Posts tagged Adam Bull
A Giddy Delight: The Australian Ballet recalls la Belle Époque in The Merry Widow

Recently landed: A Giddy Delight, Gracia's written response to The Australian Ballet's The Merry Widow, for Fjord Review

At the Paris Universal Exhibition at the turn of the twentieth century, where it was said Debussy first heard Javanese gamelan music, near everything newly-discovered or newly-made could be found. The Eiffel Tower, now synonymous with Paris, for one; the world-encompassing scale of the Galerie des machines where visitors could delight in discovering atmospheric hammers, cigarette makers, phonographs, and telephones, another. Add to this a colonial exhibition of the ‘other’ from across land and sea masses; the Imperial, the largest diamond in the world; and a giant wooden and stucco elephant, which was later purchased and placed alongside an infamous red windmill, the Moulin Rouge, to render complete the Jardin de Paris Elephant. For a franc, a gentleman could enter the elephant’s body, by way of a staircase twisting up one of its legs, and find themselves in an opium den and a froth of belly dancers.    

Paris: the city of entertainment. “Paris was where the twentieth century was…. Paris was the place to be,” said Gertrude Stein of that beautiful era, la Belle Époque. Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin, and Degas. Bonnard, Cézanne, and Monet. Well may I cry, pour me another cocktail of Post-Impressionism, Les Nabis, and ornamental Art Nouveau, but what of all this and a widow, merry or otherwise? This doorway to the past was, for me, what coloured and illuminated
The Merry Widow. It was the backdrop to the foreground and the foreground to the backdrop, the very balance of the composition, the lightness of step, its undeterred waltzing heart. The elephant in the garden: frivolity and amusement.    

From the palette of the Fauvist “wild beasts”, Matisse et al., to that found inside the belly of the beast, colour radiated mood, and it needn’t be true to the natural world. The emotional state was the heat rubbed into the canvas, into life, and on the stage in Robert Helpmann’s
The Merry Widow, originally created for The Australian Ballet in 1975, and felt last night at the State Theatre from a seat in the stalls. Colour as a vehicle for describing the lustre and space of the city of light, itself. Colour to describe high and low art brushing shoulders.

Adam Bull and Kirsty Martin in The Merry Widow (image credit: Jeff Busby)

"In a wonderland they lie, dreaming as the days go by"

Recently landed: "In a wonderland they lie, dreaming as the days go by", a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) takes you to Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lauren Cuthbertson in Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 2011, © ROH (image credit: Johan Persson)

An Original Alice

Recently landed: An Original Alice, Gracia's written response to Alice Adventure's in Wonderland, for Fjord Review

The original Alice was Alice Liddel. She was ten at the time Lewis Carroll amused her with a tale of adventures underground. In history’s collective memory, she is the assured girl staring at the photographer (Carroll) in role of Beggar Girl (then aged 7). A muse in the form of a girl who requested Carroll pen the adventures he had regaled her with. And write them down he did, adding the famous grinning Cheshire Cat and a tea party with a Mad Hatter, March Hare, and sleepy Dormouse for good measure, and thus plumping, amending, growing an absurd amusement into what would become a classic. A classic where those who best adapt are those who accept new laws of logic. Live Flamingos are croquet bats. And those aforementioned Hedgehogs are balls (performed by young children in soft-spiked backpacks, and all adorable). Babies are piglets; mind the mincer. Roses can be (should be, declared the Queen of Hearts) painted red. Violets need not be violet. But, of violet as a hue, let’s dress the other original Alice, Lauren Cuthbertson of the Royal Ballet. A special guest performing two nights during the Melbourne season, Cuthbertson has performed the role of Alice since 2011. She was Christopher Wheeldon’s original Alice, like Liddel was to Carroll, and she was responsible for creating the part. To see her in this role on Wednesday night is an indescribable joy. She inhabits every inch of the role, from extended fingertips to light pointe play. And amid all of the wordplay transformed into theatrical might, she is utterly hypnotic, with Christopher Rodgers-Wilson’s Knave of Hearts beautifully smitten.

With her brown hair bobbed, like Alice Liddel, Cuthbertson has returned Alice to (perhaps) her truest form. She no longer recalls John Tenniel’s original illustrations of a long-haired Alice with an overlarge head. And she has nothing to do with the Disney musical of 1951, blonde and in blue. Cuthbertson’s Alice knows the rules on the other side of the looking glass. The rules one might adhere to ‘aboveground’ do not apply here: take the mushroom. Whether nonsensical or otherwise, she deciphers the rules and applies them, growing accordingly. When you take away the preconceptions of how things should operate, every tick-tock of Alice’s extended leg backwards and forwards is a philosophers’ dream. Cuthbertson’s Alice embraces new reality on its own terms in a playful, off-kilter world, and jumps on a sponge cake (with an inbuilt trampoline). She throws herself with abandon, safe in the knowledge she’ll be caught, and her legs make perfect right angles, mid-air. Rules to live by, above- or underground.

Lauren Cuthbertson and Christopher Rodgers-Wilson in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (image credit: Jeff Busby)

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)

Manon

Recently landed: Lavish Farewell, Lucinda Dunn in Manon (Gracia's written response for Fjord Review)

All bathed, all drowned, in a golden light. Like Carle Van Loo’s 1737 painting, Halt in the Hunt, our stage palette is set. Rusty browns and sandy ochres give way to earthy greens. This is nature, human nature, with all its lust for power and pleasure, its poverty and its rat-catchers, harlots, and spinsters jostling side-by-side. Our eye, like in that of the painting, drawn to those of import in blue (des Grieux, our romantic, besotted and well-intentioned student-cum-hero) and red (Monsieur GM, “an old voluptuary, who paid prodigally for his pleasures”[i]); colour long has been used to tell a story, and what a story Manon is. Our eye races through the painted stage scene, seeking to read all as it unfolds: a wagon of ‘fallen women’, a mistress’s fate; a Beggar chief, an opportunistic pickpocket. We might be on the outskirts of Paris, in a courtyard, a microcosm of society, but this shouldering of the wealthy and the affluent alongside the poor and wretched rabble could easily be a scene come to life from Gian Domenico Tiepolo’s Carnival Scene (or The Minuet), the pendant to The Tooth Puller (1754). If you wanted to know your fate, you’ve only to cast an eye about the scene: up, with wealth and furs; or down, deep down, grief and despair. And this, this is only the beginning. Keep up, look lively.
Adam Bull and Lucinda Dunn, The Australian Ballet’s  Manon  (Image credit: David Kelly)

Adam Bull and Lucinda Dunn, The Australian Ballet’s Manon (Image credit: David Kelly)