonlit forest of Queensland Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Edwin Landseer, Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Titania and Bottom, oil on canvas, 1848–51

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Recently landed: But a Dream, Gracia's written response to Queensland Ballet's A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for Fjord Review

As soft as a white rabbit’s fur: Edwin Landseer’s Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Titania and Bottom (1848–51). In a down of fur, the painting, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, depicts Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, besotted with Bottom, who has recently been reshaped into an ass, from William Shakespeare’s comedy of misplacement. A fairy queen and an ass, two, of opposite realms, entwined and for all to see, in the fairy dell, accompanied by the requisite fairy folk and white rabbits, and on the red wall of the salon room. In an engraving of Titania and Bottom by Henry Fuseli they, too, are encircled by a cast of magical inhabitants, and the print of ink assumes the blush of a rose. To look at both is to cross into the fairy realm. And now I shall add to this Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, created in 2016, in co-production between Queensland Ballet and Royal New Zealand Ballet.

To a silvered photograph of Vivian Leigh as Titania (on stage at the Old Vic Theatre in 1937), her right arm extended, her gaze following its line, Queensland Ballet’s Laura Hidalgo, in ethereal gown. From Frederick Ashton’s delirious ass en pointe within The Dream to Judi Dench as a loved-up, painted in green fairy queen in the Peter Hall film of 1968, my Midsummer wunderkammer continues to grow. Seated in Her Majesty’s Theatre on opening night, I am accompanied by all of these versions of Titania and Bottom. The moonlit forest I entered was a familiar one, and yet it was not. I knew I would meet old friends. I anticipated couples to be spun into complicated scenarios. I was expecting to be as bewildered as if I was also beneath a spell. Fairies, and Changlings, and Lovers, oh mischief!

Upon a stage made iridescent by fairy benevolence, Queensland Ballet have brought this magic to Melbourne on tour. First performed by Queensland Ballet in 2016, with set and costume design by Tracy Grant Lord, the palette may be brighter than a glow-stick, but it wears its heart upon its wing. In Scarlett’s choreography, the cast of characters, from Cobwebb and Moth to Lovers contrary, in the few moments they did pause, they did so in a circular formation, echoing Landseer and Fuseli’s compositions. And Oberon, performed by Victor Estévez, sported exaggerated winged eye makeup not so dissimilar to the photographic still of Leigh. See and hear the cymbals and triangles upon his arrival! There are, and will continue to be, many versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and for them to work, for me, they must be infused with Shakespeare’s own lines plucked from the page: “Our true intent is. All for your delight”. And delight it was.

 Laura Hidalgo and artists from Queensland Ballet perform  A Midsummer Night’s Dream  (image credit: David Kelly)

Laura Hidalgo and artists from Queensland Ballet perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream (image credit: David Kelly)

The curve of a muscle

Recently landed: The curve of a muscle, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) goes epic in The Australian Ballet’s Spartacus

The Australian Ballet's Kevin Jackson as Spartacus and Jake Mangakahia as Hermes in Lucas Jervies’ Spartacus, 2018 (image credit: Jeff Busby)

Looped, into infinity

Our exhibition, Looped, loops into infinity. Hurrah!

Our stone cats and a netsuke mouse have been minding their Ps and Qs since August 2017, and we are delighted that our #GraciaLouiseLooped inhabitants, like those within A warmed pebble in my hand, are staying in the dome dais indefinitely.

Thank-you State Library Victoria.

Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison, A warmed pebble in my hand, an artists’ book on display as part of Looped, in the La Trobe Reading Room of State Library of Victoria

The Australian Ballet's Spartacus

Recently landed: Rise Again, Gracia's written response to The Australian Ballet's Spartacus, for Fjord Review

“Broken necks, splattered patellas, severed arteries: These are the things from which dreams are made of”, according to former professional wrestler, Road Warrior Hawk (ring name of Michael Hegstrand, 1957–2003). Said fellow former professional wrestler Cactus Jack (ring name of Mick Foley, 1965–), “if the Gods could build me a ladder to the heavens, I'd climb up the ladder and drop a big elbow on the world”. They might have been talking about old school wrestling, but on Tuesday night, their words could easily be re-moulded around the hulking form of Lucas Jervies’ world premiere of Spartacus created on The Australian Ballet in 2018.

