Ballet Without Borders

Recently landed: Ballet Without Borders, Gracia's written response to the Australian Ballet's contemporary triple bill and first ballet for 2016, Vitesse, for Fjord Review

A squally wind blows into the theatre, pursued by beat after beat on the timpani. Kylián’s Forgotten Land is set to Benjamin Britten’s symphonic memorial for his parents and dramatic statement on the horrors of war, Sinfonia da Requiem. Beginning with a funeral march, Lacrymosa (Weeping); there is still a sense of hope in this work, namely in the final movement, Requiem aeternum (Eternal rest), and in Kylián’s known fluid movement, which affirms “in a wartime context … that one day there will be peace… And Kylián’s choreography gets inside the essence of the music, even when it’s not interpreting it literally, and he perfectly reflects the moods and implications of the Sinfonia in Forgotten Land. ”

Just as humans are altering the landscape to devastating effect, causing Antarctic ice shelves to melt, in Kylián’s hands, we’re not just looking at the landscape but at how we (through the dancers) can carve out and alter a space. And just like weathering a storm, it is never easy to find new ways of being. So whilst the dancers appear battered by wind and try to keep themselves anchored in the face of wild terrain, they, themselves, are actually the forceful energy.

Recalling Edvard Munch’s painting The Dance of Life, there are three distinct periods: youth, in white, full of hope and serenity; red for passion and intensity; black, wise, strong, and determined. Lana Jones beautifully symbolises black’s ‘what will come’ awareness. Heads whip round and recall sea birds buffeted but steadfast in their promenade. With their backs to the audience, the dancers are individual and community, constancy and change, hand in glove. As Amber Scott and Adam Bull make footprints in the eroding coastline, “each footstep is a form of measurement that mediates between [the] body and the landscape”: Humans have created the world around them and as such have the power to reshape it. With a melancholy undertow that echo’s Munch’s own lament: “my art is rooted in a single reflection: why am I not as others are?”

Amber Scott, Lana Jones and Karen Nanasca in Forgotten Land (Image credit: Jeff Busby)