The Royal Ballet and ENB may be on a break, but summer ballet season has just started over here, with The Australian Ballet’s return to London after a gap of ten years. The company has brought dancing that is athletic and full of warmth, with two of its signature productions: Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake (loosely based on the Diana/Charles/Camilla triangle), and the European premiere of Ratmansky’s Cinderella (2013 version). The AB’s London residency concludes this Saturday 23 July with Cinderella, so here are five reasons why you should catch them while you still can:
Aussie ballet lovers should thank their lucky stars for such a prima as Amber Scott. Wonderfully lyrical, with a soft pliant port de bras and dramatic depth, she embodied Odette and made us care about the character’s fate, despite the narrative plot holes in Graeme Murphy’s unconventional Swan Lake. Her portrayal went beyond the one-dimensional sad Odette that we usually get, and made us wish we could see more of her (preferably in a dramatic role like Manon, or A Month in the Country perhaps?). In short, she is the embodiment of #ballerinagoals.
Costumes & Designs
In Swan Lake, we saw gorgeous Edwardian finery for the court scenes in contrast with a minimalist aesthetic lake-side: soft feathery skirts and discreet head pieces to characterise the swan maidens. The designs and costumes by Kristian Fredrikson framed the action with striking imagery. In particular, we love that Odette’s wedding dress has a long tail and that the choreography incorporates it (Adam Bull’s Siegfried expertly dances around it). In Cinderella, long-time Ratmansky collaborator Jérôme Kaplan had a surrealist ball (literally!) channeling masters like Dali, Magritte and Man Ray, and effectively using screen projections to complement the sets. Here, another example of a striking long-tailed costume: the stepmother’s coat for the ball, which is used for comedic effect.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
In Ratmansky’s 2013 Cinderella, we get celestial bodies instead of the usual “seasons”, as if the universe is indeed conspiring to bring together Cinders and her prince. Just like the male dancers who wear colourful cropped tops in the 2002 Mariinsky version, the planets are clad in eye-popping costumes that are far from orthodox. Mercury (a fast-footed Brett Chynoweth), Venus, Mars, Jupiter and co. get vibrant solos, pas de deux and ensembles that are bonkers awesome, a total Ratmansky thing!
Charm & Quirk
With this Cinderella, Ratmansky has traded all the Soviet symbolism from 2002 for a family-friendly production. We can only assume this is to match the company’s own style and nature. Granted, the choreographer’s production for the Mariinsky (implants of which can be seen in this production – ex: the main pas de deux and the Prince’s entrance, no Cinders goofy step alas!) is more cohesive, but there are plenty of opportunities for The Australian Ballet to imprint its own brand of quirky, notably with “Skinny” and “Dumpy”, the two stepsisters, or during the ball, when female guests change from YSL-esque tuxes into ballgowns, just because they all want to be like Cinders.
The Australian Ballet has some great talent coming up the ranks: soloist Dimity Azoury was a sultry “Baroness Von Rothbart” in Swan Lake and a lyrical Venus in Cinderella, Jasmin Durham led the Hungarian dance (Swan Lake Act I) with authority, while many talented men across the corps de ballet displayed powerful jumps. We were also impressed with Rudy Hawkes’s elegance as one of the Prince’s friends in Cinderella. All in all, a very likeable company.
Meanwhile, Alice Pennefather was at the Cinderella general rehearsal and photographed the cast led by Amber Scott and Ty King-Wall:All photos: © Alice Pennefather