At the 8th performance of
Spartacus parallels to wrestling were shaped in place of Kirk Douglas brandishing a sword in Stanley Kubrick’s 1960s film of the same name. Spartacus was upfront, hand-to-hand, body-to-body combat, which, under the fight direction of Nigel Poulton, left no room to hide. But the fighting throughout was not there solely to entertain the makeshift arena of Melbourne’s State Theatre. Less, blood as spectacle, more, honesty in the face of omnipresent power. When not marvelling at the choreographed battles between gladiators, and, in particular, Ty King-Wall’s Crassus and poster boy, in and out of the theatre, Kevin Jackson as an exceedingly ripped Spartacus, it was the Meditations or spiritual reflections of Roman emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius (AD 121–180), who wrote, “the best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury”, which etched the muscle.

The very choreography within Spartacus appeared shaped around the curve of a muscle, with arms arcing the line of a bulging bicep or sharp like the cut of a deltoid. Visual references to the movement of wrestling allowed a new lexicon into the arena, with Jackson’s Spartacus anchored to and of the earth. Every palm that hammered the stage, every fist planted into the sand, every movement stretched like an arrow in a bow being drawn within the body’s casing forged a reconnection to purpose. Jackson’s Spartacus was the body as a weapon, but it was deeper than that. Jackson embodied an earthly gladiator of great moral sinew, his weighted stoicism in stark relief to a golden-fronted, power-soaked King-Wall, whose movements were of the air, upward and with self-appointed, god-like mis-leanings.

The Australian Ballet’s Robyn Hendricks and Kevin Jackson in Spartacus (image credit: Jeff Busby)

The story we need to be told

Recently landed: The story we need to be told, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) reads the form mapped between the stars in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Dark Emu

Bangarra Dance Theatre's Dark Emu, 2018 (image credit: Daniel Boud)

An illusion of lightness

Recently landed: An illusion of lightness, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) spins you back to the forest where Myrtha and her glow of Willis mean business: you will dance to your death

The Australian Ballet's Valerie Tereshchenko as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, in Giselle, 2018 (image credit: Jeff Busby)

Bangrarra Dance Theatre's Dark Emu

Recently landed: The Emu in the Sky, Gracia's written response to Bangarra Dance Theatre's Dark Emu, for Fjord Review

Up in the sky there is a giant emu. They have been there all along, in the calendar in the sky. Above our heads, a creator spirit, their long form stretches in the dust clouds of the Milky Way from the Coalsack to beyond Scorpius.2And this is where Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Dark Emu begins. Looking up. Connected. Looking back. Connected. Looking forward. Connected. Like the emu detectable in the night sky, which has been there all along.

Defined not by stars, but by the dark smudges in between. If this were a drawing, we’d say the emu was there in the negative space, in the background. And if this were a dance, which it is, we’d say this is where it begins, and, being cyclical, where it will pass by again as it continues its rotation. Reading the form mapped between the stars: a whole new world opens up before my eyes. Moreover, if this were life, which it most certainly is, we’d say, as expressed by Yolande Brown, one of the choreographers of Dark Emu, together with director Stephen Page, Daniel Riley, and the dancers of Bangarra, “these are stories, ideas and practices we should all be able to access, learn from and respect…. As Australians awaken from a kind of collective amnesia”, Dark Emu is the conversation we need to have, the story we need to be told, the relearning that needs to occur.

“The Emu, as seen by the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi, changed in position from season to season, as the Milky Way containing the Emu changed position in the night sky. As the Emu changes position, it alters in appearance, and that appearance has connections to cultural and resource matters”. Once you’ve spotted the emu, the sky cannot look the same afterwards. And this, in many ways is true of Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture, the 2014 seminal book by Bruce Pascoe, and the recent work, Dark Emu by Bangarra: once you read the true history, things cannot look the same. Both book and dance expose the hunter-gather label of colonialisation for the myth it indeed is. Both illuminate how pre-colonial Aboriginal people interacted with the land, and the interconnectedness of all things. Where the former is a book recounting “the success and achievements of Aboriginal Australia”, the latter is the beating heart, and though both are stand-alone works, they should be experienced as one. Or rather, reading one inspires you to see the other, and vice versa.

