The Belle of the Ball
In his own cabinet of natural curiosities, the Amsterdam-based pharmacist, Albertus Seba (1665–1736), placed exotic plants and corals, birds and butterflies, and slithering snakes alongside shells in fantastical fanned formations to delight the eye. In the Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, David McAllister’s first full-length production and choreographic debut with a staging of Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, it is not hard to surmise that as a long-term former dancer with the company and now at the helm as director for his fifteenth year, McAllister himself has constructed something of his own golden ‘wunderkammer’ with this work. A production replete with gold sprinkling from the ceiling, twinkling chandeliers, round like jellyfish, and greened nymphs that weave in and out like a serpentine vine; a true baroque ‘irregular pearl’ of a ballet, years in the making, and legacy building.
In McAllister’s 2015 Beauty, treasure is plentiful and I, too, as wily collector, set to furnishing my growing collection of ballet keepsakes and highlights. With their raggedy rat-tails and long white noses that call to mind Seba-worthy conical shells, I will add Carabosse’s quintet of mischief-makers to my wonder chamber. Though I very much doubt guest artist and former principal, the fabulously vengeful, Lynette Wills, as the wronged Carabosse, will spare them without a fight. So, too, the ornate shell-like columns, designed by Gabriela Tylesova, which appear en pointe. Resting on tiny tips, eight columns that in architectural reality could not support a ceiling, but in the transformative world of the theatre (where belief, amongst other things, is defied), twirl upwards with aplomb. This is nature, but with the emphasis on it polished, made fanciful, and presented as a fairy tale. The objective: to unashamedly delight.