Yolanda Lowatta in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Dark Emu (image credit: Daniel Boud)

The Australian Ballet's Giselle

Recently landed: Ethereal Giselle, Gracia's written response to The Australian Ballet's Giselle, for Fjord Review

Light and dark, day and night, youth and maturity, a flirtation and redemption, naturalistic and ethereal: Giselle spins a conjuror’s trick all the wilier for its very familiarity, its everlasting allurement.

An autumnal village presented in Act I flips to reveal the ballet blanc of Act II: two halves of a whole. We know this, we anticipate this, we lap it up. Fermented in honey before interval, raising a flagon of mead to love, and even love’s folly, and unpinned madness, we heed the warnings spun to the villagers. The flipside to a light-hearted Peasant pas de deux is heartache and mourning. We are cognisant of the fact that when we return to our seats in the theatre, the scene will have changed. Light for dark. Day for night. Of the earth for beyond this realm. A village for the darkest forest floor of folkloric apparitions who demand you dance to your death. Raise your flagon of mead for raise your ghostly spirits, cloaked in a shawl spun by otherworldly spiders.

True to a magic trick, in the Australian Ballet’s 259th performance of Maina Gielgud’s production of Giselle: how is it that I had not really noticed Hilarion, a forester (gamekeeper) before? Giselle and Count Albrecht make a ballet classic, but Giselle and Hilarion could have made for a happier life. Against the backdrop of opposites, there appears a triangle. In magic, ballet, life, it appears. Unrequited love and anguish wears a beard in the form of Jarryd Madden, and his performance portends great things to come in Lucas Jervies’ Spartacus, to conclude the 2018 Melbourne season. On Tuesday night, Madden’s Hilarion is more than a narrative ploy to reveal Albrecht’s deception through identity as the finder-of-cloak-and-sword; he is more than a game-offering, unnoticed suitor in the woods; more than a warning that Myrtha and her glow of Willis mean business: you will dance to your death.

 The Australian Ballet’s Ako Kondo and Ty King-Wall in  Giselle  (image credit: Jeff Busby)

The Australian Ballet’s Ako Kondo and Ty King-Wall in Giselle (image credit: Jeff Busby)

Like a magnet to metal

Recently landed: Like a magnet to metal, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), a catalogue essay in the form of a letter, to accompany an exhibition of new works by Camila Galaz, showing at c3

“Chewing darkness”, like Gabriela Mistral, your “feet [losing] the memory of softness” in your “thirst in the name of the homeland” (image credit: Camila Galaz)

Fjord Review

Recently, Fjord Review celebrated "publishing over 500 pieces of dance writing”, and I was delighted and surprised to count that I had contributed 76 pieces since late 2012.

Thank you to all our contributing writers for their dedication, insight and passion. Writing about dance is no easy feat, and being a dance critic involves many sacrifices, and yet here we are—thinking, writing and reading about dance. So if it is a small miracle that we have such a brilliant cache of dance criticism evolving in today's messy world, it is in no small part due to our supportive, engaged readers—you—who are moved the possibilities of dance.
Fjord Review

Betty Pounder, JC Williamsons’ resident choreographer, makes Jazz Spectrum, a new contemporary work, on The Australian Ballet, 26th March, 1964 (image source: The Australian Ballet)

MIFF 2018, flickering

Recently landed: MIFF 2018, flickering, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), rewinds 57 films seen over seventeen days

 A still from  The Cheaters , a 1929 silent film by the pioneering McDonagh sisters, recently restored by National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

A still from The Cheaters, a 1929 silent film by the pioneering McDonagh sisters, recently restored by National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

“In a little yellow house with green door and shutters”

Recently landed: "In a little yellow house with green door and shutters", a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia), part 3, in Amsterdam, post French Connections

 And so we walked and walked the curves of Amsterdam, before ending up at a market where we feasted on a potato and spinach gözleme made over a griddle with the second nature swiftness and assurance of hand like a bird on the wing

And so we walked and walked the curves of Amsterdam, before ending up at a market where we feasted on a potato and spinach gözleme made over a griddle with the second nature swiftness and assurance of hand like a bird on the wing

Paw Pad Path on display

There is still time to see our artists' book, Paw Pad Path, on display as part of the 2018 Libris Awards: Australian Artists' Book Prize at Artspace Mackay. The exhibition, which opened on Saturday the 26th of May, runs until Sunday the 19th of August, 2018.

Artspace Mackay, Civic Centre Precinct, Gordon Street, Queensland